PLATFORMS: Fleet Bank is using Informix XPS for the data warehouse, and Informix 7.2 for the data marts.

BACKGROUND: Fleet Bank, with a network of 1,200 branches throughout the Northeast, offers a full line of banking products and services. Fleet Bank is using PowerDesigner to develop large data warehouses and data marts for the corporation. The technology will help our corporation make key decisions, especially for our marketing department. We are targeting 30 different sources of data to extract the critical information that will help our professionals make key marketing decisions and a range of decisions in other business areas. The data marts, one of which is already developed, will eventually become part of our comprehensive data warehouse.

PROBLEM SOLVED: PowerDesigner provides us with a consistent, adaptable structure which minimizes data redundancy and improves the performance of applications that access data. We knew we needed both conceptual and physical data models, and we're very happy with DataArchitect's (a database design and construction module of PowerDesigner) support for bi-level database design that separates the two model levels. The conceptual data model reflects business information requirements independent of physical DBMS implementation and easily facilitates the reuse of information. The physical model specifies implementation details including characteristics of the chosen DBMS and design modifications to improve performance and usability.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: PowerDesigner is an integrated design toolset for building highly optimized and functional databases, data warehouses/data marts and data-aware components. PowerDesigner has six different modules. They include DataArchitect for database design and construction; WarehouseArchitect for data warehouse and data mart design and construction; ProcessAnalyst for capturing data flow within a business; AppModeler for physical data modeling and data-aware component generation; MetaWorks for model management and team design; and Viewer for read-only access to model information. We're currently utilizing the DataArchitect, WarehouseArchitect and MetaWorks modules.

STRENGTHS: We're very pleased with the openness of the product with the range of end users it supports. It generates physical models in any engine we want--Sybase, Oracle, Informix, etc. This is great for us because the different branches and departments of the bank work with various models, and PowerDesigner does a good job with all the engines.

WEAKNESSES: We're using MetaWorks as our repository model, and we wish it had more reporting features. Also, the paper-based reports that MetaWorks produces are too large and cumbersome for our use. I believe Sybase is aware of this problem and is planning to introduce Web-based browsers as part of its next release of the product.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We evaluated nine products and decided PowerDesigner was the best option available because it is the most complete design and modeling solution on the market. We also liked its user interface and ease of use.

DELIVERABLES: PowerDesigner is a product used in the initial development phase, so its intention is not to produce a lot of output. What it does give us are reporting functions, the data description language (DDL) that it generates from the database and the picture, or graphical representation, of the model.

VENDOR SUPPORT: On the few occasions we've had to contact Sybase, the support has been excellent. We have a support ID for Sybase's 800 number that is very easy to access.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is easy to understand. We also found the help menu to be so good that we rarely had to reference the documentation.

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