One Open XML implementation that I find interesting for a variety of reasons is the new release of Monarch V9 from Datawatch. Brian Jones blogged about it today.
This product has been around quite a while, and I took a good look at it back in 1991 when it first shipped. It's sort of funny, I remember reading about Monarch the first time and thinking "whoa, this product will be bad for business!" I'll explain ...
At that time, I was a consultant in Chicago and one of my clients was a major insurance company's motor club in the northwest suburbs. They had a big mainframe system that ran their call center, and they wanted to do some custom reports.
The problem was, their mainframe vendor wanted a huge licensing fee for a relatively simple reporting module that didn't even do the type of reports they wanted. And the only reporting option in the existing call-center software (which my client had already invested a six-figure sum in licensing from the vendor) was to print out all of the data in a full-detail report that listed every single call received. This dense tabular report printed a single week's call data on a huge pile of tractor-fed greenbar paper.
So I did a little custom-software project for them, to generate the slick management reports that they wanted. The trick was to capture the mainframe's serial printer output by using a null-modem cable connected to a PC. (This was a blatant violation of their license agreement, but surely the statute of limitations has passed on that. Uh, LCA, is that correct? :-))
Every night, an employee would set up Crosstalk (a PC modem program) to capture data coming in the serial port, then he would run the full-detail report for that day on the mainframe system. The mainframe would unknowingly "print" the tabular detail data through the cable to the PC, where it was captured in a massive text file. Then they'd run a FoxPro/DOS program I wrote for them (this was before Microsoft purchased Fox Software, as you old-timers recall), which would extract all the data from the text file and stuff it into tables in a nicely normalized data structure from which it was easy to generate fancy reports.
Then along came "Monarch," a product that allowed end users to create custom reports from tabular data quickly and easily with no programming at all. I took a look at Monarch and decided there was no money in it for me -- it was so easy to use that the concept of hiring a consultant to implement it would have been a bit of a stretch.
Congratulations to the folks at Monarch for shipping the latest release. I'll bet, somewhere out there, a consultant despises version 9 of your product as much as I despised version 1. :-)
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