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Argosy Hits the Jackpot with Hummingbird

  • January 01 2004, 1:00am EST

CATEGORY: Data Integration

REVIEWER: Jason Fortenberry, data warehousing analyst for Argosy Gaming Company.

BACKGROUND: Headquartered in Alton, Illinois, Argosy Gaming Company is a leading owner and operator of six riverboat casinos and related entertainment and hotel facilities in the mid-western and southern United States.

PLATFORMS: Hummingbird ETL runs on a distributed environment of Compaq servers running Windows 2000 Server operating system.

PROBLEM SOLVED: All business data at Argosy is captured by multiple, disparate operational database and file systems at each of our six properties. Because requests for information were made to each property individually and then to multiple systems, it was difficult to identify and share information. Before we implemented our enterprise data warehouse (EDW), it took anywhere from several days to weeks to get information from each property's operational systems, affecting our collective ability to make strategic decisions quickly. A central EDW improves our operating efficiency and supports a comprehensive CRM initiative. Teradata's enterprise RDBMS enables us to manage huge volumes of data and run complex queries on a single corporate data warehouse. Hummingbird ETL (formerly Genio) extends Teradata's capabilities by automating and managing many of the ETL tasks that normally require time-consuming programming.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Hummingbird ETL provides a highly productive, GUI-based development environment. We can quickly import source and target structures and define the mapping of data between them. With its self-generated data flow diagrams, we can graphically demonstrate all of the data transfer steps, illustrating where the data comes from, where it goes and what transformations occurred. The built-in scheduler and polling coordinates and executes every step of the ETL process from within the tool. It is the central nervous system of our production environment, providing dependable 24x7 execution of our ETL process.

STRENGTHS: Hummingbird ETL's ease of use greatly simplifies the maintenance of our data warehouse. Its impact analysis capability is priceless ­– a click of a button identifies all dependencies of an object and outlines how any change will affect any other object. The usability allows these changes to be made quickly, even by those not intimately familiar with the data warehouse. Hummingbird allows us to leverage existing investments in hardware and software. For example, we were able to avoid the costs of a middle ODS environment just to support data transformations. Its ability to perform these transformations on the Teradata database is critical to achieving our performance and cost requirements.

WEAKNESSES: Tighter integration with third-party tools would allow faster development and better error handling. Hummingbird calls Trillium for address verification, but we had to include custom error-handling routines in the ETL process to verify return status. Broader native support (beyond ODBC which is available) for source data systems such as Progress would allow us to further extend our ETL process.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We chose Hummingbird ETL for its ease of implementation and use, extensive support for our Teradata data warehouse and its comprehensive offering of features to control our entire process from within one tool. We wanted to maximize our investment in the Teradata platform, and Hummingbird ETL leverages Teradata's processing architecture by executing transformations inside the Teradata database without having to run the data through an external ETL engine. It has native support for Teradata utilities and includes extensions to run non-native programs. With Hummingbird, we schedule modules to run and check errors between runs with as much granularity as required. We can identify errors, trap them and execute alert procedures automatically.

DELIVERABLES: By combining the capabilities of Hummingbird ETL and Teradata, Argosy can develop innovative entertainment combinations that attract new patrons and retain thousands of regular customers. The EDW enables marketing analysts, who were once spending an inordinate amount of time sourcing data to fulfill requests, to spend the majority of their time refining marketing activities –­ developing effective direct mail campaigns, customizing offers for specific player segments and adapting programs unique to our individual casinos.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Hummingbird provided us with outstanding on-site training, and their technical support has been perfect. They have extended every effort to resolve or at least document every issue that has arisen. Their staff is diligent in following through to ensure we remain satisfied as a customer.

DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is complete for our needs. In fact, for a person who understands the tasks involved in an ETL system, the tool is completely intuitive so documentation is seldom needed.

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