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The companies of today face innumerable market challenges due to the ferocious competition of a globalized economy. Hence, providing excellent service and having customer loyalty are the priorities for their survival.
In order to best achieve both goals and have a competitive edge, companies can resort to the information generated by their digitalized systems, their IT. All the recorded events from Human Resources (HR) to Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Billing, and so on, can be leveraged to better understand the health of a business.
The purpose of this article is to present a tool that behaves as a digital event analysis enabler, the TIBCO Spotfire platform. In this article, we will list the main characteristics of this platform, while also presenting its architecture and describing its components.
Spotfire is a visual analytics and business intelligence platform from TIBCO software. It is a part of new breed of tools created to bridge the gap between the massive amount of data that the corporations produce today and the business users who need to interpret this data in order to have the best foundation for the decisions they make.
In my opinion, there is no better description of what TIBCO Spotfire delivers than the definition of visual analytics made in the publication named Illuminating the Path: The Research and Development Agenda for Visual Analytics.
"Visual analytics is the science of analytical reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces".
–Illuminating the Path: The Research and Development Agenda for Visual Analytics, James J. Thomas and Kristin A. Cook, IEEE Computer Society Press
The TIBCO Spotfire platform offers the possibility of creating very powerful (yet easy to interpret and interact) data visualizations. From real-time Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) to Big Data, data-based decision making becomes easy – the what, the why, and the how becomes evident.
Spotfire definitely allowed TIBCO to establish itself in an area where until recently it had very little experience and no sought-after products.
The main features of this platform are:
- More than 30 different data sources to choose from: Several databases (including Big Data Teradata), web services, files, and legacy applications.
- Big Data analysis: Spotfire delivers the power of MapReduce to regular users.
- Database analysis: Data visualizations can be built on top of databases using information links. There is no need to pull the analyzed data into the platform, as a live link is maintained between Spotfire and the database.
- Visual join: Capability of merging data from several distinct sources into a single visualization.
- Rule-based visualizations: The platform enables the creation and tailoring of rules, and the filtering of data. These features facilitate emphasizing of outliers and foster management by exception. It is also possible to highlight other important features, such as commonalities and anomalies.
- Data drill-down: For data visualizations it is possible to create one (or many) details visualization(s). This drill-down can be performed in multiple steps as drill-down of drill-down of drill-down and so on.
- Real-time integration with other TIBCO tools.
Spotfire platform 5.x
The platform is composed of several intercommunicating components, each one with its own responsibilities (with clear separation of concerns) enabling a clustered deployment. As this is an introductory article, we will not dive deep into all the components, but we will identify the main ones and the underlying architecture.
A depiction the platform's components is shown in the following diagram:
The descriptions of each of the components in the preceding diagram are as follows:
- TIBCO Spotfire Server: The Spotfire server makes a set of services available to the analytics clients (TIBCO Spotfire Professional and TIBCO Spotfire Web Player Server):
- User services: It is responsible for authentication and authorization
- Deployment services: It handles the consistent upgrade of Spotfire clients
- Library services: It manages the repository of analysis files
- Information services: It persists information links to external data sources
The Server component is available for several operating systems, such as Linux, Solaris, and Windows.
- TIBCO Spotfire Professional: This is a client application (fat client) that focuses on the creation of data visualizations, taking advantage of all of the platform's features. This is the main client application, and because of that, it has enabled all the data manipulation functionalities such as use of data filters, drill down, working online and offline (working offline allows embedding data in the visualizations for use in limited connectivity environments), and exporting visualizations to MS PowerPoint, PDF, and HTML. It is only available for Windows environment.
- TIBCO Spotfire Web Player Server: This offers users the possibility of accessing and interacting with visualizations created in TIBCO Spotfire Professional. The existence of this web application enables the usage of an Internet browser as a client, allowing for thin client access where no software has to be installed on the user's machine. Please be aware that the visualizations cannot be created or altered this way. They can only be accessed in a read-only mode, where all rules are enabled, as well as data is drill down. Since it is developed in ASP.NET, this server must be deployed in a Microsoft IIS server, and so it is restricted to Microsoft Windows environments.
- Server Database: This database is accessed by the TIBCO Spotfire Server for storage of server information. It should not be confused with the data stores that the platform can access to fetch data from, and build visualizations. Only two vendor databases are supported for this role: Oracle Database and Microsoft SQL Server.
- TIBCO Spotfire Web Player Client: These are thin clients to the Web Player Server. Several Internet browsers can be used on various operating systems (Microsoft Internet Explorer on Windows, Mozilla Firefox on Windows and Mac OS, Google Chrome on Windows and Android, and so on). TIBCO has also made available an application for iPad, which is available in iTunes.
For more details on the iPad client application, please navigate to: https://itunes.apple.com/en/app/spotfire-analytics/id417436823?mt=8
In this article, we introduced the main attributes of the Spotfire platform in the scope of visual analytics, and we detailed the platform's underlying architecture.
Resources for Article:
- Core Data iOS: Designing a Data Model and Building Data Objects [Article]
- Database/Data Model Round-Trip Engineering with MySQL [Article]
- Drilling Back to Source Data in Dynamics GP 2013 using Dashboards [Article]