REVIEWER: Kenny Sargent, technical lead, Enterprise Data Products for Compassion International.

BACKGROUND: Compassion International is one of the world's largest child development organizations with a mission to permanently release the world’s children from poverty. For seven consecutive years, our nonprofit Christian organization has sustained double-digit growth per year. Looking into the future, we project the potential for growing from the 1 million children we currently serve to more than 4 million over the next decade.

PLATFORM: Windows.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our information system was not designed to handle the existing needs, much less the potential quadrupling of the number of children sponsored through our organization. Therefore, our 150-plus person IT team investigated options for developing a modern, agile application development infrastructure. Our team decided to implement a best-of-breed approach, using integration technologies from five vendors, including Composite Software. Our goals were to improve our responsiveness to new end-user requests, especially in times of natural disasters; to support new Web 2.0 collaboration applications, thereby helping to improve communication between children and their sponsors; and to reduce the overall application development and maintenance costs and lessen administrative costs. The result of our investigations was the development of our Ministry Information Library (MIL), which serves as a technology base to support enterprise information management and data governance.

SELECTION PROCESS: With strong recommendations from industry experts, we selected Composite Software’s Composite Information Server for its data virtualization capabilities. We implemented this data virtualization platform at several significant integration points within our MIL.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We selected Composite Software’s data virtualization platform to create a unified, enterprise-wide data virtualization layer. While providing a common data publication and delivery mechanism, this layer hides data complexity from our reporting and other data-consuming applications via a consistent, shared set of abstracted data services. This technology results in faster and easier new application development and significantly lower data management costs, and helps us meet our growth objectives. We also use the Composite Information Server to enhance the MIL’s extract, transform and load processes in support of our enterprise data warehouse as well as to enable operational reporting directly from source transaction systems.

STRENGTHS: The data virtualization layer enables us to modify things within the system without affecting our end users’ experiences. The DVL also allows us to standardize enterprise business logic and canonize business terms in a central location that feeds different downstream systems. Because this standardization happens in a logical layer rather than a physically stored layer, it helps us to easily match numbers from existing reports and is much less cumbersome than maintaining separate systems.

WEAKNESSES: At this point in the maturity of data virtualization, no product does it all. Composite Software is definitely the farthest along, but data virtualization still has a lot of maturing to do. For example, although performance has gotten a lot better, the Composite Information Server still needs to improve in straight passes through large data volumes where no federation is involved. This is a relatively minor issue because large data volumes can be handled via a daily, weekly or monthly cache. Also, some areas of administration and monitoring could be made more robust.

DELIVERABLES: Using data virtualization, we have reduced the time our IT team takes to respond to new requests by 25 percent. Additionally, we’ve lowered our operating costs by improving both IT efficiency and effectiveness. Finally, we are meeting our growth objectives. Shortly after the successful launch of OurCompassion.org, more than 2,000 sponsors registered. Today, there are more than 16,400 registered members, and it is growing at the rate of 40 to 60 members per day. As a specific example of a deliverable, a few days before the initial launch of OurCompassion.org, we discovered that the child images for all 1 million children were corrupt and unusable. We estimated that correcting the problem would take more than one week. Missing the launch date was not an option, so we worked with Composite Software to find a solution. Using the DVL, we modified the process to move the images from the original source temporarily while they were being remigrated to their ultimate site. This allowed the product launch to go forward on time without perceivable impact on the OurCompassion.org user experience. Once the images were fully repaired, the corresponding DVL publication was again modified to point back to the MIL’s desired child image source.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Composite’s support team is very good. For example, recently I had three different questions that were answered very quickly with different individuals helping out, and they gave me useful solutions that I’ve subsequently implemented. We’ve been very pleased with the support we’ve received over the last couple of years.

DOCUMENTATION: In some cases, documentation is not as complete and explanatory as it needs to be.

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