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Avaki 5.0 Delivers Valuable Data Service Layer

  • July 01 2004, 1:00am EDT

REVIEWER: Scott Matthew, vice president, office of technology for Pacific Capital Bancorp.

BACKGROUND: Pacific Capital Bancorp provides a network of community banks that serve customers through more than 40 branches. We operate through four different bank brands, providing the wide selection of competitive products and services typical of much larger banks while delivering a high standard of customer service-driven neighborhood banking.

PLATFORMS: We are running Avaki 5.0 on Microsoft Windows and on IBM AIX. We use hardware from IBM and Dell.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our organization has embarked on several systems initiatives, and the Avaki software fit our architecture vision for how to best support these systems going forward. We were looking for an enterprise data layer that would make it easier for all our applications to find and use data. We need to process data from multiple distributed sources including relational data from our data warehouse and application-specific databases in both relational and flat file form. The data must be consolidated and then fed to our centralized analytical applications. Data from the analyses must then be made more widely available to other applications such as CRM applications.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Avaki allows us to make data from these various sources available in one data service layer. Applications can then use Avaki as the virtual data source for everything. It vastly simplifies application access to data, providing a platform for transforming and integrating both relational data and flat file data. Avaki has become the data access and integration architecture layer we were envisioning. In the original project, Avaki is extracting customer data from our data warehouse, rolling up the data in the ways we need and making derived data available to applications for customer profiling and risk analysis. We're also using Avaki to help integrate data from an acquired bank into our core banking systems. We are continually thinking of new ways to use the software.

STRENGTHS: The main strength of Avaki is its ability to hide the complexities of data access and integration from applications, for both relational and flat file data. Another strength of Avaki is the flexibility and scalability of the architecture, including the ability to use a variety of integration approaches depending on the project. Avaki gives us an easy way to reuse all of the data access and integration work we do across multiple projects. As new projects arise, we can continue to build on what we have. We don't need to reinvent the wheel.

WEAKNESSES: Avaki has been very proactive in soliciting our feedback. We've told them that the scheduling features could be richer, and that the user interface could be more intuitive in some areas. Avaki is adding new capabilities to the product all the time.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We began with an architectural vision and selected Avaki because they not only fit that vision, but they also proved during the pilot that a data service layer could address our requirements. No other product does exactly what Avaki does. We evaluated the options of implementing the data access and integration ourselves or hiring a major systems integrator. Doing the work ourselves using traditional approaches to data access would have been much more time-consuming and would not have given us the architectural flexibility we need for the future. A systems integrator would have been too costly. At the same time we evaluated Avaki, we were also evaluating ETL solutions; and in the end, we decided that ETL and Avaki are a great complement to each other.

DELIVERABLES: Avaki is both a build-time data resource and a runtime execution architecture for data access and integration. Data owners register data in Avaki's data catalog, making it available to the data service layer. Architects and developers can then take advantage of that data, selecting the data they need and specifying how it is to be integrated and served to applications. Finally, at runtime, applications access the data from one virtual data source (the Avaki data service layer) and are insulated from the specific considerations of the data's location or underlying technology infrastructure. Avaki's distributed caching mechanism helps optimize performance at execution time.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We have been very impressed with the skills and dedication of the company's professional services staff. They have been working closely with us throughout the deployment and are assisting us with some custom data integration work as well.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is generally good but could be more complete in some areas. Avaki is enterprise software, so taking full advantage of all features requires some training. For complex data integrations, for example, we'd suggest going through Avaki training and/or taking advantage of their professional services consultants.

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