PLATFORMS: Compaq PCs in a client/server environment, running Microsoft's SQL Server with source data coming from an IBM VM/ADABAS.

BACKGROUND: The Chicago-based American Bar Association, a support organization for the legal profession, is a central information resource for 392,000 members nationwide. The ABA's 800 employees are structured into 22 special interest forums, all of which are supported by a 60-person information systems (IS) group.

PROBLEM SOLVED: DataStage is the lead tool in our effort to give ABA employees direct access to member data. Our objective was to reduce the number of inquiries handled by the IS department from 300 per month to about 30, freeing the IS department from routine data requests and enabling staff members to conduct direct-mail campaigns and build target lists more independently. In the past, with the ABA's legacy ADABAS database running on a VM mainframe, the user community was unable to access information on its own. End users had to go through IS, sometimes waiting three to seven days while IS wrote a custom program to fill the request. Today the ABA uses DataStage to migrate data from the legacy database to a Microsoft SQL Server data warehouse.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: DataStage is now fully integrated into the ABA's data warehouse and data mart building process. We have used Ardent's extraction and transformation tool (ETT) to populate the data warehouse and have already scheduled automated, periodic refreshes to our atomic layer tables and look-up tables.

STRENGTHS: DataStage really stands out in speed of execution, especially when loading data. When we were testing products, DataStage outperformed comparable tools. DataStage continues to meet our requirements in "real-life" situations.

WEAKNESSES: Occasionally during complex transformations, loads tend to run slower. Furthermore, the flexibility of the product could be enhanced with the ability to call additional externally stored procedures from a stage.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Last year we began looking at warehouse tools. We had already made an investment in Microsoft's SQL Server as our target database and began looking for transformation and migration tools to populate and update the data warehouse and data marts. We tested DataStage and competing products, conducting identical transformations with each. DataStage displayed superior performance, completing tasks in less time than the other products. In addition, DataStage's ease of use helped shrink development time frames, giving us better time-to-value.

DELIVERABLES: DataStage is a critical component of our data warehouse and data mart building process. We are using it to migrate data to our Microsoft SQL server from a legacy VM mainframe as well as to coordinate periodic updates to the data warehouse and data marts. DataStage will allow us to improve the quality of our data. For example, with the legacy mainframe system, ABA data was segmented into 10 different databases. As a result, information updated or corrected in one database would remain inaccurate in another. By implementing DataStage to move information from a mainframe to a client/server platform, we are centralizing corporate data and eliminating this problem. In addition, we will increase the number of employees who have access to membership data, enable them to intelligently track mailings and allow them to perform cost/benefit analysis to determine the effectiveness of mailings and promotional campaigns.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Vendor support has been good, especially during the initial phases of implementation when we needed it most. Ardent's training allowed us to dive right into the first phase of the project.

DOCUMENTATION: The DataStage documentation provides all of the information needed to start using the product. Because of the complex nature of our application, we could not rely exclusively on the documentation for everything that we wanted to do.

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