BACKGROUND: Bank of Montreal, Canada's first bank, is a highly diversified financial services institution with 7 million customers in Canada and the U.S. and 6.7 million MasterCards in circulation.

PLATFORMS: Bank of Montreal utilizes the Sun Enterprise 10000 Server (Starfire) with the Solaris 2.5.1 operating environment and LVS 4500/4600 RAID storage.

PROBLEM SOLVED: As the credit card market opened up in the mid-1990s, we faced significant challenges in the credit card services market. In order to stay competitive in a changing marketplace, we knew we had to make a shift in the service levels we offered and get into knowledge-based management of our business. We worked with consultants first to define our business goals and then to establish a model for decision support, utilizing state-of-the-art analytic tools. In the end, we undertook a major data warehousing initiative. Bank of Montreal confronted three major issues. First, we wanted to combat competitive pressure in the credit card services market. Second, we wanted to implement knowledge-based business management. Third, we wanted to establish an infrastructure for scalability, reliability and for server consolidation within this line of business. To resolve these issues, we needed a data warehouse server that offered proven technology, high performance and a high level of scalability.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The Sun Enterprise 10000 Server runs our data warehouse application. Architected for growth, the server today supports 10 processors but can scale to 64. Currently, it has 10 gigabytes of main memory which can grow to 64 gigabytes. In addition, the LVS 4500/4600 RAID storage array works as the database engine, providing 1.4 terabytes of storage. High-speed data pipes deliver the performance necessary to run the data mining operations. Plus, the storage system is designed with logical redundancy through the data path, thereby eliminating single points of failure and providing end-to-end availability. The Sun Enterprise 10000 Server, with its ability to be partitioned into separate domains, is being leveraged for other bank incentives as well. Its dynamic reconfiguration feature allows capacity to be reallocated during peak periods of activity.

STRENGTHS: The Sun Enterprise 10000 Server's ability to be logically partitioned into separate mainframe-like domains helps ensure that no application, such as Internet commerce, can compromise the security of other applications. This architecture also addresses our availability concerns. If one domain runs out of horsepower, the server dynamically reallocates to maximize resources. Since we can't predict exactly how big our data warehouse might grow, the exceptional scalability of the Sun Enterprise 10000 Server is a big advantage for us. It provides us with a system that can grow exponentially over the years. There is tremendous capacity to add data and functionality to this infrastructure.

WEAKNESSES: Although we actively worked to develop the internal resources necessary to maintain the system, we had consultants handle the initial implementation. It was quite a challenge to get people to understand the power of the Sun Enterprise 10000 Server and what it could do for us. We probably would not have been as successful with the implementation if we had tried to do it ourselves.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The Sun Enterprise 10000 Server was chosen because it is a proven technology and provided exceptional performance and scalability.

DELIVERABLES: Bank of Montreal started gaining credit card market share within six months of implementation. The new system created an analytical data mart that is the core of electronic banking services business intelligence and decision-making functions. We are now modeling our data and doing complex "what-if" analyses before sending out direct mail campaigns. This capability enables a targeted approach with much more specialized mailings and has dramatically improved the frequency, accuracy and take-up rates of our direct marketing campaigns. Development time for marketing campaigns has been reduced by two to three weeks while response time for models and queries has been reduced from as much as six hours down to 48 seconds.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Amdahl, a Sun reseller, performed the implementation services for our system. Service has always been readily available and, in fact, proactive.

DOCUMENTATION: The Sun documentation, hard-copy and on-line, is user friendly and comprehensive.

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