Bringing Real-time Reporting To The Enterprise

By Dan Orzech

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On Wall Street, stock traders have come to take for granted that they will have up-to-the-second stock quotes at their fingertips.

Now, Mountain View, Calif.-based startup Iteration Software hopes to provide this same level of real-time data to other industries. The company's Real-time Platform entered beta testing last week, and is due to be released in production at the end of the first quarter of 2003.

Most companies have lots of systems in their back offices," says Ken Gardner, Iteration Software's president and CEO. "Typically, they'll gather information from those systems into a data warehouse, and do batch loads every night. So that information is always old."

That's not good enough in today's "zero-latency enterprise" says Gardner, where information needs to be delivered "at lightning speed, in the right format, to exactly the right person."

By tapping into an enterprise's existing message queues, Iteration says it can deliver alerts and reports to end users within two to 10 seconds of an event taking place.

"There's no need to continually query for information," says Gardner, "because reports are sent to the right people when the underlying information changes."

Ideal for mobile workers, hospitals -- and casinos
Iteration accepts data from many different sources, from databases and files to message queues and middleware. It can also tap into data using XML and Web services.

That data stream is stored in memory, not on disk, using something Iteration calls its Active Data Cache. The data stream is constantly monitored by Iteration's event engine, which will generate or update a report when an event of interest occurs, and notify the appropriate users through instant messaging. Clicking a link from the instant messenger alert displays a fully formatted report in a web page. Users can also receive the report via email.

While streaming stock quotes in the brokerage industry is the architectural model for Iteration's software, says Gardner, the company hopes to target other industries, including manufacturing, insurance, health care and retail.

The technology is ideal for mobile workers such as delivery or support personnel, says Gardner, who need to be updated about changes as the day goes on. Iteration can deliver information to a desktop, laptop, PDA, or cell phone, as well as to Microsoft's newly-released Tablet PC.

Gardner also sees applications in places like the gaming and hospitality industries. Many casinos now have "frequent flyer"-type affinity programs, Gardner says, which allows them to track who their most profitable visitors are. When one of these customers swipes his or her mag-stripe cards, he says, "the casino wants someone bringing you a drink immediately. If they're going to upgrade your room, they want to do it immediately. There's a fair amount of ego in the gambler's mind, and if the casinos find a way to stroke that ego, they've got a customer that won't play anywhere else."