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Embarcadero's ER/Studio Brings Model-Driven Data Advantages to Event Management Software

  • July 01 2004, 1:00am EDT
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REVIEWER: John Prout, senior oracle DBA for Ambassadors.

BACKGROUND: Ambassadors is a leading provider of event portfolio management solutions. The company was founded in 1967 under the name International Ambassador Programs, Inc. to provide international educational travel programs for students and professionals. Today, Ambassadors has built a nationwide organization with the breadth and depth to be the perfect meetings, incentive travel, housing and event management partner for the world's leading organizations.

PLATFORMS: Windows 2000.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Ambassadors creates event portfolio software. The software product has an underlying Oracle database. To meet service level agreements, we needed an effective means to generate and track the changes to the Oracle database structures. Given the development life cycle, we required an automated a "lights out" solution. ER/Studio's powerful and well documented VBA automation interface, combined with the product's advanced Oracle reverse engineering, DDL generation capabilities and enterprise reporting features provided the ideal solution for effectively managing the database change management life cycle.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: ER/Studio's automation interface allowed us to essentially make the product itself an automated piece of our Oracle development process. To do so, we created an array of scripts that would ping ER/Studio's automation interface, wake up ER/Studio and, from there, trigger a series of tasks - reverse engineer the Oracle databases, generate data models of them and then create reports of the schema for our network. This was all done during off-peak hours. From the outside, it might appear that this is not a traditional way to use a data modeling tool. On the contrary, ER/Studio's robust features made it possible for us to automate a tedious but necessary task, enabling us to focus on other duties. The added benefit was our ability to take advantage of all the traditional data modeling features ER/Studio offered. For example, when the Oracle database required changes, we created an alter statement for the schema modifications and then generated the SQL file to apply them using ER/Studio's forward engineering facilities. ER/Studio's rich features, especially those for Oracle8.1.x and 9i, provided us with an innovative approach to our complex problem. The overall result was dramatic productivity gains for our team and a reduced cost of the overall software development life cycle for our product line.

STRENGTHS: Without a doubt, the ability to make extensive use of automation was a key ER/Studio feature for us at Ambassadors. The combination of this functionality, the advanced reverse engineering, enterprise reporting, rich Oracle8.1.x and 9i support, all made ER/Studio a mainstay in our day-to-day operations.

WEAKNESSES: From our standpoint, the fact that ER/Studio only runs on a Windows platform is a drawback, as much development occurs on the UNIX platform. In the future, I would like expanded OS support for platforms such as UNIX. Also, the documentation of the ER/Studio Automation interface could use some work and QA.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The availability of the automation interface was by far the most important ER/Studio feature in our selection criteria, followed by reverse engineering and DDL definition. We were seeking a tool that could easily track changes to our Oracle database on a regular basis, and we preferred this to be model-driven. We wanted the ability to automate the change control process as well as track the changes through reporting. We looked at various change management tools and other modeling products. Overall, ER/Studio's reverse-engineering capabilities and reporting features were far superior for handling the deep change management and modeling needs we required. During our initial evaluation of ER/Studio, we were able to quickly get a good idea of its capabilities. The setup and implementation of the automated solution was easy, and the benefits were immediate.

DELIVERABLES: We use the automation interface to reverse engineer, catalog the changes and create Oracle database designs. This enables us to efficiently track database changes on an ongoing basis. We use the HTML reports to communicate the changes to the developer Internet. And, we use the compare and merge utilities to produce delta/change scripts when changes to the database are required.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We continue to see many quality enhancements in each release of ER/Studio. Also, the product management team at Embarcadero is very responsive and involved. From our standpoint, it is important to be an influencer of a tool we like using because it gives us confidence that the product will continue to grow in the directions we need to keep our commitments as database developers and DBAs.

DOCUMENTATION: When we've had the opportunity to use them, both tech support and the documentation are helpful.

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