Appliance Lets Business Users Uncover Hidden Data Relationships - InformationWeek

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6/2/2008
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Appliance Lets Business Users Uncover Hidden Data Relationships

One part search, one part data integration, Composite Discovery appliance takes another stab at providing an easy-to-use interface for gaining business intelligence.

It's an appliance-based offering and the interface starts with a search box not unlike that presented by Google or any other Internet search engine. As you could guess, the key appeal of Composite Discovery, a new offering announced today by Composite Software, is simplicity. As an appliance, it's easy for IT to deploy and maintain, and the search-style interface is easy for untrained business users to master without knowing a thing about SQL query language.

That last part may sound a lot like the BI-search combo that leading business intelligence vendors have been pursuing in recent years, but Composite's new offering taps the data integration vendor's federated join capabilities to uncover data relationships that are not yet defined in existing BI reports and data models.

"Our differentiation is in discovering relationships among data across multiple sources," says David Besemer, CTO. "That can include a data warehouse as well as multiple operational systems."

The presumption is that existing BI reports and search tools have failed to answer a particular business question. Composite Discovery can then be tapped by untrained users to find hidden relationships across a broader spectrum of sources. For example, a keyword-based search of item descriptions might reveal relationships — in tables or combinations of tables — between data in a supply chain system and data in a separate financial system. Users are then presented with a tree-like taxonomy of available data as well as join and filtering options that let the user explore and hone the results into concise, relevant report or result set. A second (complementary) use for Composite Discovery is identifying data relationships that should be permanently modeled and reported on within BI systems.

After
After performing a keyword search, Composite Discovery users are presented with this view of data sources that can be filtered and joined to explore relationships.
(click image for larger view)
Composite Discovery's data exploration interface (at right) isn't what anyone would call "Google easy," but it should be familiar to would-be business users, says Besemer.

"Composite Discovery does move from keyword search to tabular data exploration, but it's an Excel-like interface, and we believe users will be very comfortable with it," he explains. "We're not asking them be SQL- and query-savvy, but we are asking them to look at the data, see if it's what they want and then start to refine it."

Key features Composite Discovery include drag-and-drop functionality for viewing data in tabular formats, "recipe" functionality akin to stored searches, Web 2.0-style collaboration features and security options including integration with LDAP and Active Directory.

The appliance can be perpetually licensed for $150,000 or implemented on a monthly basis at $4,000 per month with a minimum of three months and a set-up charge. A single device can index roughly one terabyte of data, and an upgrade due out this fall will support clustering, so multiple devices can be joined to scale up the deployment.

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