REVIEWER: P. Bhasker, chief technology officer for Nationwide Financial.


BACKGROUND: Nationwide Financial Services, Inc. (NFS) provides financial services that help customers invest and protect their long-term assets and also offers retirement plans and services through public- and private-sector employers. It is part of the Nationwide group of companies, offering diverse insurance and financial services, and is led by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, ranked number 108 in the Fortune 500 based on 2007 revenue.


PLATFORMS: Netezza Performance Server (NPS) 10200 and 10100-DEV data warehouse appliances.


PROBLEM SOLVED: NFS relies on sophisticated business intelligence (BI) software to analyze sales and marketing data so it can continually refine its offerings and marketing strategies. Unfortunately, our incumbent data warehouse was having trouble keeping pace, and its slow response time was preventing users from getting necessary information in time to be useful. After realizing significant performance gains in a proof of concept, we decided to migrate to Netezza.


PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: More than 5,000 users across our enterprise have access to a near real-time view of all their data with the NPS appliances. We can examine sales information on a daily basis with Netezza. The NFS data warehouse integrates data across all its major companies, allowing finance, sales and marketing departments access to data by the time they come into the office to analyze the previous day’s fund activity for a policy. The Netezza platform also serves as part of the master data management (MDM) solution for sales organization definitions and acts as an operational system, interfacing with many downstream systems.


STRENGTHS: When compared to our previous data warehouse system, the NPS appliance processes queries 24 to 152 times faster, and queries that were previously on our wish list have become routine. In fact, two ad hoc queries that could not even run in the incumbent environment can be processed in 24 seconds and 64 seconds, respectively. The NPS appliance has also significantly reduced our total cost of ownership for the data warehouse environment. NFS was able to remove many report-specific tables for one of its Web-facing applications, allowing its wholesalers access to microanalytics and enabling drilling functionality without having to build more objects. This also allows reports to be delivered faster because the database administrators (DBAs) don’t need to be involved for nearly every report being built anymore.


WEAKNESSES: Netezza users would benefit from more sophisticated systems management tools that make it easier to monitor system utilization and diagnose any problems. The appliance nature of the system ensures that far less administration is needed than other data warehouse systems, but having these enhanced tools would make the Netezza appliance even more hands-free. In addition, we would like to see more workload management tools to support larger data warehouse deployments.


SELECTION CRITERIA: We decided to test the NPS appliance and ran a full proof of concept with our data. After seeing significant performance gains using the Netezza system, we opted to migrate our data warehouse to the NPS appliance in 2007. As a result, queries that were previously sluggish now run orders of magnitude faster, and some queries that were impossible to process before now run in mere seconds.


DELIVERABLES: The NPS system is used to support a variety of BI and reporting applications across our sales and marketing organizations. As we’ve discovered, our users’ ability to get the intelligence that they need, when they need it can transform a business. With Netezza, NFS can now reduce reliance on summary tables for performance in some situations. With reduced infrastructure costs, we better enable the IT department to focus on delivering greater analytical capabilities, including expanding the alerting and predictive analytics. We can compensate our traders based on more complex performance figures and allow for greater flexibility in what figures to use going forward.


VENDOR SUPPORT: Netezza invests time in its customers to understand our needs and work with us to realize our business goals. We have open and strong lines of communication with the Netezza team and consider them a valued business partner.


DOCUMENTATION: The documentation for the Netezza appliance is helpful and straightforward. You could run the product by relying on the documentation alone._


Netezza Performance Server (NPS) Data Warehouse Appliance

Netezza Corporation

26 Forest Street

Marlborough, MA 01752

(508) 382-8200

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