Implemention Technology
Systems Integrator
  HP Consulting
Business Intelligence
  BrioQuery
  Noetix Views from Aris Software
Warehouse Engine
  Oracle
Hardware
  HP 9000 Enterprise Servers

Quantum Corporation, a global leader in digital storage, recently implemented a virtual data warehousing solution to strengthen the company's just-in-time (JIT) delivery model, provide enhanced customer management and support sophisticated advanced planning applications.

Quantum, based in Milpitas, California, is the highest volume global supplier of hard disk drives for personal computers, a leading supplier of high capacity hard drives and the worldwide revenue leader among all classes of tape drives. Quantum products are marketed through OEM and distributor agreements and through direct retail outlets. The company is recognized for providing consistent reliability and tailoring production to customer needs.

Both quality and inventory control require fully featured information management. The company's virtual data warehouse helps managers monitor quality control and on-time deliveries for the company and its suppliers. It also enables Quantum to track inventory and costs by location, vendor or customer.

The virtual data warehouse is instrumental in Quantum's campaign to squeeze unnecessary days from its production cycle and prevent costs associated with stocking components that may not be used for days or weeks. The virtual data warehouse provides the ability to examine each stage of production and create a cycle that closely reflects incoming customer orders. This equips the company to flex production volumes to match the requests of major OEM customers which increases sales and profitability.

Enhanced customer management is an important benefit of the warehouse as well. Quantum is now able to track, on a company-wide basis, all the products delivered by its business units to customers around the world.

Data Warehouse Contents

Quantum's virtual data warehouse merchandises information captured by an Oracle enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that links order management and financial applications for nine global business units. Hewlett-Packard 9000 Enterprise Servers support the entire system. Updated ERP data is transferred daily to the data warehouse to support timely updates for reports and inquiries. This architecture of complementary servers maintains both data accuracy and ERP transaction processing performance.

From a software perspective, Quantum's solution includes Oracle applications and RDBMS software, NoetixViews and BrioQuery. BrioQuery, from Brio Technology Inc., is a point-and-click graphical interface to SQL that enables end users to create their own ad hoc reports. NoetixViews from Aris Software also provides business-oriented meta data views of the Oracle database. It reduces 40,000 Oracle tables to 4,000 usable business graphics.

Just-in-Time Information

Achieving Quantum's business objectives requires delivering accurate information on a just-in-time basis. In the past, getting an operational overview required managers to spend two days viewing dozens of reports. Then managers created their own spreadsheets by rekeying numbers. Today the same information is available in five minutes from a consolidated report.

Information is not only readily accessible, it's adaptable as well. Managers and other users now design their own reports on the fly. Report parameters can be adjusted daily if necessary. Access to ad hoc reports improves the productivity of users and allows the company to dedicate programmers to major applications ­ which speeds turnaround on large-scale IS projects.

So far managers have used corporate information to negotiate system-wide discounts and to achieve more consistent performance from suppliers. Being able to combine the ordering strength of the entire company reduces supply costs, due to more attractive agreements with suppliers. Enhanced reporting also allows Quantum to track and rate vendors using company- wide performance statistics. As a result, it achieves a higher level of quality and service from all suppliers. When there's a problem, it gets noticed and corrected quickly.

Practical Advice for the Future

The challenge for IS managers, like everyone in the computer industry, is to create a system that is not outdated before it is released. Data warehouses must accommodate changing demands and the need to support more sophisticated applications. At Quantum, for example, the IS organization is already working on a system to support advanced planning applications and "what-if" scenarios.

Designing a flexible data warehouse requires creating partnerships with hardware and software vendors. Quantum's management team likes the reliability and performance characteristics of HP 9000 Enterprise Servers. And HP's willingness to act as a business partner was an equally important criterion in their selection as the primary hardware provider. HP worked with Quantum to establish the original ERP system and continues to provide valuable consulting services as the company refines its data warehousing solution.

Quantum also works closely with software providers. For example, the company negotiated an enterprise-wide site license with Brio Technologies that makes it cost-effective for the company to equip its 600+ business users in all nine divisions with the ability to design their own reports.

Training on this data access tool was accomplished by establishing a team of business systems analysts that acted as super users to train and support end users. A three-tier support structure now provides responsive service for routine inquiries and routes complex issues to designated, high-level IS professionals.

Designing a Virtual Data Warehouse

The virtual data warehouse model of data warehousing offers increased versatility to support today's modern business requirements. Access to near real-time information is critical to enhanced decision making, which is one of the primary benefits of most data warehousing systems.

A modern data warehouse needs to combine sophisticated data collection and organization with the ability to accept user-definable requests for information. This accomplishes two important objectives. It allows IS resources to be devoted to creating applications and systems support, not satisfying the needs of individual users. Even more importantly, it creates a competitive advantage as managers repackage and repurpose information ­ on a moment's notice, if necessary ­ to respond to changing market conditions.

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