A company with a goal to make the power of Business Intelligence affordable to companies of all sizes worked with BoldRadius, a respected partner, to pick and architect a unique solution to this problem.
SimpleBI is a new and exciting company focused on changing the way people view, use and implement Business Intelligence - they believe that simpleBI has the power to transform how you make business decisions and they’d like to show you how!
The biggest issue with any Business Intelligence implementation is that it’s a substantial investment of time, effort, resources and money. While large enterprises can afford to make this kind of investment, it’s typically out of reach of smaller enterprises.
Seeing a clear opportunity to bring BI to the masses, the simpleBI team had formulated an architecture that would entail surrounding the highly sophisticated IBM Cognos platform with a solution that hid its complexity and exposed only the functionality needed. They needed do this by offering users a unique and easy to use user interface with a simple workflow for uploading data and running reports; most importantly of all, this solution would have be available in a SaaS model, further easing adoption with zero software footprint.
Business Intelligence is about collecting information, analyzing that information and making better business decisions based on the outcome
Picking a Solution
As long-time IBM Cognos implementers simpleBI’s founders knew only too well how complex these implementations could be, and what they needed to build in order to make them more approachable to a broader user base. However, after looking at Ruby on Rails and .Net as potential implementation platforms, they felt they needed to conduct a broader evaluation to ensure that they were not painting themselves into a corner with such a critical component of their solution. Therefore, simpleBI reached out to a trusted partner - BoldRadius Solutions - to both leverage their experience and to evaluate various additional technologies to decide which platform would be easy to adopt, scalable and flexible enough to handle their integration needs.
Additionally, BoldRadius was also tasked with defining a software architecture that would be future-proof enough so that they could accommodate any unforeseen changes that they would have to deal with down the road.
BoldRadius has broad experience with a number of different technologies, but based on the requirements dictated by simpleBI, BoldRadius found that they could only recommend one solution for the job - the Lightbend Platform.
For the initial release of the simpleBI product, only two components of the Lightbend Platform would be required, the Play Web Framework and the Scala programming language. Play Framework is based on a lightweight, stateless, web friendly architecture that features predictable and minimal resource consumption (CPU, memory, threads) for highly scalable applications. Scala is an elegant and concise programming language that integrates both functional and object oriented paradigms.
With Play and Scala, the architecture turned out to be simple and very scalable. Scala provided simpleBI with the productivity, maintainability and scalability they were looking for, while Play’s iterative development paradigm afforded them rapid development cycles and higher developer productivity. The platform gives them the enhanced productivity and flexibility to ease development and maintenance of the software for the long term.
The entire web presence of simpleBI is built with Play; its asynchronous and non-blocking features have proven very useful in what has become a multi-server architecture. Furthermore, the Play application is small and concise, consisting of approximately 20 views or templates. A Play template is a simple text file that contains small blocks of Scala code. Templates can generate any text-based format, such as HTML, XML or CSV. The Play template system has been designed to feel comfortable to those used to dealing with HTML, allowing web designers to easily work with the templates.
Additional frameworks and tools that are used in the front-end include Backbone.js, KineticJS and Twitter’s Bootstrap UI. The back-end leverages Lightbend’s Slick database access framework and Microsoft SQL Server.
The user interaction with simpleBI is very easy to follow:
- A client’s data is uploaded to simpleBI via the web interface.
- The data is inserted into IBM Cognos.
- A prebuilt library of IBM Cognos reports is then used to limit the scope and scale of reports and the data is presented back to the client.
Any SaaS system needs robust user management to control authentication and authorization, as ensuring data integrity is critical. A huge benefit of using Scala is that Java libraries and frameworks can be leveraged seamlessly; this proved especially valuable in two major areas:
- Accessing the IBM Cognos Java SSO API.
- Reading and writing to the Active Directory/LDAP user store. While reading is a simple task, writing is complex and required a third party library, the “UnboundID LDAP SDK for Java”.
By leveraging the above components, BoldRadius created a very robust security layer that controls both application and data access, and seamlessly routes requests back to the IBM Cognos server when needed.
The Minimum Viable Product was created with a team of three front-end developers, one project manager, and one IBM Cognos developer who performed setup and configuration of the IBM Cognos servers. Two system administrators handle user maintenance.
With a launch scheduled for September/October 2013, simpleBI is allowing an entirely new class of customer to benefit from drastically reduced cost and complexity of using BI.
Inspired by this story? Contact us to learn more about what Lightbend can do for your organization.