Dundas Gauge 1.6 for ASP.NET 2.0
Display Real-time Data Feeds
By Steve C. Orr
Bar charts and graphs are a great way to catch the eye and convey useful information quickly to managers and other business people. However, if the competition has access to real-time data feeds, charts and graphs often depict data that is too stale to be useful. While it can be helpful to see a graph of a Web site s traffic for yesterday or last week, seeing a live gauge of page requests as they happen brings a whole new level of control and insight to managers and technicians alike.
While getting access to feeds of real-time data can sometimes be tricky, displaying that data in attractive and useful ways is downright simple if you have Dundas Gauge (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: With Dundas Gauge you can create an attractive real-time display of server performance.
The Dundas Gauge installation is quick and painless. By default, the installation program will install a variety of detailed sample applications. However, the integrated help didn t work as advertised. I had to launch the help documentation from the Start menu and find the desired topic manually.
To use Dundas Gauge, open Visual Studio and create a new Web application. You ll find the Dundas Gauge container control already placed in the toolbox. Simply drag it onto a new Web form and the powerful Gauge Wizard will appear to step you through the process of creating a customized gauge (see Figure 2). With this wizard you can pick the kind of gauge you d like to use. There are more than 20 distinct gauge types, and they can be configured and combined in a seemingly infinite number of ways. Colors, fonts, and labels can be customized in addition to behaviors, such as dampening and snapping, that can help smooth out any potentially jerky gauge movements that erratic incoming data could cause.
Figure 2: The powerful Gauge Wizard can step you through the process of creating a gauge control that s customized for your needs.
The Visual Studio 2005 version of Dundas Gauge provides smart tags that enable easy configuration of most major gauge properties, including functionality for establishing a data source (see Figure 3). The data source can be bound to a data control, database, or custom object.
Figure 3: The Visual Studio 2005 version of Dundas Gauge provides smart tags for easy configuration of most major gauge elements.
Once you ve got a control configured exactly as you want it, you can save the template to allow quick and easy reuse of the settings for other instances of the gauge control.
So How Does It Work?
Dundas Gauge was developed in pure C# code. It can be used for data output as well as data input. That is, users can optionally tweak the knobs, slide the levers, etc. The gauge control has intelligent analysis abilities built in. For example, the gauge control can react to alarming data, raising events and visually displaying alerts if configurable ranges are breached by incoming data. Other examples are the control s abilities to calculate and display rolling averages, integrals, and rate-of-change algorithms and that s just for starters.
Alternatively, the control can be output as a Windows Forms control (smart client) providing a richer interface. Of course, this requires all users to run Internet Explorer and have the .NET Framework installed.
Another way the control can render is as a Flash streamed movie. Although this might sound like it has high bandwidth requirements, it s actually the most efficient option that relies on a small trickle of data from the server. This technique is, of course, compatible with any browser that has the Macromedia Flash plug-in installed.
This impressive array of rendering options is more than I would expect from any single control, and is quite a pleasant surprise. With these options, virtually every conceivable kind of user should be able to be supported in the richest way possible.
Dundas Gauge 1.6 isn t perfect the performance within Visual Studio can be a tad sluggish at times, especially upon initialization. However, run-time performance is snappy and that s much more important. Overall, I can t imagine an easier or more intuitive way to display real-time data feeds to users. The configurability of Dundas Gauge is top notch, and the output is attractive and intuitive.
US$699 will get you started with a developer license, a test server license, and one production server license. This package includes both ASP.NET 1.x and 2.x versions of the controls, so you can upgrade to ASP.NET 2.0 at your leisure. Also included are 60 days of free live support. Maintenance and subscription packages are available, as well. The companion product, Dundas Gauge for Windows Forms, is available as well (starting at the same price point). Download a free evaluation copy and give it a whirl.
Steve C. Orr is an MCSD and a Microsoft MVP in ASP.NET. He s been developing software solutions for leading companies in the Seattle area for more than a decade. When he s not busy designing software systems or writing about it, he can often be found loitering at local user groups and habitually lurking in the ASP.NET newsgroup. Find out more about him at http://SteveOrr.net or e-mail him at mailto:[email protected].
Web Site: http://www.dundas.com/products/gauge/
Price: Starts at US$699