CATEGORY: DW Design, Administration & Management

REVIEWER: Steven Barlow, senior data architect, enterprise data warehouse, for IHC.

BACKGROUND: Based in Salt Lake City, Intermountain Health Care (IHC) is a community-owned, nonprofit health care system that serves the needs of Utah and Idaho residents. The IHC system includes 22 hospitals, a network of 80 outpatient clinics, home health agencies, women's centers, more than 2,500 affiliated physicians, IHC health insurance plans and other services. Our organization operates a sizeable data warehouse system that enables us to conduct research and analysis in order to identify best clinical practices, resulting in improved patient care and lower costs.

PLATFORMS: Data Junction and Data Junction's Integration Engine are installed on a Windows NT Server v4.0.

PROBLEM SOLVED: IHC's data warehouse contains more than 1.2 terabytes of data. We are constantly loading new information from many different sources into this warehouse and populating specific data marts. Therefore, it was important to include an integration tool that could handle many data types including AS/400, Oracle, MUMPS, Tandem and others in our ETL tool set. We also needed a tool that could natively connect to esoteric data types such as HL7, XML and text, as well as a host of legacy formats such as Btrieve. The tools we used prior to Data Junction did not provide that connectivity which meant we had to code our own data-migrating applications, a time-consuming process. We needed an integration tool that could handle large volumes of data, as well as data containing large numbers of rows, and a tool that would allow us to manipulate that data more easily. By including Data Junction in our ETL tool set, we've been able to connect to all the data formats we've encountered so far, including some more obscure formats such as HL7 and extremely wide text files.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Data Junction's Map Designer contains a visual, intuitive GUI which makes designing conversions simple. The very rich transformation function set enables extensive manipulation of data. Data Junction's Process Designer also enables us to create a series of conversions, including lookups, and then run these conversions as one process. We use the Process Designer often to execute a collection of maps such as replicating tables within one conversion project.

STRENGTHS: The main strengths of Data Junction are its native support of a wide variety of formats and its flexibility as an ETL tool. Data Junction's rich expression language contains a comprehensive set of date manipulation features which has been important for us because we must reconcile the many ways dates are presented in different formats. One of! the product's biggest strengths is that it is easy to learn and use. Because Data Junction offers a simple, intuitive GUI, the user does not have to be an experienced programmer to create conversion maps.

WEAKNESSES: One improvement that would be helpful is the ability to replicate tables from one database to another without having to create individual maps for each table. While it is possible to organize saved conversions in different repositories, it would be convenient to have a folder structure in the conversion manager. It is our understanding this will be addressed as a new feature in Data Junction's next release. It would also be helpful if Data Junction included a scheduler with the Integration Engine.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We looked at functionality. For the total cost of acquisition, Data Junction was the obvious selection. Their product was chosen over other solutions because it supports so many formats and, through its expression language, offers unlimited capability to manipulate data. Because Data Junct! ion is very easy to use, we knew we could put it to effective use quickly.

DELIVERABLES: Data Junction enables us to populate key data marts and to load information from numerous sources into our warehouse quickly and accurately. Data Junction also provides the capability to save conversions which provides important map documentation.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We have been quite impressed with Data Junction's support both pre- and post- sales. Our questions have been addressed quickly by tech support staff who are knowledgeable and quick to respond.

DOCUMENTATION: Data Junction's documentation is very good and provides all the information necessary to run the product without assistance. We've been very impressed with the online help. It is critical when dealing with data transformation tools to have syntactically correct examples ­ Data Junction provides those. The interactive tutorials are also excellent and let the user follow through actual convers! ions step by step.

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