IBM hides Metaphor’s Data Interpretation System light under a bushel… One of the hottest properties in IBM’s OfficeVision announcement is probably the item it paid a substantial sum for, by way of equity investment in Metaphor Computer Systems Inc, Mountain View, California – but you’d never know it from the announcement roster, where it is […]
IBM hides Metaphor’s Data Interpretation System light under a bushel…
One of the hottest properties in IBM’s OfficeVision announcement is probably the item it paid a substantial sum for, by way of equity investment in Metaphor Computer Systems Inc, Mountain View, California – but you’d never know it from the announcement roster, where it is well and truly buried. To keep eager codehounds even further off the scent, it is billed purely as an IBM product, not a co-operative marketing one, and there is no mention of Metaphor. However IBM does retain the original Metaphor name for the thing – it shows up in the product list as the IBM Data Interpretation System.
Muddy their hands
IBM bills it as improving productivity by migrating business professionals from stand-alone workstations into a fully integrated local area network-based workstation and host system for data access, analysis, and application construction. Designed for decision-making professionals who don’t want to muddy their hands programming, Data Interpretation System uses an iconic desktop interface to present graphical tools for assembling, analysing, presenting, and communicating information gathered from one or more data sources, and is claimed to enable data-reliant professionals to access needed information and build applications with minimal dependence on computer skills. It supports the creation of macros, enabling a series of operations to be performed using individual tools, and the operations can be graphically encapsulated in an independent icon that can be stored for later execution or re-use over and over. The integrated tool-set includes ones for data access, analysis, and presentation – query, spreadsheet, reporter, text, transformers, data entry – that facilitate ad-hoc analysis, reporting, and communication. It also provides support for electronic mailing of text, graphs, reports, application, and spreadsheet objects to other Data Interpretation System users, and notes can be exchanged with Profs and VM users. Users end up with a Token Ring-based system of services and workstations that communicates with MVS and VM systems running DB2, SQL/DS, and/or Profs, all via a graphical interface. Multiple local nets can be combined using SNA LU6.2 to facilitate work group communication and network resource sharing. There is a centrally managed filing service that provides secured and shared access to the applications, tools, and data. It needs an 80386-based PS/2 (the software was originally written for 68000 family microprocessors) interconnected on a 16Mbps Token-Ring communicating with another Data Interpretation System network and a 370-type host under MVS or VM. Ain’t cheap The host software – Data Interpretation System Host Client ain’t cheap – it is $6,670 up-front and $1,175 a year on a baby 9370, to $40,000 and $7,060 a year on a 3090-600; the monthly licence charge for those who prefer to pay that way is $474 a month on the small 9370 to $1,420 a month on the giant mainframe. Release 1 is out in September, but Release 1.1 is needed for DB2 access, and that follows in December. Data Interpretation LAN Services for the PS/2 is $18,000 up-front and $3,175 a year, or $1,290 a month.
…while Metaphor brandishes report quantifying user productivity savings
Why is Data Interpretation System making waves among those who’ve been exposed to it? Its originator, Metaphor Computer Systems has preliminary findings of a study conducted by Business Science International of New York, and has put them out to help make its case. The report suggests that large companies are making increases in turnover and substantial cost savings as a direct result of using the Data Interpretation System. The report, based on inter-views with nine consumer packaged goods customers, states that companies which that used the system for a two-year period claim increases in profits of $8.7m, or 0.6% of turnover, representing a cumulative return on total Data Interpretation System investment of over three-to-one. The system – a graphical interface combined with relational
database technology – is designed to provide access to multiple databases, and enable users to construct their own applications, and make more timely and effective decisions, according to the Metaphor pitch. Respondents also seem to believe that the Data Interpretation System will enable them to achieve profits averaging 2.2% of annual turnover over the course of the next few years, pushing the profit-to-cost ratio up to over 18:1. The survey plac-ed the potential impact of using the product at up to a maximum of 5.3% of annual turnover. Comment-ing on the findings, Metaphor chief Donald Massaro said the study confirmed our long-held belief that our products and services bring not only productivity increases, but real financial value to our cus-tomers. The final BSI report, which will break up profit impact by business function and application area, is scheduled for publication this July. The company is also conducting a second survey, designed to examine the Data Interpretation System impact among financial users.
Threw in the towel
Metaphor was founded by Massaro, who finally threw in the towel on running Xerox Corp’s office systems business and quit with a few key colleagues to found Metaphor and develop the idea to a point where it could be offered as a product. The Metaphor system was designed from the start for IBM mainframe users, using aforementioned 68000 family-based workstations at the user’s end – and it is an indication of the attractions of the product that IBM, which tends to disdain products that claim to enable users of its mainframes to perform tasks supported by IBM, but in a better way, that IBM was so bowled over by Data Interpretation System that it had to have it for itself. Metaphor presently supports MS-DOS micros by stuffing a 2Mb 68000 board into them that runs the Data Interpretation software (CI Nos 1,163, 1,170).