REVIEWER: Clint Johnson, SVP data warehouse and analytics, Zions Bancorporation.

BACKGROUND: Zions Bancorporation is a leading financial services company consisting of a collection of great banks in select high growth markets. Under local management teams and community identities, Zions operates approximately 500 full-service, community-minded banking offices in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington. Other subsidiaries include Contango Capital Advisors (wealth management), NetDeposit (electronic deposit processing, and online claims and payments processing technology for the health care industry), and Zions Direct (broker/dealer). Zions is a national leader in SBA lending and public finance advisory services. The company is included in the S&P 500 index.

PLATFORMS: We use Sun Fire X4540 database server, Solaris database OS, Greenplum 3.6 database software and Windows client.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Zions Bancorporation uses Alpine Miner from Alpine Data Labs for data mining and predictive modeling on terabytes of data in its Greenplum data warehouse.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Alpine Miner’s in-database technology has given us cost-effective analytic capabilities with minimal changes to infrastructure. Because Alpine Miner leverages the processing power of our data warehouse, our analysts don’t have to spend time moving data from one environment to another for analysis. Unlike traditional data mining tools, we didn’t have to install separate hardware for Alpine Miner or extract data to send to the tool. The data and the processing power are together, where an analyst can access it, which has led to faster model development on larger sets of data. Since Alpine Miner is a hosted, subscription-based solution, it doesn’t add anything to our IT footprint.

STRENGTHS: The in-database capabilities have made Alpine a great tool for Zions analysts. Alpine Miner provides a reliable way to apply predictive analytics to large data sets. While most data modeling solutions are prohibitively expensive to buy and maintain, Alpine Miner makes it easier and more cost-effective for organizations like Zions to benefit from the predictive power of big data. Alpine Miner is intuitive and affordable and can take days or weeks out of the data modeling and scoring process. Alpine Miner works where our data lives, making sure insights are driven off all our data, not just a sample. As a result, we generate more precise insights and eliminate the time-consuming manual tasks and security risks that can be associated with extracting and moving data.

WEAKNESSES: Two areas of improvement could be considered by Alpine. One is to improve the user interface by making it more intuitive, adding better drag-and-drop features. The second improvement relates to collaboration abilities – users can share the same underlying data, but the product needs the ability to store models/workflows in a repository with check-in, check-out that can be accessed by all analysts.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Zions selected Alpine Miner over traditional data mining tools because of cost of implementation and scalability. To effectively build models on large data sets, traditional tools require major investments in their own hardware. Both commercial and open source tools that are in-memory are limited in their capabilities by the hardware they run on. Alpine Miner lets us leverage our investment in our data warehouse to get analytic capabilities on big data.

DELIVERABLES: The Alpine Miner tool provides the following capabilities for our analysts: data profiling (reports, visualizations, statistical information), predictive models, workflow documentation (for audition, repeatability) and executable functions for scoring of future data sets against the models.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We worked closely with Alpine Data Labs on the installation of the product and configuring it to work with our Greenplum data warehouse. They provided training during the implementation as well as direct consultation during early model building projects to help us understand the tool and the best techniques for using it. Alpine Data Labs is a small company – for Zions, that means we get very personalized service and a quick response to any question or issue we have. We also have the ability to influence enhancements to the product. Our recommendations can be addressed quickly.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation for installing and using Alpine Miner was very clear and usable.

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