PLATFORMS: DSC's operational systems run on remote AS400s. The Broadbase server runs on Windows NT 4.0. The Broadbase Administrator and client query tools run as clients on NT or Windows 95.
BACKGROUND: DSC Logistics is a leading third- party logistics provider located in Des Plaines, Illinois. The company operates over two dozen warehouse facilities across the U.S. and manages the storage and distribution of goods for a veritable "who's who" of American business.
PROBLEM SOLVED: In 1997 DSC completed a multi-year project to implement common business processes across facilities and to revamp performance metrics. Management incentives were realigned as well. With common business processes and incentives in place, the focus moved to data analysis. How does productivity vary from one location to another? What's the trend in customer profitability? What facilities are top performers? These questions can only be answered by looking at the data from a global perspective. The company developed an enterprise data mart architecture and selected Broadbase to help implement the vision. Prior to the implementation of Broadbase, getting a company-wide view was always a painstaking and ad hoc process. Extracting the necessary data from the AS400s, storing it on desktop databases or spreadsheets and writing reports was a challenge. This process required a high order of skill and knowledge about underlying systems. Data volume was limited, and there was no way of looking at multidimensional data.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Broadbase provides a turnkey data mart environment giving the developer the ability to extract data from external sources, transform, store and access it using an SQL-92 compliant client. Connections to external data sources are through ODBC drivers. Data transformation is accomplished through visual scripts or SQL. Java can be used to extend the already rich set of transform functions that come out of the box. The product implements several server-based data mining algorithms and comes bundled with BrioQuery, a leading front-end query tool.
STRENGTHS: Broadbase provides seamless integration of all of the necessary objects for data mart development and automation, including tablespaces, tables, scripts, events, actions, users, roles and Java classes. The GUI- based Administrator facilitates understanding by giving a single view of objects. Broadbase uses a hybrid data storage scheme combining the best features of MOLAP and ROLAP. The database engine handles all the details of storage and access. The result is exceptional flexibility and query performance without the administrative costs. Tuning a database is easy and returns significant performance boosts. A person with a background in database concepts can begin developing a data mart after about two to three days of training. Once source connectivity is established and data is staged on the server, development of business views can be done in a matter of days.
WEAKNESSES: We found some challenges in "pulling" AS400 data into Broadbase from membered files using ODBC. As a result, we used third-party software from Proginet, Inc. that runs on the AS400s and "pushes" updates to the Broadbase Server. However, Broadbase does offer an alternative approach by sourcing directly from AS400 log files and providing check-sum verification.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Turnkey solution, ease of programmability, low cost of ownership and rapid deployment.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Broadbase provides excellent support in the form of field software engineers and corporate technical support. It is refreshing to talk to people who are enthusiastic about the product.
DOCUMENTATION: The product comes with on-line help, well-written manuals and a Getting Started Guide that leads the user through a hands-on exercise in building, querying and mining a data mart.
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