Presto, chango: Business intelligence software with a mobile makeover

An update that JackBe Inc. unveiled late in 2011 for its Presto business intelligence (BI) platform demonstrates just how far it's come since the days focusing on AJAX and SOA application development. Nowadays, JackBe is focused solely on BI. It positions Presto as a platform that serves up BI and analytics in the form of mashups. In the JackBe lexicon, a BI mashup is any combination of service-enabled sources called "mashables."

The beauty of the mashup, according to JackBe officials, is that it makes it easy to expose any kind of information -- including data you wouldn't typically want to bring into a data warehouse.

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As of JackBe's Presto 3.2 release, customers can now expose their mashups to a dizzying variety of different mobile devices. Presto 3.2 boasts a mobile makeover, starting with support for what JackBe calls "HTML5 intelligent presentation detection." This is a jargon-filled way of saying that Presto can now detect the type of platform or context in which it's running -- e.g., is it a smartphone or a tablet, desktop, or enterprise portal -- and render its mashups accordingly.

In tandem with its Presto 3.2 announcement, JackBe also unveiled native iOS-based applications for Apple Inc.'s iPhone and iPad devices. Both are available free of charge from the Apple iStore.

If JackBe's company name plays off a popular nursery rhyme (viz., Jack be nimble, Jack be quick), the branding of its flagship offering -- Presto -- reinforces this theme.

Quickness, nimbleness, speed: whatever you want to call it, doing things -- or, in this case, doing integration -- faster was JackBe's founding raison-d'etre, says CTO John Crupi.

"Many of us came from the world of [application] integration and we were disgusted by the fact that you had to write code to do everything. When SOA came out, the promise was that ... [with] Web services, this galaxy of information would be available to us. But the reality was that nobody could use it," Crupi explains.

"So what we asked was, 'What if we could point and click to all types of Web services and all of these databases? We realized we could do this with just five standard prototcols," he continues. "Nowadays, if customers buy our product, it's because they want to do things faster, get information faster, act on that information faster, and be able to build solutions faster."

Presto boasts a wizard-driven self-service component that JackBe officials say permits non-technical users to build dashboard views using different service-enabled mashables.

This would be Presto Wires, its mashup design studio. In the JackBe world, service-enabled information sources are called mashables. Non-technical types can use Presto Wires to combine mashables with other mashables to form mashups. Mashups, in turn, can likewise be combined to create applications. Mashups and applications, to close the circle, can be exposed or distributed in dashboards, portals, or other contexts.

"Think of Presto Wires as [like Microsoft] Visio in a browser. It's a complete browser-based tool," Crupi explains. "Each of these [mashables] that you see in Presto Wires is connected to the information source behind it. If you're using RSS, you can interact with the newsfeeds, test the merge of the newsfeeds. You can add filters, you can add joins; you can interactively create them, debug them, and test them before you finish your building mashup."

JackBe also offers a pair of developer-oriented design tools, Mashup Maker (a Web-based development environment based on EMML, or the Enterprise Mashup Markup Language), and Mashup Studio, a plug-in for the Eclipse IDE that likewise supports EMML.

If you have an existing enterprise data warehouse (EDW), Presto can consume information from that, says Crupi. Presto can likewise consume data from ERP, CRM, and other operational systems. One of its biggest selling points, contends Crupi, is its ability to agglomerate or synthesize data from non-traditional sources. This includes data from subscription services, Web services, social media, and other new-fangled (from the perspective of data management practitioners, at least) types.

The point, Crupi says, is that much of this is data you wouldn't want to be bringing into a warehouse in the first place. "Most of our customers are building their dashboards and their applications to not only bring in CRM, but also their [software-as-a-servicee] applications, as well as licensed and free services. These are the kinds of things you wouldn't ever put into a warehouse, or that you wouldn't actually bring in house. Our approach is to treat SaaS, cloud, and on-premises data sources equally."


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