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  • .NET PivotGrid and Dashboard: OLAP Performance Improvements

    OK, let me state the blindingly obvious for a moment: the performance of aggregation or sorting operations (or both!) are key factors when you’re working with OLAP data sources. So, with v15.1, we took the time to do some research and design and have managed to increase the speed of the data engine used in the .NET Pivot Grid and Dashboard by optimizing some basic data processing – anything from constructing queries to the parsing of returned data.

    Sorting is now performed on the client side. This allows you to speed up the process of visualizing data in complex scenarios such as sorting by summary and sorting in Tabular mode. Moreover, as an added bonus, using client sorting gives you the capability to perform custom sorting with the CustomServerModeSort events.

    To compare the new Pivot Grid’s performance with other products in OLAP mode, we investigated two scenarios. With both scenarios, the pivot data and row areas display fields from the Adventure Works cube and are deployed on a local machine.

    Pivot Grid Performance Improvements v15.1

     

    Scenario PivotGrid v14.2 PivotGrid v15.1 Competitor 3 Competitor 4
    #1 6 sec 3 sec 5 sec 4 sec
    #2 1 min 20 sec 19 sec 35 sec 1 min 40 sec

    The chart and table shown illustrate the performance improvements of the Pivot Grid in OLAP mode in v15.1 when sending queries to the Adventure Works cube. The data shows a comparison with the old v14.1 version and a couple of our (unnamed) competitors in this space. Note that the ADOMD provider was used to establish a connection to the OLAP cube.

    Here is the data we used for each of the two scenarios.

    Scenario 1

    Data area: Internet Sales Amount, Internet Order Quantity
    Row area: Postal Code, Product
    Row count: ~ 100 000

    Pivot Grid Performance Improvements Scenario 1

    Scenario 2

    Data area: Sales amount, Total Product Cost
    Row area: Business Type, City, Product
    Row count: ~ 600 000
    Sorting: Product field is sorted by Total Product Cost

    Pivot Grid Performance Improvements Scenario 2

    I’m sure you’ll agree with me that these basic performance improvements will enhance the snappiness of the data analytics parts of your applications.

  • .NET data access engine–improvements in v15.1

    Data access. Pretty mundane, wouldn’t you say? It’s … just there, doing its stuff, while you worry about how to best present the sea of data so that your users can glean the most important information from it. Well, in order to make your job even easier, we’ve made some major changes to our data access components in v15.1. Are you ready?

    Query Builder improvements

    It was in v14.1 that we first introduced our Data Access library to our product line. This library provides a set of tools intended to simplify the process of binding to different kinds of data sources.

    Among this set of tools, I think the Query Builder reigns supreme. It's used by several wizards to provide you and (or?) your end users with a visual interface for constructing custom SQL queries. Unfortunately the Query Designer had some notable limitations from the outset (for example, it did not cover such SQL features as sorting and grouping).

    To address this issue, we have made several improvements in v15.1 to the Query Builder’s functionality and usability, without forgetting increasing performance where necessary.

    QueryBuilder v15.1: user experience and functionality

    New features:

    • A columns list that allows you to preview the set of table columns before adding a table to a query.
    • Revised dialog interface.
    • Improved performance. Column information is now loaded on demand for each data table separately. The performance increase will be especially notable when binding to databases containing many tables with a massive number of columns (for example, when binding to Teradata – see below for information on this).
    • Support for aggregate functions.
    • Support for sorting. If the resulting data is sorted by more than one column, the order in which sorting is applied can be adjusted manually. Specified sorting settings correspond to the optional ORDER BY section of the resulting SQL string.
    • Support for grouping. Specified grouping settings correspond to the GROUP BY section of the resulting query string.

    Adding the ability to sort, group and aggregate the data provides more comprehensive coverage of the data shaping functionality of SQL. When you apply such a shaping to a field, it will be marked with a corresponding icon, and this makes the whole process of shaping data more visual and intuitive.

    Improved memory consumption

    For 15.1 we have improved the internal structure of our SqlDataSource class, as well as the algorithms we use to obtain data from a database table. The upshot of this work is that we’ve drastically reduced its memory consumption in real-life scenarios.

    To see the difference between the memory consumption of a SqlDataSource object (bound to the same database) between versions 15.1 and 14.2 , take a look at the chart below. This shows the aggregated profiling information we obtained as provided by the dotMemory profiler. This chart illustrates the dynamic aspect of memory allocation by SqlDataSource from the beginning to the end of the data loading process.

    SqlDataSource: Memory Consumption improvements in v15.1

    The raw profiling data was obtained from loading the same 3.5-million-row data table, consisting of 20 columns of differing data types.

    As you can see, the memory usage has been reduced in v15.1 by about 65%. The improvement in memory consumption is even more pronounced when binding to data tables that contain mostly columns of numeric data types.

    Teradata support

    With v15.1 we have added support for Teradata (version 13 or later) to our Data Access library. Teradata is a massively parallel processing database management system that typically operates on extremely large amounts of data. Yes, you got it: we’re suddenly talking Big Data.

    You can now find Teradata in the list of available data providers in the Data Source Wizard when creating a SQL data source. After that, the process of setting up a data connection will be the same as for any other SQL data provider: you need to specify the server address, the required database name, and the user credentials.  

    Teradata support in the Data Source Wizard in v15.1

    After a connection is set up, you can go to the next wizard page and construct an SQL query to obtain data from tables in the database. All the connection magic is hidden; you just use it as any other SQL data provider.

  • WinForms and WPF Charting–Performance improvements in v15.1

    In all walks of programming life, performance matters. It is especially true when you are using third-party controls where you have no influence over how quickly the controls and their content renders on the screen. We agree and have always considered high performance as a vital feature of our products. The charting products are no exception: we are always on the lookout to makes our chart rendering engine faster and faster.

    Throughout 2013 and 2014, we introduced data aggregation and other great features to our charts, which helped make the rendering of our ASP.NET, WinForms and WPF charts faster several times over, but for 2015 we faced a big challenge: what else can we improve? In v15.1, then, we spent some time analyzing our charting product for Windows applications, and have come up with a few new strategies to increase performance and, also, reduce memory consumption.

    Here are some results from our internal tests.

    WinForms app, Numeric data:

    DataLoading Numeric: AddPoints

    DataLoading Numeric: SeriesBinding

    DataLoading Numeric: SeriesTemplate


    WinForms app, DateTime data:

    DataLoading DateTime: AddPoints

    DataLoading DateTime: SeriesBinding

    DataLoading DateTime: SeriesTemplate

    I’m sure you’d agree, those are some really impressive results. If I were you, I’d download 15.1 now – it was released yesterday! – test the new version in your environment on your data, and share your results with us in the comments.

  • DevExpress Universal v15.1 has been released

    If you are a customer with an active subscription, you should already have received an important email from us: that Universal v15.1 has been published to the Download Center and it’s ready for you to, well, download.

    If you have been watching our community site here over the past couple of weeks, you will have realized that this is a release that is packed to the gills with new controls, new features, new improvements across the board, for all the .NET platforms we currently support. And of course we should not forget CodeRush and DevExtreme either. In essence, if your basis for development is Visual Studio, this release is almost overwhelming.

    This whole week we have been also presenting live webinars on the new features, four down and two to go. Thank you to everyone who has attended the four so far – they’re on our YouTube channel if you want to watch them again or for the first time – and thank you if you’ll be there tomorrow and next Tuesday for the two remaining ones.

    (Of course, if you’ve reached this point and are wondering about our VCL Subscription, rest assured we have not forgotten. Now that .NET is “out of the way”, we shall be talking about VCL starting next week. Stay tuned.)

    UI Controls for Desktop, Web and Mobile: DevExpress v15.1

    Normally at about this point in these announcement blog posts, I like to point out those features that have most impressed me about our new release. This time, I’m finding it most difficult indeed to limit the bullet list. For example, there’s:

    • The WPF report designer CTP and the new smooth document viewer
    • The pivot grid and scheduler in DevExtreme – like, wow!
    • The new Excel export engine (and the new Data Access engine, come to that)
    • High DPI support in WinForms and WPF – and, mirabile dictu, the RTL support in WinForms
    • Conditional formatting of data everywhere, it seems
    • The ASP.NET Runtime chart designer
    • The dramatic (as in order of magnitude) speed increase for the PDF document processor

    And, so on, so forth. As I said, a really impressive release. The teams have really outdone themselves this time, so imagine how much more they’re going to have to do to impress us for v15.2 (cue the CTO evil laugh).

    So, please do navigate over to the Download Center and grab the latest installer. You will not be disappointed. As always, if you do have some feedback for us, the support team are ready and waiting for your messages.

  • It’s Microsoft TechDays next week. Where? The Hague!

    Thursday and Friday next week (that’s the 28th and 29th May to you), DevExpress will have a booth at Microsoft TechDays at the World Forum in Den Haag. We were there last year as well and liked it enough to come back this year as a Silver Sponsor! Present will be Don Wibier and myself doing the technical stuff – essentially a repeat of the Techorama dynamic from last week – and John Martin will be in charge of giving out the swag. And, well, in charge of us two also. Seriously, it was great fun last year and we’re excited to be back!

    So, if you’re going to be there in The Hague, please do come over to the DevExpress booth. We’ll be happy to talk about our current product line and show off what’s coming up in v15.1. Also, given the recent news out of Build, you’ll get an excellent opportunity to ask us what we think about the possibilities for new features that face us in the second half of the year. You know: Windows Universal Apps, Windows 10, Visual Studio 2015, ASP.NET 5, etc, etc. Plus, remember that Don can speak Dutch like a native (because he is)so you can chat away with him and I’ll just stand there with a fixed smile and hand you a t-shirt. Mind you, Don is presenting a couple of sessions (“Breaking Bad: you CAN make Fast Web Pages” on Thursday at 15:00, and “Consuming Azure Mobile Services in a JavaScript App” on Friday at 13:30), so I’ll be taking charge of the booth during those hours.

    Oh, and Rachel tells me that we will have a raffle as well, maybe even one each day. So you just have to come to the booth and grab a ticket. Maybe you’ll be the winner!

    See you Thursday!

  • DevExpress TestCafe v15.1 now shipping

    If you are a frequent visitor to the Download Portal on devexpress.com, you may already have noticed that we have published a new version of TestCafe, version 15.1. I am proud to announce that this is indeed the case: TestCafe v15.1 has been published and is now shipping.

    TestCafe_v15_1_NowShippingTestCafe is the automated testing platform for next-gen web applications. Not only that, but unlike other web-testing solutions, you don’t have to install awkward plugins into your browsers in order to do testing; that’s so 20th century. TestCafe provides your QA teams with the tools to start testing any web app in any browser that supports HTML5. Even better, TestCafe is OS-agnostic: the browsers can be running on Windows, Mac, Linux, or mobile OSes like iOS and Android.

    Over the past few months, we have been soliciting feedback from customers and testers on what they liked about TestCafe and what they thought was missing. Consequently, the responses have driven our enhancements to the product in v15.1 and I feel that the team has outdone itself with this release.

    Automated Screenshot Capture (ASC). From v15.1 you can add the capability to capture a screenshot of the web app as part of a test. So, as a very basic example, you can capture the web view if an error occurs in the test: sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

    Enhanced Test Result View, Export Results. Sometimes just seeing the results of your tests isn’t enough, you need to analyze them in more detail. We’ve therefore improved the usability of the Results page by adding the ability to sort, group, and filter the results of your test runs. Not only that, but you can export the results of your tests in JSON, JUnit, or NUnit formats.

    Extensive Assertion Failure Reports. The new Results tab includes additional information about assertion failures: the test code line that failed, the differences between actual and expected values, and even a screenshot using the new ASC feature.

    Failing on a JavaScript Error. TestCafe now includes the ability to fail a test should a JavaScript error be detected in the page.

    All in all, TestCafe v15.1 is a very worthwhile release. If you are already an active customer and using it right now, go to the Download Portal and get it. You certainly won’t regret upgrading. If you are designing and implementing web applications, consider the testing phase of your project and evaluate TestCafe right now.

  • Techorama: what an awesome conference!

    Last week, Don Wibier and I manned the DevExpress booth at Techorama, what I’d characterize as the premier developer conference for Belgium. It was in a delightful little town as well: Mechelen, just north of Brussels. Even better, Techorama was in a local multiplex cinema, Utopolis – it was weird seeing posters for movies on the walls for a conference.

    Canalside in Mechelen

    The organization of the conference was superb: 800 attendees, 50-odd speakers, a dozen exhibitors, WiFi that worked and wasn’t underpowered, and no problems worth mentioning. It was lucky, shall we say, that Don is a native Dutch speaker: the majority of attendees, I’d guess, were Flemish or Dutch and I only had the odd occasion to practice what little French I have left. It helped of course that we had swag to help the conversations along; such as t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, laptop stickers. We even raffled off a couple of portable bluetooth speakers.

    Don in the DevExpress booth at Techorama

    And what conversations we had! Don managed to get in some demos – yes, actual demos of the product! The most popular topics were undoubtedly ASP.NET and DevExtreme, although many of the customers we met (and we met many) confided into using mainly WinForms in their projects. There was also a healthy interest in Universal Windows apps, a topic we shall be talking about in some detail very soon (perhaps even sooner than you think).

    Don demoing at the DevExpress booth

    All in all, over a fairly intense couple of days, we managed to speak with most of the attendees, I’d say; some even more than once. It’s great to see such passion about developing software and such excitement about what the .NET (or Visual Studio) future brings. Thanks – dankjewel! – to all who came to say hi: I shall certainly recommend we come back next year.

    Saint Rumbold's Tower and Cathedral

    Wacky moment of the trip: this is Saint Rumbold’s Cathedral with its iconic unfinished tower, visible for miles around. In Dutch, that’s Sint-Rombout, which is also the name of a well-known brand of coffee – Rombouts. Confused, moi?

    In a week’s time it’s Microsoft TechDays in The Hague, Netherlands. More double Dutch for me!

  • Techorama 2015 at Utopolis Mechelen, Belgium – we’ll be there!

    Techorama 2015 is a developers’ conference in Belgium, so what’s not to like? It’s in Mechelen, which is, according to Google Maps, some 30 km north of Brussels (and only 21.1 km from the airport) on May 12 and 13 (that’s next Tuesday and Wednesday to you).

    This is a new conference for us, and we’re sponsoring it as a Gold Partner. To make sure the booth is run properly, our Euro-Events Executive Organizer (pronounced “eee-aw”) Rachel insisted that both Don Wibier and I man it, and this we will do to the best of our ability. We have been selected, shall we say, because we are ace at giving out swag. Plus, Don can speak Dutch like a native (because he is) and I can speak French like a bad tourist (because I am), so we’ll fit right into the Belgian bi-language norm. Only in cases of extreme difficulty will I switch into English (like, pretty much immediately).

    So, if you’ll be there, please do come over to the DevExpress booth. We’ll be happy to talk about our current product line and drop several hush-hush hints about what’s coming up in v15.1. Also, given the news out of Build last week, you’ll get an excellent opportunity to ask us what we think about the possibilities for new features that face us in the second half of the year. You know: Windows Universal Apps, Windows 10, Visual Studio 2015, ASP.NET 5, etc, etc.

    And if you’ll not be there? Well, you’ll miss out on all that. And on the swag.

    See you Tuesday!

  • Microsoft Build 2015 – what a blast!

    Well, it’s over, and what a Build it was! I won’t go over what Microsoft had to say – it’s been done to death in news articles, blogs, and tweets – but with regard to DevExpress and its products, possibly the more important things were Visual Studio 2015 RC, Visual Studio Code, Microsoft Edge (née Project Spartan), and Windows 10/Universal Apps. We shall be talking about these announcements and products in the coming weeks and months as we explain how and when we will be supporting them.

    This time the arrangement of the “Exhibitors Hall” was different. First, there wasn’t a hall per se, instead the the booths were separated on three floors in Moscone West. We were on the Cloud Platform and Developer Tools floor (the third floor, and the same as the main Keynote floor in fact) and, despite it being at the top of the building, we had a steady flow of customers, old friends, and, I hope, customers-to-be.

    Partner booths at Microsoft Build 2015

    We had a booth and, as is common with Builds through the years, every vendor’s booth was the same. Here’s Mehul at ours.

    DevExpress booth with Mehul Harry at Microsoft Build 2015

    Mehul and I fielded every question we could, gave out swag (the shrink-wrapped UI Superhero t-shirts were very popular), and demoed as much as we could. There were, shall we say, many questions about v15.1, our next major release, and, although we couldn’t say too much at the show, we did encourage everyone to stay tuned since we’re about to start blogging about the new features.

    Mehul demoing DevExtreme on a Nokia phone

    It was great to see so many people with such a strong sense of passion and excitement about the future. I’d have to say we were buoyed up by the enthusiasm of the attendees for the news that Microsoft presented and what it meant for their development stories.

    And next week? It’s Microsoft Ignite!

  • Microsoft Build 2015: We’re there, come say hi!

    All of a sudden it seems, Microsoft Build is again upon us. And what a Build it promises to be. Let’s see what’s been promised, or, even better, what’s been conjectured.

    Architectural plans for build1. Visual Studio 2015. OK, it seems fairly clear by now that at a Microsoft developers’ conference called Build, Microsoft are going to announce a new build (geddit?) of Visual Studio 2015. I doubt it’ll be the RTM but instead the RC, or Release Candidate. That’ll make it high time for this software-risk-averse CTO to install it on his machine – virtual machines, what are they?

    2. Windows 10. No, definitely not the release, but I dare say there’ll be some kind of developer-related news about the next generation of the Windows platform. There may be another beta release, but then again Microsoft are throwing out new versions regularly already.

    3. Developing cross-platform Windows apps. With the previous two items, we’ll be hearing about the ins and outs of creating cross-platform apps. Maybe with some joint time with Xamarin (after all, they are there too). So expect lots of information about Universal apps, especially for the phone. Maybe even for IoT? Who knows. (Well, they do, but you know what I mean.)

    4. Azure. Not too sure what will be talked about with regard to Azure. After all, we’ve just had Azure Mobile Services released, but there’s bound to be something new to keep the Azure name in the forefront of everyone’s mind.

    Not only all that, but we shall be there too showing off the DevExpress goods in our booth. And swag. Don’t forget that. So please come on over: Mike Roz, Mehul Harry, and Yours Truly will be there to talk about DevExpress products and about what’s coming up in v15.1 in – ooh, I don’t know <cough, cough> – a month’s time? Plus you’ll have the opportunity to ask us difficult questions about how we’re going to be supporting any new functionality related to 1 to 4 above. Plus swag.

    See you this week! (Did I mention the swag?)

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