CATEGORY: Data Acquisition, Transformation and Replication

REVIEWER: Jorosylan Williams, database administrator of information services for Harris Corporation.

BACKGROUND: Harris is an international communications equipment company providing products and services for the microwave, broadcast, government and network support markets. The company has sales and service facilities in approximately 90 countries and employs more than 10,000 people.

PLATFORMS: Harris used Information Builders Copy Manager to extract data from legacy IDMS databases on an MVS mainframe system, convert the data to a relational format and port legacy applications to a Sun Enterprise 450 server running the Sun Solaris operating system. We also deployed WebFOCUS on the Sun server to make data available on a real-time basis via the Web.

PROBLEM SOLVED: In early 1999, Harris Corporation made the decision to migrate its primary data processing operations off the mainframe. With a tight deadline for completing the project ­ and with millions of lines of data to be extracted, transformed and loaded onto the UNIX platform ­ we sought a powerful, automated solution that could simplify the migration. In addition to reducing mainframe operational expenses, our goal was to create a more flexible and more efficient way to access and report on legacy data via the Web. With help from Copy Manager, the migration process was completed on time and within budget. After migrating the mainframe data to the UNIX platform, Information Builders consultants showed us how our users could create and modify reports very easily with WebFOCUS.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Copy Manager automates the extraction, transformation and loading of data from one type of database to another. As an integral component of Information Builders middleware technology, it provides native access to more than 80 different databases and file systems on 35 computing platforms. Copy Manager's integration engine provides "location transparency" to ensure that all sources accessed by the servers ­ whether they be hierarchical databases, relational databases or other file formats ­ appear as relational tables. WebFOCUS is a tightly integrated suite of business intelligence tools designed to quickly build and deploy Web reporting and transactional systems over intranets, extranets or the Internet.

STRENGTHS:Copy Manager's flexibility for handling exceptions such as duplicate inserts simplifies difficult data maintenance tasks. Also, the Copy Manager "Transforms" tool defines rules for data cleansing. You can change existing column names to make them more understandable or enhance existing data by using Transforms to calculate or derive new data. This helped us build cleaner, more understandable tables on the UNIX platform. WebFOCUS has multidimensional analytic capabilities that allow users to examine data from many different points of view. They can change sort fields, filter reports with varying selection criteria or drill down to view specific information.

WEAKNESSES: When our original records were created, we used multiple record types to store multiple types of financial data in one location. Because of this, the conversion process with Copy Manager required multiple passes through the data since the product does not handle a master file description (MFD) with multiple record formats. While this was a slight inconvenience, we were able to accomplish our task simply by removing dissimilar record formats from the master file and placing them into separate files.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We researched several tools for the migration, but we decided on Copy Manager because it has the most complete migration technology. Our selection was also based on long familiarity with and confidence in Information Builders as a company.

DELIVERABLES: Copy Manager allowed us to accurately migrate many gigabytes of data and hundreds of legacy applications to the UNIX environment. Additionally, using WebFOCUS, numerous report prototypes have been created in the financial and materials management areas of the company.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Information Builders Consulting was on site for two weeks to assist with the critical first stage of the migration process. Its primary role was to check the data descriptions for accuracy ­ in particular, that the data being migrated to UNIX was in the correct format. The consultants excelled at the thing we needed most ­ ensuring that we were migrating the data properly.

DOCUMENTATION: Information Builders documentation, help and training materials are very complete. The information (available in hard copy and electronically) is well integrated with the products.

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