CATEGORY: Data Acquisition, Transformation and Replication

REVIEWER: Randy Toney, Project Lead, Customer Connect, at Albemarle Corporation.

BACKGROUND: Albemarle is a global supplier of specialty and fine chemicals that enhance consumer products, serving markets for polymers, surfactants and biocides, pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals, photographic chemicals, water treatment and petroleum products.

PLATFORMS: The operating system is Windows NT. The server hardware platform is IBM Netfinity.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Albemarle was looking to utilize the data locked inside its ERP and other back-office systems for internal analytics by its employees and for e-business by its customers and suppliers. Albemarle wanted to utilize one technology for an enterprise-wide data infrastructure ­ one that would drive an internal data warehouse for analytics and a real-time commerce cache to speed B2B e-business.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Albemarle is utilizing ActaWorks RealTime and several prepackaged eCaches that are built with ActaWorks to take data warehousing beyond the enterprise. ActaWorks powers: 1) a data warehouse to facilitate analysis for optimizing processes internally and across their supply chain, and 2) a real-time commerce cache to increase customer service, essentially using real-time data warehousing to deliver information-based B2B e- business self-service to their customers. ActaWorks is doing an excellent job of integrating Albemarle's front-end Web site and analytic applications with its SAP and other back-office systems. ActaWorks' graphical environment enables rapid changes, thus supporting an iterative development process for gradual enhancements to the systems. Albemarle is building an e-business infrastructure that closely integrates e-business and analytic applications with its back- office systems, primarily SAP R/3. Utilizing one data platform for both e- business and analytics results in lower training, implementation and maintenance costs as well as lower impact on back-office systems. The eCache prepackaged solution and ActaWorks graphical development environment enabled Albemarle to deliver its data warehouse and Customer Connect Web site projects on time and under budget. The Acta Customer Order and Customer Billing eCaches are packaged Commerce eCaches that cache critical back-office heavy data and business logic required by Albemarle customers and suppliers for full B2B collaboration.

STRENGTHS: ActaWorks utilizes a real-time cache that minimizes the impact on the SAP system from analytic and e-business applications. ActaWorks obviates having to write ABAP for reporting or data extraction and ensures maximum e-business and analytic performance. ActaWorks also enables incorporation of data from multiple sources. It is a true productivity tool for our developers. Extracts for the data warehouse and Web site transaction integration would have taken many months of work without Acta Works.

WEAKNESSES: Debugging is adequate, but could be more robust. Albemarle would like the product to be enhanced to support HTTP guaranteed message delivery across the Web to facilitate system-to-system B2B integration.

SELECTION CRITERIA: One of the main reasons we selected ActaWorks is that ActaWorks RealTime is the pioneer in providing real- time data warehousing. ActaWorks provides a single data platform for both analytics and e-business.

DELIVERABLES: To achieve competitive advantage, Albemarle believes it must provide its customers greater e-business functionality than merely executing transactions ­ more than simply automating the buy/sell. Albemarle's e-business system provides full collaboration with its customers, suppliers and business partners through the use of large amounts of continuously changing, real-time and historical operational and transactional data, i.e., heavy data that was previously locked in its SAP system. In a typical B2B e-business interaction or dialog, Albemarle customers may analyze on-time delivery and quality history or check the status of purchase orders or shipments. Utilizing these data-driven online services, Albemarle expects to utilize new electronic channels to provide additional value-added services to their existing customers, providing a competitive advantage. For analytics, ActaWorks is used to facilitate analysis of customer revenue across business areas and geographies, comparing actual, booked and forecast revenue to enhance production and inventory planning.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Support has been excellent. Acta's consultants have provided good training and knowledge transfer to our project team. This has been essential, as we do not use systems integrators.

DOCUMENTATION: The online and hard-copy documentation are quite adequate.

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