With this PowerPlay add-on, you can publish PowerCubes on the Web

Are you looking for a quick and easy way to publish the contents of your Cognos PowerPlay PowerCubes on the Internet? Do you need to organize business information into a format your users can easily understand, access, and use? If so, check out Cognos' PowerPlay Server Web Edition, especially if you find existing data Web-publishing tools inadequate or too complicated.

PowerPlay Server lets you use your Web server to publish PowerCubes (PowerPlay files that contain multidimensional data organized for fast retrieval) on the Internet or an intranet so that users can view them with a Web browser. However, PowerPlay Server can't create PowerCubes. To create PowerCubes, you need to use Cognos' PowerPlay. Thus, PowerPlay Server isn't a stand-alone.

The software has two primary components: an executable file and a Windows NT service. You install the executable file (ppdscgi.exe) in your Web server's scripts directory. When you use your Web browser to view a PowerCube, this executable file generates a request that your Web server sends to the PowerPlay Web Server (ppdsweb.exe). The NT service, which runs in the background, handles queries about the PowerCube and returns the data to your Web browser for you to view.

Installation
My review copy of PowerPlay Server came on a CD-ROM. I installed PowerPlay Server on my Digital Prioris HX 590 dual-processor NT 4.0 server. I used Internet Information Server (IIS) as my Web server.

To launch the installation program, I ran setup.exe from the CD-ROM root directory and answered a few questions. I provided my name, the company name, the type of installation I wanted to perform (you can choose between typical or custom installation; I opted for custom), and the path to my Web server's cgi-bin directory. After the installation, I manually added one virtual Web directory, ppwb, to my IIS configuration. (This directory stores PowerCubes.) Because I had already supplied the address to my IIS cgi-bin directory during installation, I did not have to create this virtual directory entry.

Publishing PowerCubes
Using the software to publish PowerCubes is simple. I used the desktop version of PowerPlay to prepare the sample PowerCube (.mdc file) that comes with PowerPlay Server. Then, I copied the file from my client system into my NT server's ppwb virtual Web directory. Using the PowerPlay Web administrator on my NT server, I added the new PowerCube to the list of valid PowerCubes that the PowerPlay Server software can access. (If you don't complete this step, you won't enable the PowerCube and your users can't access the PowerCube.) Finally, I re-created the PowerCube table of contents, which generates an HTML file you can install in the ppwb virtual directory to give users quick-click access to PowerCubes on the server.

After I published the PowerCube, I used Internet Explorer (IE) to access it. By pointing my Web browser to http://prioris/ppwb, I automatically received the table of contents listing valid PowerCubes on the server. When you click one of the entries, IIS executes a special program (ppdscgi.exe) to interpret the PowerCube's contents and create the output for your browser. Screen 1 shows the initial output for the sample PowerCube.

The Verdict
Although PowerPlay Server is an excellent program, it might not be the best solution for the average-sized company seeking a Web-based, data-mining program. If you don't have PowerPlay, you will have the additional expenses of purchasing this software, training people to maintain it, and converting your data. To help reduce expenses, Cognos should make a smaller license (e.g., 10-user) available.

However, if your company uses PowerPlay and needs a Web-publishing solution, I recommend that you purchase PowerPlay Server. It is an excellent product.

PowerPlay Server Web Edition
Contact: Cognos * 781-229-6600 or 800-426-4667, Web: http://www.cognos.com
Price: $40,000 for 100-user license, $7500 each additional 100 users
System Requirements: Windows NT Server 4.0, Internet Information Server or Netscape Enterprise Server