Impromptu performs quick queries

Impromptu performs quick queries

Rapid, simplified access to corporate data can be a real boon to decision makers in fast-paced environments. Cognos' Impromptu Web Query (IWQ) 2.0 enables end users with Web browsers to quickly query company databases for important information.

IWQ does not provide complex multidimensional analysis tools like Microsoft's query tool, codenamed Plato, nor does IWQ offer Web output capabilities - though it can export results to other products for later formatting. What IWQ does do quite well is make it easy for even the least technical person to query and view corporate data in the Web browser.

There are two components that comprise IWQ: Web Query Modeler and Web Query Server. The former enables IT staff to generate business views of corporate data, and the latter lets end users execute predefined queries or create ad hoc requests using their Web browsers.

Database administrators who might implement IWQ would probably perform tasks similar to those I did when testing IWQ. I began by using the Web Query Modeler to create the business views of my test Oracle, DB2 and SQL Server data.

IWQ natively supported access to my Oracle database and I used ODBC to access my other data sources. My customer, sales and inventory data were quickly transformed into a meta-data layer. The Web Query Modeler created a library of predefined and hyperlinked queries based on my databases.

Next, I acted the role of an end user and used the Web Query Server to create some ad hoc requests. When I requested information about how many customers had purchased a particular item, the Web Query Server used my previously created meta data to generate a query against the appropriate data stores, then dynamically generated a Web page with the results.

In addition to ease of use, IWQ has two really strong points: scalability and security, both of which are important in enterprise settings. The product pools database connections to more easily handle a large number of users while also offering dynamic load balancing in distributed settings.

There are three mechanisms supported by IWQ that enforce secure corporate data access. As you might expect, IWQ takes advantage of built-in database security methods for the databases it supports (eg Oracle, Informix). As an added measure, IWQ also enables administrators to define an access control list within the meta-data layer. Finally, the product also includes a security API that can be used to link to external security products if desired.

I set up some end users with limited authority and gave others a greater amount of access. Users with more access rights can use the included Query Builder to create queries over the meta data without having to be a database expert. I tried building some queries and found the Query Builder an easy tool to grasp.

Regardless of whether my test user was limited by security or not, IWQ presented the user with good, flexible presentation options, such as the ability to remove a column or add subtotals. I also tried an export from IWQ to Microsoft Excel with equal success.

Though IWQ is not geared for high-end query work or for formatting output, it can quickly answer everyday business data questions.

The Bottom Line

Impromptu Web Query 2.0

Companies that want to enable fast access to business data via a Web browser will find Impromptu Web Query up to the task.

Pros: Simplified navigation via browser; easy deployment for administrators; user access levels offer greater control; supports most major commercial relational databasesCons: Web serving support limited to Microsoft and Netscape products; no provisions for complex result layouts, formatted reports or scheduled query execution; limited platform supportPlatforms: Development: Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0; Deployment: Server: Windows NT 4.0; Client: Netscape Navigator 3.0 and later, Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 and laterPrice: The 100-user licence has an RRP of $63,500 plus support charges. There is also a client version 4.0 of Impromtu which has an RRP of $1195 for single copyCognos Tel (02) 9437 6655 Fax (02) 9438 1641Tel 1800 226 025 for callers outside of Sydney

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