Deep Dive

WebFOCUS Architecture Overview

WebFOCUS is an enterprise grade platform delivering a wide range of BI and analytical capabilities. As a strategic platform and technology, it provides a multitude of ways to manage, deploy, explore, view, and leverage trusted insights from a variety of governed data sources, to enable smarter business.

Flexible and Scalable Architecture

This graphic presents the three layers of the WebFOCUS platform architecture, and below that are summaries of the capabilities.

 

Presentation Capabilities

Variety of Interface Options

A high level of user adoption among all stakeholders is vital to achieving maximum return on your BI and analytics investment. This means fulfilling the needs of a wide range of employees, whether executives, analysts and power users, frontline and operational workers, and even your customers and business partners.

One of the keys is being able to deliver the right type of analytics to the right user at the right time.  This is where WebFOCUS can be a critical asset to your business, by being able to deliver a variety of analytical experiences and insights to suit all user types and requirements:
 

The WebFOCUS BI Portal is actually much more than an interface - it is an analytical content management and deployment system.  The Portal enables organizations to manage and deploy a wide range of governed analytical content to many types of users, whether inside or outside the firewall.

The Portal incorporates a highly flexible interface for both authors and consumers of analytics.  Technical and non technical authors can very quickly create pages that contain combinations of reports, charts, visualizations, controls and other interconnected widgets. Consumers can interact with predefined analytical applications, or create their own views and dashboards by dragging content from their secure visual folders.

Embedded BI and analytics are all about integrating actionable insights into everyday applications and systems used by business workers. The benefits of well designed and implemented embedded analytics are a simpler and more convenient user experience, increased productivity, and a higher adoption of data-driven business.

WebFOCUS is a proven technology for delivering all the techniques and capabilities required for successful embedded BI and analytics. It provides a single, unified platform that supports data management, complete administration and a broad range of BI and analytics, including custom InfoApps, dashboards, ad-hoc reporting, predictive analytics, data-discovery and more.  

WebFOCUS InfoApps™ are custom made, business-driven analytical apps that provide any decision maker with fast, easy access to actionable information without having to understand the complexity of the underlying data or tool. InfoApps provide powerful and flexible ways to deliver greater data-driven business adoption inside and outside your enterprise. 

Built with WebFOCUS, InfoApps present a unique approach to self-service analytics, leveraging the ease, simplicity, and convenience of consumer apps to enable anyone, anywhere, to get fast, relevant answers to their most pressing business questions. Data discovery tools work for some users, but InfoApps allow immediately intuitive data-driven business for any and all types of users.

Mobile plays an increasingly important role, initially in the consumption of BI and analytics, but more so now in the creation and interaction with data and insights. WebFOCUS incorporates several authoring tools from which to create a variety of applications and output formats, with an option to deliver responsive output that is mobile friendly.  Portals, InfoApps, dashboards and other interface options such as charting Insight mode provide an exceptional  mobile experience whether on a smartphone or tablet.

Information Builders also offers a native mobile app called WebFOCUS Mobile Faves, which is an iOS and Android helper app that interacts directly with WebFOCUS to enable access and presentation of analytical content on mobile devices. Business users can create reports, charts and dashboards and choose to make them available to other users via Mobile Faves.   Head to the App or Play Store and try it for yourself.


 

Analytical Capabilities

WebFOCUS is a comprehensive and versatile business intelligence and analytics platform, enabling companies to deploy BI and analytics  more strategically across and beyond the enterprise. Within a single enterprise platform, WebFOCUS incorporates a broad range of capabilities providing organizations with everything they need deliver on any and every possible analytical requirement.

 

Predictive Analytics 
WebFOCUS incorporates a powerful predictive analytics capability, WebFOCUS RStat, which provides a single integrated solution for BI, data modeling, and scoring. Predictive can be deployed to hundreds and thousands of users.

Infographics 
WebFOCUS Infographics enable organizations to create and deliver visually insightful communications to employees, partners, prospects, and customers - without the need to code or be a designer.

Search
WebFOCUS InfoSearch provides BI oriented search analytics and the ability to discover business intelligence assets by searching a combination of content titles, metadata, and data elements.

Natural Language / Narrative BI
WebFOCUS Narrative Charts interprets data and automatically expresses conclusions in natural language, providing contextual explanations to augment visualizations.

Write Back
WebFOCUS Maintain is an application development option that enables write-back and the creation of web-based data maintenance applications that can be deployed across the enterprise.

High Performance Data Store
WebFOCUS Hyperstage is a columnar data store that combines the I/O advantage of in-memory analytics with an intelligent architecture that allows data to be stored on disk without sacrificing performance.

Data Discovery
InfoAssist+ is an enterprise-grade analytics tool connected to the WebFOCUS platform, which enables governed self-service reporting, analysis, and data-discovery for non-technical users

Reporting
WebFOCUS has deep roots in enterprise reporting, and includes a fully featured report writing capability within its authoring tools, whether self-service, enterprise, financial, or managed reporting.

Dashboards
WebFOCUS offers a sophisticated BI portal capability that allows users and administrators to create and customize dashboards containing content from multiple data sources and formats. 

Location Analytics
ESRI's mapping technology is tightly integrated with WebFOCUS, which provides a single platform for location analytics, data modeling and scoring, and predictive analytics.

Casting and Archiving
WebFOCUS' ReportCaster provides real-time alerts, as well as a mechanism for fully automating, scheduling, storing, and instantly distributing information on a single pass of the data.

In-Document Analytics
A patented capability that enables the creation of analytical documents that contain one or more views (e.g., report, chart, dashboard), along with a data subset and a selection of interactive controls.

 

Platform Capabilities

When organizations look to build vs buy for development or analytics projects, the power of an underlying platform is often overlooked. There are so many contributing factors that a platform provides, that accelerate time-to-value and provide out of the box security, branding, scaling, performance, support for mobile and other key deployment capabilities.

Here is just a summary of the extensive underlying platform capabilities of WebFOCUS:

WebFOCUS offers access to hundreds of data sources via over 300 Information Builders data and query adapters, and 3rd party methods.  Relational, hierarchical, indexed, columnar, unstructured, streaming, big data and other sources can be represented via metadata, enabling complete analytics and insight generation from any imaginable source.

in addition to the WebFOCUS BI and analytics platform, Information Builders' iWay and Omni products are exclusively focused on data management, and enable enterprises to strategically access, profile, enrich, cleanse, and master their data: Omni-Gen™ is a technology that aligns business users and IT to define and manage their most important data domains. iWay Big Data Integrator leverages Hadoop for massively parallel data integration and transformation. iWay Tools provide the underlying technology for every sort of integration: internal or business-to-business, data or application oriented, real-time or batch, and more.

Enterprise grade metadata management is key to the effective use and reuse of analytics across the organization.  WebFOCUS metadata creates a clean, ordered repository for a specific set of data assets, which then can be shared, used and reused across multiple analytics and search projects.  WebFOCUS expands metadata initiatives beyond traditional information governance and drives analytics consistency.

WebFOCUS metadata can contain a wealth of information. These include:

  • File Remark. Adding the optional file remark attribute provides descriptive information about the data source.
  • Data Location. If the data is stored in an external dataset, it should be indicated in the metadata, so all users access the same file. The data may also be stored in databases, in which case the location is indicated in the Access File (ACX).
  • Profile. If there are any dynamic attributes, they should be set in the MFD_PROFILE. This file is executed at every invocation of the metadata. Some common values that can be set include dataset, security, titles, expressions, and so on.
  • File Commentary. Placing important information in comments at the beginning of the metadata allows administrators to understand the use of the files. Common information stored includes:
    • Use of the data (for example, where it is from, and how it is used).
    • Contact information (for example, who is responsible for the metadata and the data).
    • Inputs (for example, any parameters used for dynamic attributes).
  • Field Names. Field names may indicate what the data represents. However, since the same field name may be used in multiple metadata, it is a good idea to add an indicator, as to the metadata source for the field. This may be a short prefix before each field (for example, fields in the SALES file all begin with SA_).
  • Format. For display purposes, using format options to indicate comma-editing, currency symbols, decimal points, and decimal digits ensure everyone sees the data the same way.
  • Title. Adding titles to the metadata allows all output to use the same column heading for any field. The facility also exists to allow titles to be stored in multiple languages, so only a single metadata is required for multiple countries.
  • Field Description. Adding a description helps to explain the meaning of field names, especially though the GUI tools, where these descriptions can be displayed.
  • Calculations (DEFINE/COMPUTE/FILTER). To ensure that all users use the same calculations, store them in the metadata, so they are available to all and consistent across use.

WebFOCUS offers a wide range of analytics generation, consumption and collaboration capabilities. This includes the ability for IT, BI specialists and now business users to author analytical views, dashboards and applications. These can be created for the authors themselves, or for BI and analytics consumers. Content publishing, deployment and collaboration is intuitive and security access privileges are maintained throughout. 

Depending upon your organizational needs, IT and BI specialists can leverage App Studio, a GUI development environment for creating advanced WebFOCUS reports and applications.  Additionally, we recently launched WebFOCUS Designer, a BI authoring tool for both BI specialists and non-technical users to very rapidly create a variety of analytical pages leveraging templates and by dropping in content, controls and prompts. 

The WebFOCUS BI Portal is a significant enabler regards authoring, deployment and collaboration and is essential for any degree of user, content or deployment sophistication. The Portal is actually an analytical content management and deployment system, enabling organizations to manage and deploy a wide range of governed analytical content to many types of users, whether inside or outside the firewall.

Users can fully customize their own portal, swapping in different KPIs, charts, widgets and other analytical components.  Users can also add their own personal pages to the base pages delivered by developers – and be able to mash up their own governed content. This makes their analytics experience more engaging, convenient and targeted.  Pages and content can be published and shared with other users within their domains, so that analytical collaboration is easy and intuitive. 

 

Many of our customers leverage WebFOCUS to build complete analytically oriented applications, that may otherwise have been created manually in C++ or Java.  Once again the power of the platform brings many capabilities to the table, whether OEM/branding, embedding, progressive workflow, write back, automated deployment, user administration, data governance, and more.

Building an application incorporating analytics from scratch can be a significant undertaking. Considerable specialist resources must be devoted to development, testing, and maintenance. The WebFOCUS BI platform offers out-of-the-box capabilities that have already been created, tested, and proven. This drives faster return on investment, lowers total cost of ownership, accelerates deployment and time to value, and minimizes the maintenance burden.

The WebFOCUS security infrastructure has been completely redesigned with more than 140 privileges, including Resource Templates that allow one-click configuration of common functions. Turnkey security that integrates with existing frameworks, enabling single sign-on, one place for user access control, support for multi-tenancy, and more. In fact the WebFOCUS security model enables an administrator to implement security at a granular level for every resource in the WebFOCUS Repository, providing finite control over analytical content and data. 

Highlights of the model include:

  • Relational database storage for all content.
  • Improved integration with ReportCaster.
  • Single sign on for all mid-tier components.
  • Multiple role capability.
  • Improved integration with Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors.
  • Granular delegation of administrative tasks.
  • Improved security, including:
    • Security auditing.
    • WebFOCUS Security and Administration 27
    • Account policies.
    • Multiple authentication providers.
    • CSRF (Cross Site Request Forgery) filter to guard against CSRF attacks.
    • XSS (Cross Site Scripting) defenses to guard against XSS attacks.
    • Null byte injection filter to guard against null injection attacks.
    • Session fixation defenses to guard against session fixation attacks.
    • Customizable XFrameOptions HTTP response header to guard against clickjacking attacks.

The WebFOCUS platform has always yielded superior scalability, but multiple enhancements optimize the use of system resources and improve performance to help our customers plan for large deployments and advanced analytics.

  • Nonpersistence. WebFOCUS requires server power only when it is accessing or processing data, so less hardware is needed 
  • Server multi-threading. Multiple users can share the same resources, eliminating the risk of server overload and allowing for greater concurrency 
  • Cutting-edge data manipulation technologies. WebFOCUS has built-in data manipulation that has been enhanced and tuned for more than 30 years, so it can generate result sets in one or two database passes that could require ten or more using another BI solution 
  • Multi-tier configurations. WebFOCUS can be distributed across multiple servers on NT, UNIX, Linux, Systemi, or mainframe computers. This reduces traffic by crunching numbers into result sets before they are passed across a network 
  • Clustered servers and load management. The distribution of work, fail-over, and resource allocation are managed autonomously, ensuring optimum performance while reducing hardware costs as the environment is scaled 
  • Queue management. When numbers spike due to unplanned events or unexpected business conditions, queue management capabilities handle the excess workload 
  • Dynamic resource allocation. Dynamically allocates data requests among assets, based on configurations pre-defined by the administrator 
  • Query monitoring and governing. Administrators can monitor how much time a query takes to process, how many rows of data were returned, and how much time was spent retrieving data, so they can identify and correct any problems that may hinder performance and reliability. Administrators can also pre-emptively stop queries from being submitted to the database if they have a high probability of creating performance problems. This will not only prevent the problems associated with queries that start to run and time out, but will also eliminate related backlogs and slow-downs 
  • Built-in stress testing. WebFOCUS allows for testing before going live, so administrators can see – in advance – how well the environment will perform in real-world scenarios 
  • Hyperstage. Although a benchmark of a business intelligence platform should be independent of what happens in the database tier, it’s important that data access not be a bottleneck. WebFOCUS Hyperstage is an embedded, column-oriented data store that incorporates a unique Knowledge Grid architecture to ensure that large data volumes and complex queries don’t limit the kind of analysis that can be done against the complete BI system.

The increasing prevalence of cloud solutions can be attributed to their many benefits over traditional infrastructure, which include improved performance, lower up-front investment, and greater flexibility and scalability to handle growth and unanticipated demand. 

With Information Builders, you can now leverage a comprehensive BI, analytics, and information management platform via cloud delivery. Our platform-as-a-service makes all the powerful features and capabilities of WebFOCUS and iWay readily available through a variety of flexible deployment options:

  1. Pure Cloud
    WebFOCUS platform and iWay fully operate in the Cloud.  Data resides entirely in the Cloud. Key benefit:  all IT assets, costs, and resources are offloaded to the Cloud.

  2. Federated Hybrid Cloud
    WebFOCUS and iWay components may operate in the both the Cloud and on-premise; Data can reside both on-premise and in the Cloud. Key Benefits: Facilitates a phased approach to Cloud migration. 

  3. Hybrid Cloud
    WebFOCUS and iWay fully operate in the Cloud; Data resides and is accessed in-place on-premise. Key benefits: No data migration required and database design and security are preserved.