REVIEWER: Fari Payandeh, senior Informatica developer, AARP.


BACKGROUND: With more than 38 million members, AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired People) is the leading nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization for people 50 and over in the U.S.


HARDWARE PLATFORMS: CPU: 4 HP X86-based PCs; OS: Windows 2003 Service Pack 1; PowerCenter 8.1 sources data from a DB2 mainframe source and approximately 20 Oracle databases for integration into an Oracle 9i data warehouse.


PROBLEM SOLVED: As AARP continues to grow, it needs to deal with rapidly increasing data volumes, more data sources and new demands for leveraging information to its members’ advantage. Informatica PowerCenter has successfully anchored AARP’s business-critical business intelligence (BI) strategy and data warehouse since 2003. With the release of PowerCenter 8.1 in 2006, AARP saw a way to attain increased performance and to future-proof its architecture in the face of escalating demands for consolidated information. Specifically, under constant pressure to meet service level agreements, IT needed to optimize data warehousing loading schedules in support of new BI projects, handle ever-larger data transfers between operational systems and eventually make AARP databases accessible to members via Web-based applications so they can make updates online, with PowerCenter as the data integration hub. The move to PowerCenter 8.1 is enabling AARP to successfully address these needs while gaining the headroom to readily handle future requirements.


PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Gains have been realized simply through the use of the base product, without AARP having to license any performance-specific options. Overall, AARP has reduced load times from its main membership database into an Oracle 9i data warehouse by approximately 10 percent. PowerCenter’s sister product, Informatica PowerExchange 8, captures the mainframe data and passes it to PowerCenter for high-performance data integration processing. The parallel caching feature introduced with PowerCenter 8.1 is responsible for much of this performance boost. Essentially, it enables two key processes to execute concurrently - the running of source qualifier queries and cache building - instead of sequentially. Another feature AARP has benefited from is PowerCenter 8.1’s ability to automatically define optimal cache sizes for transformations, which is something developers had to calculate manually in the past. PowerCenter 8.1 also introduced a single, Web-based administration console, which has greatly simplified setup and management of data integration processes and enabled administrators to do all that has to be done in a single place.


STRENGTHS: A comprehensive platform offering, PowerCenter 8.1 possesses the broad data integration capabilities and scalable performance that will allow it to play a role in all AARP’s data warehousing, BI and integration projects going forward. While the core product easily delivers the levels of performance currently required, multiple performance- and availability-specific options can be readily tapped to drive further gains, including grid computing and real-time options. PowerCenter 8.1 provides enhanced reusability of data mappings and other objects across numerous data integration projects, thus enabling data integration processes and services to be leveraged extensively and cost-effectively across AARP operations.


WEAKNESSES: Job process control is the missing piece. Our daily load is a complex collection of 219 sessions, and they run in parallel chunks. In some cases when the job fails, we have to manually fix the workflow. It would be nice to have an autosys included in PowerCenter.


SELECTION CRITERIA: As an existing PowerCenter user, AARP’s decision to upgrade to PowerCenter 8.1 did not involve evaluating other products. AARP decided to make the move as part of its commitment to staying on the leading edge of technology in order to stay ahead of mounting business and membership demands.


DELIVERABLES: Two hundred business users receive comprehensive operational reports on membership counts, trends, enrollments, expirations, effectiveness of communications strategies, etc. to help them better serve the membership and more effectively run the organization.


VENDOR SUPPORT: Informatica’s support has been exemplary, with rapid resolution of issues. The upgrade implemented in under 30 days.

Documentation: Complete, straightforward and online, Informatica’s documentation enabled rapid implementation.


Informatica PowerCenter 8.1
Informatica Corporation
100 Cardinal Way
Redwood City, CA 94063
(650) 385-5000

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