REVIEWER: Peter Siegel, principal with Sense Corp.

BACKGROUND: Established in 1996, Sense Corp. is a full- service consulting firm specializing in system integration, data warehouse and Web delivery solutions. Sense Corp. works nationally with leading companies across all industries and partners with its clients, taking a business approach to the appropriate implementation of technology.

PLATFORMS: We are using Oracle8.1.7.2 for the Shell Chemicals U.S. data warehouse, which is currently slightly more than 250GB in size. The hardware platform is AIX UNIX for the data server and Windows NT for the application/ETL server. The ETL tool is ActaWorks Version 5.0.3, and our primary end-user query and reporting tool is BusinessObjects 5.1.2 and WebIntelligence 2.6.2.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Until the implementation of Ambeo, we could only make assumptions around the following key questions regarding our data warehouse: How many active users does the data warehouse service? What questions are being asked and what specific data is being accessed by these users? How can we enhance the users' experience (particularly as it relates to query performance)? Now, with the use of Usage Tracker and Activity Tracker, we are able to monitor very detailed usage of the data warehouse. Specifically by capturing usage and performance data by network and database ID, by the application which they are using and by specific SQL they are submitting, we are able to answer these questions very succinctly.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We use Ambeo's SQL Trap to capture user-submitted SQL as it comes into the database. The product is smart enough to allow us not to capture (and thus waste valuable system resources) SQL from sources we do not wish to analyze. For example, we do not want to capture the SQL generated from our ETL tool or the SQL used to login to BusinessObjects. Once captured, this data is loaded into an Ambeo repository database which is then easily available for reporting by our choice of reporting tools.

STRENGTHS: With the right resources, the product was fairly easy to install. Once installed, valuable usage data was almost immediately available for use. The Ambeo BusinessObjects Universe with report examples also provided a good jump-start to answering our key questions and provided templates which could easily be expanded. In addition, storing usage data in a standard database repository with a fairly straightforward data model allows for easy reporting and integration with other data. For example, we also integrated data from our Microsoft Outlook global address book to acquire more detailed data for each network user ID.

WEAKNESSES: Once you have significant usage history, the standard Ambeo BusinessObjects Universe has an inefficient design which works off of slow-running Oracle views. To rectify some of these issues, we have had to slightly redesign the universe. Also, since Ambeo sits between the end user and the Oracle listener, we had to implement technical process changes to standard database support activities such as data server reboots and Oracle listener bounces.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We looked at a number of products and the competition did not track and/or store the level of granularity we desired. In addition, we placed high value on storing the usage data in a database repository.

DELIVERABLES: Once installed, we produced a number of standard reports that would be run and reviewed on a recurring basis. We also implemented an ad hoc query environment with BusinessObjects to answer any relevant questions. In addition to simply having the information, we have made a key decision to keep our Web reporting environment operational when it was previously assumed it was used infrequently. We also have increased the performance of numerous, frequently run end-user queries.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Ambeo technical support has been very responsive (usually immediate), and first line support is extremely knowledgeable on their product as well as the products that interact with Ambeo (e.g., UNIX, Oracle, etc.).

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is sufficient and is presented in a manner that makes it easy to find answers to your questions. There is also additional documentation on Ambeo's Web site which includes examples for various maintenance tasks such as archiving usage data or deleting usage data that is deemed unnecessary.

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