NRG+ Development Overview

Why we felt we had to develop the new product.

""Everything Flows, Nothing Stands Still" - Plato.

Looking back over our history of developing reporting tools, we helped to develop the Snow Report Writer in the 80's and early 90's to unlock the wealth of information held in Unix based applications. At the time, this was one of the best tools available to give senior management within organisations running Unix applications, the ability to have extensive analysis and reporting on critical business data. This product added significant value to the businesses that took it up.

By 1994, many businesses were starting to have desktop pc's rather than dumb terminals connected to their Unix systems. And indeed, Windows based Server applications were becoming more and more common. This took us down the route of developing our NRG product so that we could adapt to the new environments we were dealing with. NRG was our first Client/Server tool that enabled us to add more value to our traditional Unix customer base whilst at the same time allowing us to work in entirely Windows based businesses. We were also able to add significant value to sites that were running a mixture of Unix and Windows based systems. NRG was, and still is, particularly relevant to sites that run mixed environments. Other Windows client based tools are nothing like as flexible or powerful when it comes to accessing various different file formats over multiple platforms.

Over the past few years, many new features were added to NRG and this has continued even up to today, but we realised we had to develop in a different way to take advantage of newer technologies and to be able to address the changing requirements of the marketplace. Hence the decision four years ago to develop the new product now known as NRG+.

Why Change?

"Nothing Endures But Change" - Diogenes Laertius.

We were faced with two just maintain NRG as it was and provide some limited enhancements while we supported the user base, or to provide a route forward with the options of either staying with NRG or taking up the new product. We have a loyal committed user base of NRG sites in the UK, so we decided we must return that loyalty and try to help with the investment made in the acquisition and deployment of NRG within organisations.

The requirements that our customers have, change over a period of time. When we started developing NRG in 1994, there was very little concept of web based deployment of applications so that was not really on the radar of our development plans. Web, or at least browser based deployment of reporting solutions, has become more of a requirement now along with many other areas of change.

Therefore, we needed to develop the next product along based on nearly twenty years experience of delivering reporting solutions. As much as possible, the new product had to be developed in a very flexible environment that allowed us to include what we needed now but would also not give us any restrictions in what we could develop in the future.

Why Use The Development Environment We Have?

"High Thoughts Must Have A High Language" - Aristophanes.

We could have gone for an entirely Windows based development environment such as .net frameworks but we felt that restricted how and where we could deploy the product. Referring back, we came from a Unix customer base to where we are today with a mixture of Unix, Linux and/or Windows deployments. We had to have a development environment that allowed us to further develop what made us different from other suppliers in the marketplace.

So, the decision was made to develop NRG+ in Java. The main reasons for this being portability across multiple platforms, coupled with the fact that Java has increasing market penetration due to its prevalence in web applications. It also benefits from a wide developer community and on-going enhancements backed by established organisations.

Why Now?

"They Say Time Changes Things But You Actually Have To Change Them Yourself" - Andy Warhol

NRG has served a growing customer base for many years now but, as described earlier, had some limitations we could not get round or avoid. So the 'now' ideally would have been when we decided to develop the new product three or four years ago. However, to develop a product as technically complex as NRG+ cannot be done overnight and much of the first two years of development was spent on getting the fundamental underlying architecture and components correct and in place. We needed to ensure we did not introduce anything that would restrict where we could take the development of the product or its components to.

The ownership of Chiron Software has provided the impetus and environment to develop this product. The development team at Chiron Software has provided the experience, knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm to ensure we have delivered, and will deliver, a product of high quality and usability. We believe we have developed a product that can be at least as technically functional and flexible as any other product available.

What Are The Fundamental Differences?

Our starting point was that NRG+ had to be able to do everything that NRG could do and then we had to get the added benefits of the new development environment. Even before we started to add in new functionality we had added benefits from developing the product in Java, but the initial concentration was on matching current NRG capability and then greatly improving usability and the user interface.

Some of the major new differences are:

  • Totally independent of third party products other than Java
  • Tree view of the dictionary
  • Always Client/Server even on single desktop deployment
  • Dictionary now resides where the data resides, usually on the server
  • Greater ease of use for multi user deployment
  • Reduction in dictionary maintenance overheads
  • Automatic discovery of potential joins in any dictionary
  • Choice of 'look and feel'
  • Direct editing of Includes
  • No requirement for regenerating Designs or Includes if dictionary or base Design has been changed
  • User/password access
  • Increased functionality

When Will The Product Be Delivered?

Beta versions of NRG+ were sent out November 2007 and included data handlers for 'flat' files and databases with JDBC drivers. Version 1 production release has been made available as from September 2008.

There will then be subsequent new releases every quarter that will include our planned developments and any functionality specifically requested by our customer base.

Planned functionality to be included:

  • Wizards
  • Tool tips
  • Zoom
  • Web Clients
  • Web Viewer
  • Pre and Post sort filters
  • Consumer Client Interface, i.e. the ability to create a Client Interface customised for an individual company including company logo and company 'look and feel'.
  • User requested functionality

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