Frequently Asked Questions

How can I manage a secure environment when cross platform joins are involved?

CONNX Security is ideally suited to handle cross-platform security issues. There are two major areas of security when dealing with multiple database platforms: Managing multiple database logins and managing secure access to the data in each system.

Managing Multiple Database Logins

CONNX handles issue number one through a technology called the CONNX Integrated Logon. CONNX facilitates the connection to multiple databases through a single "CONNX" logon. Underneath the covers, the CONNX logon maps to one or more database specific UserID and password combinations. This database logon information is stored in the CONNX Data Dictionary, and is encrypted using 128bit keys.

The first time a user logs into CONNX, they are prompted to created an "integrated account". The next time the user logs into CONNX, they only need to specify their CONNX UserID and password.

The CONNX Integrated logon also takes into account the fact that the database password may change on a periodic basis. This could potentially be a maintenance nightmare for administrators.

However, CONNX makes the maintenance of passwords simple.

Let's go through an example of what happens when a user's database password has changed:

  1. The user specifies their "CONNX" user ID and password.
  2. CONNX attempts to log into the database using the stored database user ID and password.
  3. The database login fails, because the password has changed.
  4. CONNX displays a logon box prompted for the new password.
  5. CONNX again attempts to log into the database using the new database user ID and password.
  6. If the logon is successful, CONNX stores the new password for future use.

By using the CONNX Integrated Logon technology, zero maintenance is required to keep the CONNX UserIDs and Passwords in sync.

Managing Secure Access to the Data

Security to data can be handled in several ways:

  1. Security can be established in the database itself. However, RMS and DBMS do not support column level security – this can only be accomplished through CONNX.
  2. Additional security can be established on tables in CONNX using the CONNX Data Dictionary. CONNX can restrict access at the table or column level for any single user, or all users.
  3. CONNX Views can be used to limit what columns or rows a user can view. Also, CONNX security can be applied to CONNX views. This mechanism allows a database administrator to establish security on a cross-platform view, consisting of tables in different databases.

Security is very important in enterprise network environments. How does CONNX keep unauthorized users from gaining access to sensitive corporate information?

Comprehensive security capabilities have been designed into the basic CONNX architecture to ensure maximum data protection. All information, regardless of which database it is stored in, is protected through the table- and user-level security. Users are given access to certain datasets, depending on their job classification and other factors. Degrees of access can be specified for individual users or for groups of users. A 128-bit encryption algorithm is used to protect vital information in the password-protected CONNX Data Dictionary. CONNX validates the user name and password supplied in the ODBC connection against the database or system being accessed.

With which off-the-shelf software packages does CONNX integrate?

CONNX integrates with any ODBC-compliant application such as the following:

  • Microsoft Visual Basic
  • Microsoft Visual C++, Microsoft Visual Studio
  • PowerBuilder
  • Microsoft Access
  • Microsoft Excel (MSQuery) and Excel
  • Cognos Impromptu
  • Crystal Reports
  • Borland C++
  • Microsoft Visual Basic for Applications (VBA)
  • Paradox for Windows
  • Dharma ODBC Integrator
  • Visual FoxPro for Windows
  • Lotus Notes
  • Lotus Approach
  • Borland Delphi
  • Borland JBuilder
  • Microsoft Visual Foxpro
  • Visual J++
  • JetForms
  • Sagent
  • Oracle Developer
  • Oracle Forms
  • Oracle Reports
  • Any ODBC or OLE-DB compliant application

Does CONNX support networked, Internet, and remote users?

Yes. CONNX supports TCP/IP across LANs, WANs, intranets, extranets, and the Internet as well as through DECnet. Additionally, CONNX also has data compression capability which will increase performance when using the CONNX client over a slow or remote connection.

Can I combine multiple data sources in one query?

Yes. CONNX allows you to combine multiple disparate data sources in one query. Basically, CONNX presents all of your data as one single relational database. CONNX also optimizes query processing by distributing the load between client and server to reduce processor load and take into account the capabilities of each data source in doing so.

Can I create "Views" of my data using CONNX?

Yes. The CONNX Administrator allows authorized users to define data views which join tables, select data and restrict access. These views are then available to front-end applications and are presented as logical tables. Because the views are defined centrally they are available across the enterprise to authorized users regardless of the front end tool chosen.

Can the results of multiple queries be combined into one result set?

Yes. Beginning with CONNX 8, CONNX supports the SQL UNION command, which allows the result sets of multiple queries to be combined into one.

Does CONNX have wizards to guide me in configuring a data source?

Yes. CONNX has wizard-driven assistance for configuring a data source and importing metadata.

Does CONNX have a silent or unattended installation option for deployment to a large number of users?

Yes, CONNX allows for a silent installation. The product must first be installed once and installation choices must be made and recorded. CONNX can then be installed on multiple machines without further prompting for choices.

Please refer to the Appendix in the CONNX Installation Guide.

If I install a new version of CONNX, will it automatically update my CDD?

Your CONNX CDD does not automatically get updated.

If you have several users of CONNX, it may take time to upgrade each CONNX client to the new version. New versions of CONNX will work against older version of the CONNX CDDs. However, the CDDs are treated as read only by the new CONNX versions. Once all client PCs have upgrades to the new version of CONNX, then if you open the CONNX CDD using the new Administrator, and then re-save it, the CDD will be converted to the latest format.

How long does it take to configure CONNX and a standard data query tool using the CONNX wizards?

Using the new CONNX wizard technology, the time required to set up a CONNX Data Dictionary has been reduced to approximately ten minutes.

Does the tool allow the user to limit execution time, cancel at any time, limit rows returned, and specify estimated time to generate information?

Yes. The ODBC and OLE DB specifications permit users to limit query execution times (Query Timeout), and limit the number of rows returned. Currently, CONNX does not return a "time estimate" for query execution. However, CONNX can return a "query execution plan", which describes how CONNX attempts to process a query.

What does the Insert/Select feature do for me?

The Insert/Select features allows you to insert the request of one query into another table. This capability is useful when developing complex reports where the creation of temporary tables is necessary to store intermediate results. The Insert/Select also facilitates the transfer of data between database platforms using a single SQL statement.

Example: Insert into Customers_Oracle select * from customer_rms

Does CONNX integrate with CA-MANMAN?

Yes, CONNX enables ODBC access to CA-MANMAN through our Oracle DBMS Driver. CONNX will read the MANMAN metadata directly, and create a CONNX data dictionary from this information.

Does CONNX integrate with SCT Plus applications?

Yes. CONNX provides access to SCT Plus application data through our RMS driver. There is specific functionality built into CONNX to handle the data access requirements of SCT users.

BI tools such as reporting and OLAP tools already have the capability of pulling data from back-end databases for querying and reporting. How does CONNX add value to an organization with such reporting tools?

Yes, these tools have bundled drivers from some mainstream databases, such as SQL Server and Oracle, but they do not contain drivers for many other enterprise data sources such as DB2, RMS, Rdb, and DBMS. CONNX also adds value in the following ways:

  • CONNX equalizes data access to disparate data sources. For example, RMS does not support SQL natively, but using CONNX, ANSI SQL can be used to communicate to all data sources, even if it does not support SQL. Additionally, CONNX supports all of the string, date/time, and numeric functions, providing maximum flexibility in designing reports and queries.
  • CONNX also provides access to all data sources through a single interface. In essence, all of the data on your network, no matter where it is located, appears as if it is in a single relational database. This means that a user can perform seamless joins between their SQL Server data, and their RMS data, without even thinking about it. Most front-end tools do not have this capability.
  • CONNX Views provide a central location for the creation of queries that link multiple tables together. This makes it simple for end users to access their data, without having to know the fine details of table relationships.
  • The CONNX Data Dictionary acts as a central repository for metadata, database configuration, and security. This minimizes the configuration necessary on each client PC. The PC data source simply points to the CONNX Data Dictionary located on the network, which can be managed in one location.
  • The CONNX Data Dictionary provides a central point for security administration. CONNX honors all existing database security, and provides a mechanism for adding View, Procedure, Table and Column level security to both users and groups. CONNX views facilitates row-level security, which ensures that each user can only see the rows of data appropriate for their security level.

You call CONNX a data access engine. What does that mean?

Many ODBC drivers exist for accessing a single type of database. If you were to acquire several of them, you would be able to access multiple databases. The catch here is that each would appear as a separate data source. Many front-end applications are unable to or make it difficult to access multiple datasources. Thus, your choice of front-end applications or even development tools is limited. Even if your application is able to access multiple data sources, users typically take a performance hit as each driver is separately interrogated and data is staged on the client to perform a join. Your data access capabilities are also limited by the functionality of the weakest or least capable driver. In addition, a multi-driver solution suffers from multiple points of failure, multi-vendor support responsibility, and vendor bias. CONNX is truly different because all of the data sources accessed are presented to the client application as if they came from ONE SINGLE relational database. A data access engine also provides functionality such as meta data management, security, advanced SQL and data conversion that simply are not core components of a simple ODBC driver.

Can you access more than one database concurrently with CONNX?

Yes. CONNX allows access to multiple heterogeneous databases concurrently. This allows you to join data from disparate datasources regardless of their type or location. All of the tables in your enterprise databases are represented as if they are contained in one enterprise spanning database.

How is CONNX priced?

CONNX pricing for all databases is server-based. The price for CONNX server licenses depends on the size and configuration of the mainframe server and the number of users on that system.

Is there an evaluation period?

Yes. Please contact CONNX sales for more information.

What is your distribution strategy?

Domestically, we distribute CONNX directly and through VAR channels only. Internationally, CONNX is distributed through CONNX distributors and VARs.

What role do customers have in influencing development of new releases?

All new releases go through a stringent market study. Suggestions for product enhancements (Request for Change) are collected from a variety of sources including our feedback form on this site, focus groups, site visits, contact with technical support, and direct contact with our sales executives and VARs.

Is CONNX secure?

Yes. CONNX respects the existing security of the database accessed. CONNX also allows storage of database logins to automate authentication. In addition, CONNX allows further user, group, application, field- and record-level (through views) security.

Is CONNX a "data pump"? What does that mean?

CONNX can act as a "data pump", but it is much more. A "data pump" simply moves data from one location to another. The need for a data pump usually arises when an application is being migrated from one platform to another.

CONNX is a unique data connectivity tool that provides access to multiple heterogeneous databases through a single driver. CONNX "pumps" data from disparate data sources and combines the raw data into meaningful information. CONNX accomplishes this through a data dictionary that contains detailed information about the tables and files accessed from the remote databases.

How does CONNX fit into plans to migrate to newer platforms?

We are committed to supporting all major databases on all platforms. This also include newer databases such as SQL Server, Oracle, DB2, Sybase, Informix. The CONNX 8 family of products delivers on our commitment to support these databases, and round out or support for all data on the enterprise.

Our commitment to support all major databases means that CONNX provides a "technology buffer" that provides a consistent and reliable method of accessing data, no matter where it is located.

Will I have to change my database design to work with CONNX?

No. CONNX works with your existing database structure.

Does CONNX have a graphical user interface (GUI)?

Yes. The CONNX Administrator allows system administrators and developers to configure and maintain metadata, security, data sources, and views.

Does CONNX provide a GUI to the metadata?

Yes. CONNX provides a Windows application called the Data Dictionary Administrator, which allows the user to create and maintain the metadata, create views, and establish additional security.

What kind of online help is there to assist me in using CONNX?

The CONNX User Reference Guide and CONNX Installation Guide are both available as online help. The CONNX User Reference Guide includes the Security and Administration Guide, the Import Procedures for CONNX Modules manual, and CONNX Applications.

How is CONNX supported?

CONNX is supported worldwide by our Customer Support Staff in Redmond, Washington, and also by our network of VARS. Support is available both through annual support agreements or by a fee-based support structure. Software support agreements include upgrade and product service packs. Onsite implementation and training is available through our sales eEngineers. In addition, the professional services group is available for CONNX integration and development projects.

How long does it take to install CONNX?

CONNX Client installation takes about 5 minutes. Typically, installation time on the server can take up to 30 minutes, depending on the number of servers and data sources involved.

Does CONNX support the euro?

Yes. As the euro is simply a new type of currency. CONNX is capable of storing and retrieving any type of monetary value.

How is CONNX different from a more traditional data warehouse? What are the advantages of providing organizations with access to real-time decision support information from an online system?

Traditional data warehouses store a static copy or snapshot of the data. The CONNX approach is to provide real-time access to the disparate data. Within companies where data is time-critical, the warehouse approach is undesirable because of the static nature of the data. Until CONNX, there was no simple or efficient way to access data from disparate data sources. CONNX is the key to real-time access to multiple data sources.

Can CONNX help with data warehouse projects already in progress?

Yes. CONNX has several features that can help in data warehousing projects.

Typically, in a data warehouse, a company is bringing several disparate data sources into a common repository. Once the data is there, then additional tables can be created for fast cubing of the data.

The CONNX heterogeneous join technology, and the CONNX Insert/Select feature make CONNX an ideal tool for the creation and maintenance of data warehouses.

CONNX can also be used in conjunction with CASE Tools to reverse and forward engineer data structures.

Data warehouse systems provide certain types of functionality that CONNX does not. What are they? Does you have plans to add this type of functionality to CONNX?

Data warehousing systems are good at "slicing and dicing" the data from different views and roll-ups. This is important when performing on-line analytical processing and data mining. We have recently added the CONNX Data Synchronization to our product line. The CONNX Data Synchronization tool acts as a "data siphon" to draw data from disparate data sources into a single source or target. With most existing data warehouse tools, the data is actually copied and "rolled up" into a separate database. With the CONNX Data Synchronization tool, users can view the "rolled up" data, and then drill down to the actual data, instead of an out-of-date copy. The CONNX Data Synchronization tool can also be used to perform and schedule incremental updates of the data, which can run up to 10 times faster than a full update.

CONNX now supports every significant database on the Digital platform. Why is that important for organizations that have systems from a range of suppliers, in addition to Digital?

Most large corporations have several databases on mainframe systems. One of our goals is for CONNX to provide a single source for native support for all major databases in use by organizations today. Digital is a significant portion of the legacy mainframe database market, and it is key that we support the databases on the Digital platform.

CONNX provides users with access to transactional database information, without requiring the time-consuming task of converting that data from one format to another. Why is that important?

Data conversion is one of the most underestimated tasks in database projects. If a company cannot properly decipher the data stored in a remote database, the data is useless. Data conversion is key to providing seamless access to disparate databases.

I see that in the future you plan to support a comprehensive range of database environments with CONNX. Why would an organization use CONNX to provide access to Oracle through a PC, when Oracle already provides this type of functionality to users?

One of the goals of CONNX is not only to provide connectivity, but to provide access to all data on the enterprise. Most corporations have many types of databases. CONNX provides access to all of those databases without the time and inconvenience of configuring separate ODBC drivers for each database, and without the uncertainty that they will all work together properly. Most desktop applications do not allow the use of more than one data source or do so inefficiently. CONNX removes that limitation. Additionally, the CONNX Data Dictionary allows customers to create applications that are database-independent by creating views in the CONNX Data Dictionary instead of in the database itself. As a result, CONNX is not just an ODBC driver but an enterprise-wide data connectivity product.

There has been a great deal of industry discussion over how organizations are tapping into the value of their transactional systems to support decision-making. Could you explain how this works and why it is important?

In this increasingly competitive market, fast, accurate, and meaningful data analysis can mean the difference between closing a sale or losing out to a competitor. Companies are desperately working to get the most competitive information from their existing data. The problem is that much of the data is stored on legacy mainframe systems at more than one location. There are many data analysis tools on the market today, but most are produced by database vendors that have a vested interest in making certain their tool performs best with their own database. Companies need an independent or "database-neutral" method of retrieving data from several different databases and performing analysis on that data. This is the foundation of CONNX – to provide database-neutral access to all systems on an enterprise network.

By providing easy, cost-effective access to legacy database systems, CONNX significantly increases the value and longevity of these existing systems. Are you finding that CONNX enables organizations to extend the life of their legacy systems?

Most definitely. We have had several customers who initially purchased CONNX to assist in a migration off their legacy system. However, CONNX worked so well that they postponed indefinitely their migration plans. Once customers realize that they can access their data in real-time from the desktop, they begin to understand they can solve their immediate business problems without a costly migration.

What conditions need to be present for CONNX to add value to end-user organizations needing data warehouses, and in what specific circumstances does CONNX enable organizations to eliminate the need for data marts/warehouses?

Many of the data warehouses and data marts were created simply because the customer thought that real-time data access would be impossible or impractical. Our existing customer base has shown this to be untrue. Data warehouses and data marts are still needed in cases where large amounts of data must be pre-summarized, or manipulated somehow for fast retrieve. Even in this situation, CONNX can serve as the tool for building the data warehouse and accessing the data warehouse. This is a distinct advantage in using CONNX in this instance: the drill-down capability can be mapped back to the online data, instead of the static copy, if desired.

Most large organizations do not want all end users querying their back-end databases because of the network traffic it creates as well as the impact on operational systems. How does CONNX handle this?

CONNX has an extensive security model, which allows database administrators to determine which tables are available for query usage by end users. Many customers use CONNX views, and limit the users to those views. This allows database administrators to control the types of queries being issued against the database, and minimize their impact by designing queries that take advantage of the existing indexes on the database tables. Regarding network traffic, CONNX is designed specifically to reduce network traffic by performing all possible data filtering on the database server, and only returning the results to the PC.

You say that CONNX can deliver its functions "without major programming effort". What programming is required and how is it deployed?

The use of CONNX is effortless. The installation and configuration of CONNX takes about 15 minutes. After that, you simply use a front-end report writer or development tool. Since CONNX is "middleware", it diligently and silently works behind the scenes to optimize and satisfy the data requests made by report writers, or development environments such as ASP, VB, PowerBuilder, or Delphi. The actual programming effort depends entirely on which development environment is chosen. Using CONNX decreases the programming effort, because the developer does not need to worry about the physical data access, data conversion, or SQL support – this is all provided by CONNX.

What level of ODBC compliance and conformance does CONNX support?

CONNX is a ODBC level 3.51 driver, and supports all core, level 1, and level 2 functions. Will CONNX work with applications that were developed with the ODBC 3.x specification? Yes! CONNX is compatible with all ODBC 1.x, 2.x and 3.x applications.

Where does the metadata reside?

The CONNX Data Dictionary functions as the metadata repository. This is a PC file that has the extension of (*.CDD). It can reside either on a server (for centralized access), or locally on the client machine. This sensitive information is encrypted using a 128bit key.

Does CONNX support multi-tier architecture?

Yes. CONNX can be installed in client/server and n-tier configurations. In either case, CONNX distributes the workload to minimize network traffic and processor load. CONNX also works in 3-tier web application environments, including Microsoft Internet Information Server. CONNX also works with development tools designed for n-tier distribution including Borland C++ Client/Server edition, and Borland Delphi Client/Server edition.

Is there anything special that needs to be done with CONNX when there is a firewall(s) in our environment for RMS, RDB, or DBMS?

Yes. By default, CONNX communicates to the VMS Server using port 6500. This port must be opened or proxied in order for CONNX to work properly though a firewall.

Please see our Firewall white paper for more details.

What kind of impact does CONNX have on application databases?

CONNX is designed to have minimal impact on application databases. When used in a read-only mode – CONNX does not perform any locks on the data, allowing existing applications to process normally. Also, the CONNX Distributed SQL Engine is designed to take some of the workload off of the database server. Typically, applications that use CONNX have less of an impact on database servers than applications that use some other method of accessing the database.

Does CONNX work with RDO, DAO, and ADO? Jet engine?

Yes. CONNX works with the RDO, DAO, ADO, and Jet engine data wrappers.

Does CONNX support the star schema and normalized models?

Yes. CONNX is capable of working with any database model for relational databases.

Does CONNX take advantage of keys or indexes when it searches? Is it automatic?

Yes. The CONNX SQL Optimizer automatically takes advantage of keys and indexes on the tables in the queries.

Does CONNX cache results?

It depends. Using ODBC and OLE-DB, you can create different types of resultsets. If you create a "STATIC" resultset, the results are cached on the PC. If you create a "DYNAMIC" or "KEYSET" resultset, then the results are re-retrieved from the database when requested.

Does CONNX optimize SQL queries automatically?

Yes. CONNX has an advanced SQL Optimizer which will quickly determine the best way to execute your queries.

Does CONNX let you set processing limits for queries?

No. Currently, CONNX does not allow administrators to set processing resource limits for query execution.

How does CONNX perform joins?

CONNX has a distributed SQL Engine that will examine several factors when performing joins.CONNX uses the following four major factors to determine the best way to process joins:

  1. Join Direction (Left outer Joins, or Right outer Joins).
  2. Indexes available on tables in query that match criteria columns.
  3. Indexes available on tables in query that match join columns.
  4. Table cardinality.

The CONNX SQL Engine analyzes this data to determine the best way to process the query. This is done dynamically for each query executed.

You say that CONNX supports high-performance SQL "joins", even across multiple database sources. What does this mean? Why is it important?

CONNX includes a unique high-performance, disparate database join technology that allows CONNX to join tables together from separate databases. This functionality means that if data is stored in two or more different databases, CONNX joins the data from the separate databases as if the database were one physical database. This is extremely important when developing mission-critical, enterprise-wide applications that span several physical databases.

Are CONNX versions backward-compatible?

Yes. CONNX Versions are backward-compatible except where noted in the CONNX documentation.

CONNX has been fully rearchitected to support multiple, heterogeneous data sources from a single ODBC driver, and to enable you to quickly add new data sources. Why is this important?

Database technology is changing at a rapid pace. CONNX has a solid core on which the additional features and extensions are built. By ensuring our core architecture would fulfill our current requirement and future needs, we also reduced the time to market with these new features. Our new core architecture allows us to quickly add support for other databases and open access technologies.

You say that CONNX offers the industry's fastest online data access. What benchmarks do you use to quantify this claim? Are these benchmarks available to the press?

We have performed several benchmarks against products that compete in certain markets, and CONNX has consistently outperformed the competition. Additionally, our customers have performed their own benchmarks and supplied us with their data. Results of these benchmarks are available upon request.