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                     DSS News
                D. J. Power, Editor
         November 5, 2006 -- Vol. 7, No. 23

   A Free Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM 
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         Check the DSS Thought Leader interview with 
          James Taylor "Automating Decision Making"
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Featured:

* Ask Dan: What software tools should be used to build Web-based DSS?
* DSS Conferences
* What's New at DSSResources.COM
* DSS News Releases 

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    "Decision Support for Global Enterprises" Conference
              Jan. 2-4, 2007, Calcutta, India
                  Check ICDSS2007.org

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Ask Dan!

What software tools should be used to build Web-based DSS?

by Dan Power
Editor, DSSResources.com

Many Information Systems people, including students and managers,
want to do more that try a Web-based DSS. They want to build one!
Routinely I receive emails from students working on Masters degree
projects who want to build a Web-based DSS. I also receive emails
from IS/T staff who want to build low cost or experimental
applications for their companies. Much has changed over the past 10
years in terms of how I respond to this question.

In 1996, my response was to use Perl and static HTML with an Apache
web server running on a Sun Solaris server. I'd caution people about
problems accessing databases. By the late 1990s, I was criticising
the user interfaces of home grown Web-based DSS and encouraging IS/T
staff to buy off-the-shelf development tools from Information
Advantage or Microstrategy. In a short Ask Dan! column in 2000 (DSS
News, Vol. 1, No. 3) titled "How can we provide Web access to a
DW/DSS database?", I was explaining the need to use middleware like
ColdFusion, Active Server Pages, and PHP to access legacy databases.
Managers wanted easier access to DSS and Web-based DSS was the answer
to meeting that need.

A Web-based DSS delivers decision support information and decision
support tools to a manager or business analyst using a "thin-client"
Web browser. Web-Based DSS can be communications-driven, data-driven,
document-driven, knowledge-driven, or model-driven DSS or a
combination of Web-based transaction processing-data gathering and
various DSS supporting business processes. Web technologies can be
used to implement any category or type of DSS. Web-based means the
entire application is implemented using Web technologies; Web-enabled
means key parts of an application like a database remain on a legacy
system, but the application can be accessed from a Web-based
component and displayed in a browser.

Today, I tell students that they should use LAMP technologies to
build their innovative Web-based DSS projects. Similarly I recommend
LAMP for IS/T staff who want to build innovative, small-scale
Web-based DSS.
 
For example, I spoke recently with the President of a small
manufacturing company who wanted to build a Web-based DSS that would
capture and codify the expertise of two long term employees who were
retiring. He was considering videotaping interviews with the
employees on various technical topics related to the installation and
maintenance of the equiptment the firms manufactured and making the
videos available from the Web to support the training and decision
making of service technicians. The idea needs some further analysis
and elaboration, but I would probably recommend working with LAMP
technologies for this project. Also, my research project to build a
role-oriented planning decision support system (PlanningDSS.com) uses
LAMP technologies (cf., DSS News, Vol. 6, No. 12).

Some readers may be wondering what are LAMP technologies. That's OK
because the jargon of open source software is just now catching up
with the commercial, proprietary world associated with Wintel, Oracle
and MicroStrategy. The acronym LAMP (or L.A.M.P.) refers to a set of
open source software programs commonly used together to run dynamic
Web sites: Linux, the operating system; Apache, the Web server;
MySQL, the database management system and server; and PHP, the
scripting/programming language. The LAMP acronym describes the web
server infrastructure and some vendors are bundling the products
together as a software distribution package. Check the Wikipedia
articles on Linux, PHP and the LAMP software bundle.

LAMP is a powerful, low cost development environment for Web-based
DSS. Let's examine the four major components in more detail.

Linux, pronounced lee-nucks or lih-nucks. According to Linux.org,
"Linux is a free Unix-type operating system originally created by
Linus Torvalds with the assistance of developers around the world.
Developed under the GNU General Public License, the source code for
Linux is freely available to everyone." Torvalds began writing his
kernel as a fun student project while attending the University of
Helsinki in 1991. The Linux kernel can be found at
http://kernel.org/, as well as versions of several free
distributions.

Apache, an open source Web server originally formed by taking all the
'patches' (bug fixes) to the NCSA Web server and creating a new
server. The Apache Software Foundation's homepage is located at
http://www.apache.org/.

MySQL is an open source database for the Web. It has a small, highly
optimized database engine that implements the SQL92 specification. It
can be found online at http://www.mysql.com/.

PHP is a general-purpose scripting language for Web application
development that can be embedded into HTML. PHP is
"self-referentially short for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor". It was
created sometime in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf. During mid-1997, Zeev
Suraski and Andi Gutmans, rewrote the parser from scratch to create
PHP version 3 (PHP3). PHP is open-source, cross-platform, offers
excellent connectivity and provides a choice of using procedural
programming or object oriented programming. The homepage for PHP can
be found at http://www.php.net/.

Linux has been the cornerstone of the "LAMP" server-software
combination. PHP and MySQL are often referred to as the "dynamic duo"
of Web scripting. These technologies are receiving increasing interest
and attention from IBM, Oracle and even Microsoft. PHP is also used
with Microsoft components in place of ASP. Also, the United Nations
Development Program is pushing open source and LAMP as a means of
reducing the cost of IS/T infrastructure and applications.

Recently, Oracle announced its "Unbreakable Linux support package"
for the Red Hat Linux distribution. Microsoft announced a long-term
partnership with Zend, the PHP distributor. PHP 5.2 was just released
by Zend Technologies. Speaking at the Zend/PHP Conference & Expo, Andy
Gutmans, Zend co-founder, said the 5.2 release would have significant
performance improvements and a security extension. Also featured is
better AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) support. The theme of
the recent 2nd Annual Zend/PHP Conference & Expo was "Creating Modern
Web Applications with PHP".

According to NetCraft, PHP has surpassed ASP as most popular web
scripting language and the Zend Engine is being utilized on over 15
million websites. Commercially, the company's web application
platform products have over 8,000 customers in over 6,000 companies
worldwide. 

Can LAMP be used to build large-scale, data-driven DSS and business
intelligence applications? I am still somewhat skeptical about the
performance of LAMP with muli-Terabyte databases, but I'm exploring
the possibilities. In July 2003, MySQL AB announced that Cox
Communications was using a large scale data warehouse built with
MySQL for decision support. I am following up on that press release
with plans to write a case study.

Cox Communications serves more than 6 million customers. It uses its
DW/BI system to provide real-time customer support and expedite
internal and customer trending and analysis. On a daily basis, Cox
uses MySQL to pull data from over 1.2 million cable modems. In 2003
the database included more than 3,600 tables and 2 billion rows of
data. Overall, the MySQL database handles approximately 4 million
inserts every two hours. Cox uses the "LAMP" software set, with Red
Hat Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP and Perl. The Cox technical environment
included the IBM xSeries servers, running Linux. Two Linux boxes with
2.5 terabytes of disk space in a high availability configuration
serve all of their high speed Internet customer care account lookups
and real-time modem polling.

My plan is to follow-up with Mark Cotner, manager of Network
Application Development at Cox, and see how the DW/BI LAMP
application is currently performing. 

Can and should companies use LAMP technologies to build Web-based
DSS? YES, MAYBE. The jury is still waiting to make a decision on open
source for Web-based DSS, especially large-scale, data-driven DSS. My
sense is that we'll see a mix of proprietary and open source in
applications. The challenge is to determine what mix best meets the
decision support need at the lowest total cost of ownership.

References

Power, D., How can we provide Web access to a DW/DSS database? DSS
News, Vol. 1, No. 3, June 6, 2000. 

Power, D., What are some examples of web-based DSS? DSS News, Vol. 4,
No. 10, May 11, 2003.

Power, D., What is PlanningDSS.COM? DSS News, Vol. 6, No. 12, May 22,
2005.

Power, D., Where can I find or download a DSS demo?" DSS News,
January 5, 2003.

Power, D. and S. Kaparthi, "Building Web-based Decision Support
Systems", Studies in Informatics and Control, Vol. 11, Number 4, Dec.
2002, pp. 291-302, URL
http://www.ici.ro/ici/revista/sic2002_4/art1.pdf

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, URL
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LAMP_(software_bundle) .

Recommended Websites:

http://www.onlamp.com
http://www.linux.org 
http://www.apache.org
http://www.mysql.com
http://www.php.net
http://www.zend.com

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          Purchase Dan Power's DSS FAQ book 
  83 frequently asked questions about computerized DSS 
   http://dssresources.com/dssbookstore/power2005.html 

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DSS Conferences 

1. Pre-ICIS 2006: SIG DSS Research workshop, Sunday, 
December 10, 2006, Milwaukee, WI. 
Check http://dssresources.com/news/1494.php .

2. ICDSS 2007, 9th International Conference on DSS, Jan. 2-4, 2007, 
Calcutta, India. Theme: Decision Support for Global Enterprises.
Check http://www.ICDSS2007.org . 

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What's New at DSSResources.COM

11/03/2006 Posted case by Dustin Huntington, "From Information to
Answers: Transferring Expertise at the SBA".

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DSS News Releases - October 23 to November 3, 2006
Read them at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News Archive

11/02/2006 Microsoft and Novell announce broad collaboration on
Windows and Linux interoperability and support. 

11/02/2006 'Virtual Healthcare Assistant' makes its U.S. Debut at
World Healthcare Innovation and Technology Congress in Washington,
D.C.. 

11/02/2006 Oracle buys Stellent.

11/02/2006 MicroStrategy Technology day to spotlight business
intelligence solutions and best practices. 

11/02/2006 Enterprise Portals are increasingly strategic reveals
survey commissioned by BEA Systems. 

11/01/2006 Web-based collaboration services take online collaboration
to the next level. 

11/01/2006 Yon Software's MeetingSense(TM) vastly improves the way
companies conduct meetings. 

10/31/2006 Large companies waste millions by ignoring the new
economics of information and analytics, according to Diamond report. 

10/31/2006 Cognos customer Princess Cruises honored with Business
Finance Vision award. 

10/31/2006 ILOG and Tavant Technologies team up on solutions for the
mortgage-lending industry. 

10/31/2006 Microsoft and Zend Technologies announce technical
collaboration to improve interoperability of PHP on the Windows
Server platform. 

10/31/2006 Zend Technologies announces major product updates and new
industry collaborations. 

10/30/2006 INFORMS Simulation Society Research Workshop: "Simulation
for better decisions in an uncertain world", July 5-7, 2007 at INSEAD
in Fontainebleau, France. 

10/30/2006 Generate unveils next generation business intelligence
platform. 

10/30/2006 Purisma Data Hub delivers solutions-driven approach to
master data management. 

10/30/2006 Emulex drives supply chain collaboration and improves
customer satisfaction with Agile PLM. 

10/27/2006 Teradata to provide Tenneco with enterprise technology for
enhancing business analysis. 

10/27/2006 Pfizer implements Pilgrim Software's SmartAudit to
facilitate quality and regulatory audits. 

10/26/2006 SYSPRO significantly expands inventory management
capabilities in support of the lean manufacturing model. 

10/26/2006 SYWARE®, Inc. releases Visual CE® 10, new version
of the award winning database and forms builder for Windows Mobile. 

10/26/2006 People and processes more important than technology in
securing the enterprise, according to global survey of 4,000
information security professionals. 

10/25/2006 Lockheed Martin to create Incident Management Analysis and
Reporting System (IMARS) for the U.S. Department of the Interior. 

10/25/2006 Hoover's enhances subscriber offerings with more data,
more customization and expanded download options. 

10/25/2006 Gartner positions EMC in "Leaders" quadrant for enterprise
content management. 

10/25/2006 J.B. Hunt Transport Services manages empty miles and
initiates auto-preplan with Manhattan Associates’ Carrier
Management solution. 

10/25/2006 SAS® Patron Value Optimization to strengthen casino
and gaming industry. 

10/24/2006 BearingPoint launches corporate performance management
solution for Oracle Business Intelligence. 

10/24/2006 Oracle announces Oracle(R) Business Intelligence Suite
Enterprise Edition 10g release 3. 

10/24/2006 Wallis Oil selects KSS for price automation and
optimization, 44 convenience stores using KSS PriceNet for fuel
pricing. 

10/23/2006 Nationwide Insurance recognized for technology innovation.


10/23/2006 Barco and daytaOhio equip collaborative visualization
complex at Wright State’s Joshi Research Center. 

10/23/2006 Global intelligence efforts use Spotfire enterprise
analytics software in the War on Terror. 

10/23/2006 EMC extends storage leadership with new systems and
capabilities. 

10/23/2006 Oracle kicks off Oracle(R) OpenWorld San Francisco 2006. 

10/23/2006 Polycom HDX video communications solutions deliver
unrivaled performance and flexibility for executive desktops,
conference rooms, vertical applications. 

10/23/2006 SAS® Model Manager to speed value of predictive
analytics.

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