IT sites that are considering the deployment of an enterprise reporting package will find the market crowded with products; choosing the right one is difficult. I recommend you keep Hummingbird Communications' BI/Suite 5.0.1 on the radar as a possible solution.
BI/Suite offers good server-side capabilities, including centralised administration, a shared repository and scheduling functions, as well as load balancing for greater scalability. The Windows-based client component also looks strong and easy for users to adapt to.
However, the Web-client component of BI/Suite - called BI/Web - though improved since the previous version, still lags behind other enterprise reporting products. The strongest addition to BI/Web is its ad hoc query capabilities for the browser-based user.
Unlike its rivals, Hummingbird has not yet provided Web-based online analytical processing (OLAP) client functionality. Business Objects, Brio Technology, and Seagate Software already offer this in their products. Another version of BI/Suite, promised for 1999, is expected to address the Web-based OLAP client function.
I found BI/Web was not always stable; at times it crashed. Hummingbird expects to remedy the errors in the upcoming release, according to a company official. The missing Secure Sockets Layer support is also expected in the forthcoming update.
BI/Suite's Windows-based client worked just fine for me. Current customers will like the interaction between the client and BI/Broker - the server component of BI/Suite. Users can more easily share reports and schedule reports to run via BI/Broker.
From a user perspective, designing reports was straightforward, as was saving them and grouping them into folders for later use. End-user training will be fairly minimal for those who select BI/Suite.
Administrators will appreciate the centralised nature of managing the reporting environment. For example, the flexible security mechanism can be used to set permissions by report, user, or group of users.
I'd like to see Hummingbird streamline the setup process. During my multiple installations, I had to separately install each component and supply its licensing information. It would be easier for administrators to run the installation process once, selecting all of the modules they want.
Hummingbird's BI/Suite has the potential to be a strong contender in this market. Organisations seeking an enterprise reporting solution will want to evaluate BI/Suite now, while keeping an eye out for the next version and its enhanced Web-client capabilities.
The Bottom Line
Hummingbird BI/Suite 5.0.1
This suite of client/server tools supporting enterprise reporting has several strong elements. The Web-client component, though much improved, does not yet match competing offerings.
Pros: Server-based repository and scheduler; can span multiple servers; flexible security administration.
Cons: Lacks Web-based OLAP client; no Secure Sockets Layer support; some Web-client crashes; installation needs streamlining.
Platforms: Server: Windows NT; Client: Windows 9x,and other leading browsers.
Price: Available on application.
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