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Independence Blue Cross Standardizes on ERwin Data Modeler

  • July 01 2004, 1:00am EDT
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REVIEWER: Stacey Haurin, senior data administrator for Independence Blue Cross.

BACKGROUND: Independence Blue Cross (IBC) is the leading health insurer in Southeastern Pennsylvania, providing coverage to more than 2.8 million people in Pennsylvania. Including subsidiaries, the company covers more than 3.5 million people. Independence Blue Cross has been an innovative leader in the healthcare arena for more than 60 years, offering quality healthcare products and services designed specifically to meet the changing needs of today's healthcare consumers.

PLATFORMS: Computer Associates AllFusion ERwin Data Modeler (DM) is running on both Windows NT and XP with 512MG of RAM and connects to AllFusion Model Manager, which is running on Oracle9i.

PROBLEM SOLVED: IBC needed to improve the visualization of our data assets by cataloging systems and databases according to our application architecture. AllFusion Model Manager library structures were established in alignment with this architecture. IBC's intranet hosts a Web-based application for visualization of all mission-critical applications and their interfaces. All mission-critical databases are maintained in ERwin DM. With the built-in Web publishing capabilities, ERwin DM is able to produce models in HTML format to support this initiative. The Report Builder produces an impressive Web-enabled document that can be customized easily.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: IBC selected AllFusion ERwin Data Modeler (DM) to manage data and process database requests for our OLTP and OLAP databases because it captures the data-driven business rules in a logical model and generates a database-specific script from the physical model. The tool is flexible, allowing a database designer to link the logical and physical models in varying degrees. IBC's approach is traditional in that the logical and physical models are related with more than a few deviations in the physical design. ERwin DM's ability to graphically depict data-driven business rules facilitates the process of extending data structures to support system enhancements, as well as the development of databases for new initiatives. The logical model is then negotiated into a physical model. The naming standards and script-generation features accelerate the implementation of the databases' development by jump-starting the creation of the physical model and producing a script to build the database objects.

STRENGTHS: IBC's favorite ERwin enhancements include Windows Authentication for SQL Server databases, Oracle sequence objects, flexible and easy-to-modify model level owner assignment for tables and indexes, and materialized view support. DB2 also received equal attention in this release with enhancements such as UDB 8.x support and more flexibility in defining nodes and bufferpools, with an option to override the SQL within the editor. ERwin DM's performance while interacting with Model Manager (CA's solution for enterprise model management) has greatly improved in this release.

WEAKNESSES: ERwin DM has memory-related bugs, though a reboot will remedy these memory leaks. In addition, the dimensional modeling features need improvement to make them more useful. ERwin offers little more than diagonal lines, different icons and an additional tab on the column editor that captures nonintegrated, text-driven information.

SELECTION CRITERIA: IBC previously used Oracle's Designer 2000, Popkin System Architect and Cayenne/Cool. The combined experience of using these tools provided the template for our replacement search. The only tool that met all of our requirements was AllFusion ERwin Data Modeler.

DELIVERABLES: ERwin DM produces the SQL to build and enhance IBC's databases, saving time for data modelers and DBAs. Models are commonly printed and published for developers to understand complex data relationships. Business users often request data models to visualize their business. ERwin DM also is used to produce reports to feed mapping documents for conversions or OLAP initiatives.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Computer Associates provides excellent support for ERwin and its users. An AllFusion Resource Kit was compiled and distributed on a CD to all ERwin customers free of charge. It offered FAQs, online training and many helpful tips and techniques. In addition, CA sponsors many product user groups, including the Enterprise Modeling User Group (EMUG) by providing speakers, financial support and assistance with mailing.

DOCUMENTATION: Personally, I don't use the documentation too often because ERwin is easy to use.

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