Startup tackles real-time business monitoring

Iteration Software Inc. this week unveiled its debut product: reporting software that alerts users within seconds of when a significant business event occurs, such as a rash of US$1 million customer orders or inventory shortfalls.

Iteration's Real-time Reporting Suite differs from traditional business intelligence software in that it gathers data from messaging systems that are relaying transactional information between applications. It doesn't rely on a data warehouse or batch reports, which make stored information available for later review. In addition, Iteration uses instant messaging as its alerting medium. Its goal is to make users aware of business problems or opportunities as they happen, speeding resolution.

Iteration's software gets its information by tapping into the messaging streams of enterprise application integration (EAI) middleware from vendors such as Tibco, Vitria and webMethods. As an event or transaction occurs in an enterprise system, such as a procurement or inventory application, the EAI middleware puts the information from that event into a message queue and makes it available to other applications - including Iteration Real-time Reporting Suite.

Iteration's software also taps into historical data stored in existing relational data sources, such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and IBM DB2, and legacy data sources such as flat files. It then combines all the information and presents it to business users in various report formats.

The idea of merging real-time data streams with historical information stored in relational databases is important, says David Folger, vice president at Meta Group. "Integrating the historical data and the real-time data with the same analytic applications is a key to making it work," he says.

Instead of storing the information it collects in a relational database, Real-time Reporting Suite pulls the source data into a persistent, memory-based cache that can process up to 11,000 records per second, the company says. New messages streamed into the data cache add to or update existing information.

Monitoring features can detect changes in data, system events or transactions. Based on predefined rules, the software then notifies users of new information using e-mail, instant messaging and Short Message Service technology, depending on what type of device - desktop, laptop, PDA or cell phone - a user can access.

Reports delivered to a user's screen update automatically as the underlying data changes; the user doesn't have to send a new query or manually refresh the report to see the latest information, the company says. The software also allows reports to be analyzed and annotated by multiple users collaboratively.

Iteration Real-time Reporting Suite costs US$25,000. Typical enterprise deployments average up to US$250,000.

Serial entrepreneur

Iteration is CEO Ken Gardner's fifth start-up. Before founding Iteration in February 2002, Gardner co-founded business intelligence software maker Sagent Technology in June 1995. His other company also includes database reporting toolmaker ReportSmith, which was purchased by Borland in 1994.

Led by Canaan Partners and Crosspoint Venture Partners, Iteration closed a US$10 million round of financing in October 2002, bringing its total funding to US$14 million.

On the competitive front, Iteration is a young, unproven company and it isn't alone in pursuing real-time reporting - every business intelligence software maker is interested in getting closer and closer to real-time data availability, Folger says. "Data warehouses used to be updated every month and every week, then every day and every hour. Now there's other tricks to update them even quicker," he says.

But so far, Iteration's tactic of using messaging streams for direct data access and instant messaging for alerts is unique. "Iteration takes a different approach to getting real-time data than the other business intelligence vendors typically have," Folger says.

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