CATEGORY: Data Acquisition, Transformation and Replication

REVIEWER: Troy Gerton, business systems analyst for RPM, Inc.

BACKGROUND: RPM, Inc. is a world leader in specialty coatings, serving both industry and consumers in more than 130 countries. RPM has more than 50 manufacturing plants worldwide, 8,000 employees and thousands of independent sales and technical representatives.

PLATFORMS: RPM's e-business environment includes redundant firewalls and workload balancers, an array of Microsoft Windows NT/2000 based Web servers and back-end database and application servers. Our wholly owned data center is colocated with AT&T in one of its major Internet data centers. Mean-while, our back-end systems, ranging from UNIX boxes running SAP and Oracle to iSeries (AS/400) servers running MAPICS, are managed and maintained by each RPM-owned company. All of our operating companies are connected via an internal frame relay network.

PROBLEM SOLVED: DataMirror Transformation Server currently enables real-time SQL Server to SQL Server replication of customer data to support one of RPM's integrated business-to-business e-commerce order management systems. We selected it knowing that we would eventually use the DataMirror solution to replicate SQL Server data in real time to our iSeries- based operational systems. We originally implemented Microsoft SQL Server Replication; but despite the help of Microsoft support engineers, we had difficulty configuring replication. Transformation Server fulfilled our needs for anything-to-anything integration and ease of use.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Transformation Server has enabled the near instantaneous replication of several thousand business transactions per day from publisher to subscriber. It has allowed us to take a technical approach and make it extremely elegant in terms of simplicity and power. In fact, Transformation Server has worked so well that we expect our online order management system to accommodate more than 30,000 users in the near future. We are also currently testing DataMirror iDeliver, a business-
to-business software solution that complements Transformation Server by allowing business associates to select, transform and integrate corporate data into business or desktop applications or databases on their own systems. We expect that the combined DataMirror solution will eventually expand to other operating units.

STRENGTHS: Since going live, Transformation Server has reduced order cycle time by an average of two days; provided a continuous, up-to-the-minute flow of order status information to field sales personnel and customers; and ensured error-free order creation. Because Transformation Server requires no programming changes to existing systems, DataMirror has allowed us to succeed quickly where other solutions would fail after extensive investments of money and time.

WEAKNESSES: While Enterprise Administrator is feature rich and definitely leverages the power of Transformation Server, we originally had a bit of difficulty grasping its basic publish and subscribe model. However, once we understood it, the convenience of the interface became apparent.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The fact that Transformation Server integrates data bidirectionally and in real time among heterogeneous as well as homogeneous databases and platforms simplified the selection process. There was no need to look at other less capable products because we quickly became familiar with the DataMirror business and product line. Transformation Server was proven and mature. All this made it a best-in-class solution to us.

DELIVERABLES: Today, DataMirror is a key technology component for a $40 million operating unit that until now had major barriers to rapid future growth. Transformation Server with Enterprise Administrator and iDeliver enables cost-effective, reliable, anything-to-anything integration at the database level. Choosing any other product to achieve the same success that DataMirror has brought us would have been cost-prohibitive and, in some cases, unfeasible.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Since Transformation Server was easy to implement and required no programming changes to our existing systems, we did not see a need for any on-site support. Additionally, the product has been extremely reliable so we have not had a chance to take full advantage of DataMirror's new Web site support capabilities. However, it is a great comfort that the DataMirror team will be available should there be any disruption within our computing environment.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation was very helpful. We complemented it with DataMirror's telephone support to initially get the system up and running. We haven't had to refer to it again.

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