Review: Databeacon

Databeacon Smart Client
starting at $395
Ottawa, Ontario
(613) 729-4480

Databeacon make a bunch of business analytics products, aimed at departmental and enterprise applications. Their products offer a variety of ways to turn data into OLAP cubes, and then turn those cubes into interactive reports. Their latest product family, the Databeacon Smart client, puts a new twist into the mix by using .NET Smart Client technology to deliver the reporting part of the application.

With Smart Client technology, it is (in theory at least) easy to deploy an application. Provided that a PC has the .NET Framework installed, and things are set up correctly on a server, the application can be sucked down over a browser connection for a no-touch installation. The net effect is that it's easy to deliver the application around an organization. Databeacon is one of the first to us this stuff in a commercial application, and it seems to work well.

The Smart Client offering is actually a family of products:

  • Databeacon Analyst is an entry-level product ($395) that lets you create cubes on your own desktop from flat text files. Even so, you get an attractive user interface for exploring the data cubes in the form of Databeacon Insight, and upwards compatability with the other members of the family.
  • Databeacon Smart Client Standard ($4495/5 named users) is the version I played with for a bit. This one includes the technology to let you ship your own cubes around for browser-based analysis. I like the overall feel of their client; there were a few visual glitches, but nothing serious, and the integrated charting works well. The Databeacon Publisher, which creates cubes, supports a bunch of different input formats, including various delimited and XML files as well as JDBC and ODBC connections to data sources (though, oddly enough, not OLE DB).
  • Databeacon Smart Client Professional ($5895/5 named users) brings in an API for scripting new cubes, as well as some portal integration features, and includes all of Databeacon Smart Client Standard's features.

Overall, Databeacon appears to offer a very scalable story for analyzing business data through OLAP cubes. Certainly the Smart Client piece will make for easier dissemination of a rich user interface, without the hassle of installing software by hand on client computers or the nuisance of trying to write applications in a browser. It also seems to be very fast at dealing with large volumes of data, meaning that OLAP analysis can be a more exploratory and less batch activity.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.


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