REVIEWER: Larry Romireo, application systems analyst, at EFCO Corporation.

BACKGROUND: EFCO Corporation, a Pella Company, is well-known for its glass windows, sliding doors and curtain wall systems. The company also manufactures aluminum window units, entrances and storefronts for commercial architectural applications. Founded in 1951, EFCO Corporation is now a subsidiary of Pella Corporation, with office and manufacturing operations in Monett, Missouri, and service centers in Missouri, Illinois, Virginia and Nevada.

PLATFORMS: IBM DB2 on IBM i (AS/400), Microsoft SQL Server, Windows 2008 servers, Cognos (reporting and analytics), KBM (ERP) and proprietary EFCO applications for manufacturing and inventory.

PROBLEM SOLVED: EFCO’s approximately 90 IT staff members are responsible for all software, hardware, network and telephone systems, including data traffic between dissimilar systems that support EFCO’s analytics, manufacturing, finance and product processes. EFCO needed to source data from different systems to answer queries, run reports and still support various business applications involved in their fenestration manufacturing process. In addition, this needed to be in real time to support sales, customers and executive management. However, connecting directly to production systems for reporting was creating significant performance overhead. Adding overhead meant that manufacturing processes slowed down - reducing inventory availability and affecting sales. Both the production system and the reporting applications were taking a long time to process, making IT staff and business users frustrated, and adding to concerns about data freshness.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: EFCO selected DBMoto from HiT Software to replicate data from our AS/400 to a SQL Server database, and keep it continuously updated on SQL Server for accurate and timely reporting. EFCO was able to download DBMoto over the Internet and install it with internal IT staff. We were impressed by DBMoto’s ability to handle replications from the AS/400 to SQL Server. DBMoto reads the logs (journals) of the AS/400 and runs continuous, real-time data replications (without impacting the production system) to SQL Server, where reporting and BI takes place. With DBMoto’s change data capture functionality, our data can be updated in real time 24 hours a day.

STRENGTHS: Key strengths are the ease with which data replications can be set up and understood, as well as the product’s cost and reliability. DBMoto largely minimized data replication tasks to quick drag-and-drop setup, so that our programmers can spend more time writing and maintaining applications rather than trying to get data transferred between systems.

WEAKNESSES: Our IT staff needed to modify our processes to remember to shut DBMoto down before restarting any of the source or target servers. This is necessary so that DBMoto can pick up where it left off in its replications prior to the restart.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We evaluated virtually every data integration product that would support replications between AS/400 and SQL Server, and DBMoto came up as the winner on price, functionality and usability. Repeating the evaluation a year ago, we compared DBMoto on price, functionality, ease of installation and maintainability, and DBMoto came up the clear winner again.

DELIVERABLES: We process several hundred thousand mirrored transactions daily using DBMoto. We have approximately 200 active mirroring operations that run continuously. Many of these are run at 10 times the design speed, i.e., the IBM i logs are read on a three-second interval instead of a typical 30-second interval. Reports and applications have returned data much faster, reducing processing time from hours to minutes. User satisfaction has improved due to the large decrease in system response and processing time. We are now able to access real-time data for BI, ERP and configuration applications, making them all more effective at a faster pace.

VENDOR SUPPORT: HiT Software technical support has always been excellent, and we now use HiT Software as the gold standard to compare other vendors’ tech support services.

DOCUMENTATION: Without any prior experience with data replication, our EFCO IT staff had DBMoto installed and working in less than four hours by simply reading the installation documentation. Our team has been able to do all but the most complex tasks by reading the documentation.

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