REVIEWER: Miguel Munoz, senior business systems programmer analyst for Acuson.

BACKGROUND: Acuson, a Siemens company, is a leading worldwide manufacturer and service provider of diagnostic medical ultrasound systems that generate, display, archive and retrieve ultrasound images.

PLATFORMS: HP/UNIX servers running SAP R/3.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Acuson uses SAP Applications to run its critical business processes. To alleviate report processing overhead, reduce ABAP programming and provide business information via a data warehouse, all the SAP data needed to be replicated to a secondary environment to use as a reporting instance. This would reduce the load on the production system and, in turn, enhance response time for warehouse users. Additionally, Acuson planned to rollout SAP to its European operations, thereby decreasing the load window for data extractions and replacement of information into the data warehouse. Acuson began to search for a replication solution that would not only scale to their rapidly growing environment, but also improve system reliability. Through near real-time Oracle database replication from the database server within SAP to the target server for the data warehouse, SharePlex provides Acuson with a subset of its production database, which is used as a staging area for loading their data warehouse. This has allowed Acuson to eliminate the impact of the load process on their production database servers and utilize their systems around the clock, a necessity when running a global operation.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Acuson implemented SharePlex in July of 2001 and is currently replicating 16,000 tables of data from the database server within SAP to the target server for the data warehouse in near real time. This information is transformed into the data warehouse nightly and will soon be done multiple times a day. Before SharePlex, the information was entered into SAP, and it took between three and five days to receive a response through Acuson's data warehouse architecture due to the complex data relationships and sheer size of tables. Transformations and loads would run from 14 to 16 hours, making a daily refresh of data impossible and weekly refreshes difficult. Recovery of load failures necessitated weekend monitoring and downtime was a definite possibility. With SharePlex, the data is replicated and available within seconds, and the process is instantaneous and seamless.

STRENGTHS: The speed with which SharePlex replicates is one of its major advantages. Since implementing SharePlex, Acuson experiences only a five-second average latency between source and target, when two hours was expected. Additionally, Acuson has seen their overhead average between two to three percent, as opposed to other solutions with between 20 to 30 percent. For Acuson, SharePlex provides much more than replication capabilities ­ improving customer service, providing faster reaction time to internal calls and calls for support from customers, serving as a valuable business management tool and reducing DBA support time.

WEAKNESSES: The main weakness seen by Acuson has been its monitoring capabilities ­ there are some platform limitations. Additionally, statistics of throughput and the raw number of transactions processed would also be useful for capacity planning and ROI review.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Acuson evaluated a variety of potential replication solutions and found that SharePlex would give them what they needed in terms of replication speed, throughput, reliability, and low processing and network impact. SharePlex was designed specifically for Oracle. It did not boast connectivity to everything, but came in and did what it was supposed to ­ better than any other product. The implementation of SharePlex did not involve additional work or overhead for any other group. In fact, its implementation in conjunction with other Quest products even addressed issues in areas outside the data warehouse.

DELIVERABLES: SharePlex provides information access around the clock. Users have immediate access to SAP data without having to wait and go through the SAP application layer. SharePlex provides Acuson with a reporting instance and source data for other e- commerce, B2B and additional enterprise solutions.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Acuson's IT staff received responsive technical support from Quest during the implementation phase. After implementation, Acuson discovered that SharePlex required very little management time. Due to SAP-related challenges and issues, a mid- to upper- level DBA spends approximately an hour maximum per week managing SharePlex.

DOCUMENTATION: Quest Software's documentation is easy to understand, although it has not been needed except for reference.

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