CATEGORY: Data Acquisition, Transformation & Replication

REVIEWERS: Howard Sherman, manager of business intelligence solutions, and Steve Romain, senior data warehousing specialist, for xwave.

BACKGROUND: Part of the Aliant family, xwave delivers complete IT services to clients through three service lines: systems integration and software engineering, infrastructure services, and product fulfillment. As one of Canada's largest and fastest growing companies, xwave has more than 2,400 professionals that provide innovative and complete IT business solutions for organizations ranging from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to Staples office supply stores to the Canadian Department of National Defence.

PLATFORMS: Three DecisionBase Transformer Data Movement Servers running on Windows NT. Two of the Data Movement Servers are used in parallel for greater throughput and load balancing, and the third is used as a combination development and hot backup server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: For the original project, xwave was tasked with migrating a DB2/MVS-based data warehouse and billing/order system with an Oracle data warehouse. The DB2/MVS system was being populated from IMS and other sources using COBOL programs. Following the merger of the four Atlantic Canada Telcos (now known as Aliant Telecom), the Oracle data warehouse became wider in scope; and data from a number of source systems needed to be accessed and integrated in order to provide end-user analysis capabilities. Currently we use DecisionBase Transformer in conjunction with CA's InfoRefiner to update a 1.5 terabyte data warehouse with data from mainframe flat files, MS SQL Server, Excel spreadsheets, Oracle and client/server comma-delimited files. InfoRefiner is used to provide the extracts from IMS, which are ultimately fed to DecisionBase Transformer for integration with the other data sources. We use DecisionBase Transformer to transform and load data to the warehouse on daily, weekly and monthly intervals. In all, 80 gigabytes of data is refreshed on a monthly basis.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: DecisionBase Trans-former continues to perform in the manner that we expected and required. We take advantage of some of its advanced features such as the Normalizer to process complex mainframe flat files and the Oracle Target Agent to perform bulk loads to our Oracle data warehouse.

STRENGTHS: The greatest strength of DecisionBase Transformer is ease of maintainability. We can make significant data integration program changes with a few clicks of the mouse within the DecisionBase Transformer Mapper, and in a few minutes have it tested. Similar changes would take a couple of days when we relied on COBOL programs.

WEAKNESSES: The DecisionBase Transformer Mapper lacks an easy mechanism for version control. We are getting ready to do beta testing on the next release and understand that versioning options have been increased.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We originally required a product that eliminated the need to understand the complexities of the source and target database systems and would significantly cut down on development and maintenance time. Also, we were looking for a single vendor who could meet the various challenges. The other vendors we looked at didn't offer comparable technology and were more expensive. With the Aliant merger, we did a reassessment of the ETL solution and looked closely at the top ETL competitors. In the end, nothing proved to be a better fit than DecisionBase Transformer as it does everything we require from our core data warehousing technology.

DELIVERABLES: For Aliant Telecom, we support data warehousing initiatives for four telecom organizations. The data warehouse is accessed by end users with DecisionBase Reporter and other business intelligence tools, providing information to support business and decision- making throughout the organization.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We have had great support from CA, both from the sales and services organizations. The products have met or exceeded our expectations. Consulting has looked after us well. We know that behind the technology we have the backing of knowledge within the organization.

DOCUMENTATION: We rely on the online eSupport site that is maintained by the tech support and development organization. The documentation is complete, but could benefit from a more extensive tutorial and getting started guide to help new developers with the product.

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