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I would like to setup a business intelligence dashboard that reports on current system health. How difficult is Cognos in terms of setup, and when it comes to developing the dashboard does it use its own proprietary scripting language?

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What sort of statistics do you want/need on your dashboard? Cognos BI really only wants to pull data from a database. –  Laura Thomas Jun 18 '09 at 6:22
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My company has just installed Cognos as a BI reporting tool. Setup wasn't all to easy and required us to get a outside consultant to help implement a dashboard. That being said there are Cognos classes you can take that cover everything from daily usage to actual development.

Personally it would be a lot easier, and cheaper, for me to create a custom dashboard interface using the .NET stack. My guess is that if you talk to a Cognos developer they would say the same about developing within Cognos.

my two cents

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+1 And isn't Cognos really expensive? I did something similar (system diagnostics dashboard) using Flex and my usual Java stack. It was "easy as pie." –  Mike Sickler Apr 30 '09 at 17:48
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We have implemented Cognos BI here at UST. We don't really use it for dashboarding system health. We use it for reporting against our ERP database (Banner). Cognos is designed to report against databses. IBM does not at last check officially support reporting against MySQL. If you are not actively databasing your server stats making a dashboard with Cognos will be very challenging. It doesn't so much have a scripting language as a visual style builder.

Setting up Cognos BI is a non trivial task. It is very challenging to get set up the first time. Maintenance is pretty easy once it's up and running but that's a long time coming. Setting up dashboards, also challenging as stated by jdiaz.

If your company already has Cognos BI implemented then creating a dashboard of system stats probably wouldn't be that difficult, provided you have someone there with dashboarding experience and your stats in a database.

I do work in a shop with a 5 person Cognos BI team and we don't use it for our system monitoring. We use BigBrother and are moving to Xymon this fall. However there are products out there that designed for dash boarding system stats for example Xymon formerly Hobbit or Nagios or Cacti.

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If you're already committed to Cognos then you're pretty much stuck with it. Some rather cheaper alternatives for dashboarding are:

  • MS PerformancePoint - A dashboarding and OLAP tool based on IP that Microsoft got off Proclarity when they acquired it. More or less free if you have Sharepoint, but you need to have Analysis Services set up as it requires cubes to work off.

  • Qlikview - An in-memory OLAP server with a client that has passably good dashboarding capability. It's quite easy to use and not fantastically expensive, but it is very proprietary - you can only use the Qlikview client and server software. Also, being an in-core data structure it likes to have very large memory configurations. Think in terms of speccing servers with 64GB or more of RAM. One nice feature is that it's fairly easy to use; this could be quite a major win if you don't have anyone on the staff with decent OLAP skills.

  • RSInteract - An ad-hoc reporting and OLAP tool with a web interface. It has some dashboarding capability and is fairly cheap. You may need to use cubes behind it, although it can consume report models. It used to be SQL Server specific but now supports Oracle.

All of the above will be substantially cheaper than Cognos.

However, if you want to monitor system health a management tool like Nagios or Big Brother might be more useful.

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