CATEGORY: Data Warehouse Design, Administration & Management

REVIEWER: Doug Masters, IS director for Mitchell Grocery Corporation.

BACKGROUND: Mitchell Grocery Corporation is a wholesale grocery distribution center serving more than 200 independent retailers throughout Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi. The company distributes more than 30,000 products, including grocery items, frozen food, health and beauty care items and private-label products. Mitchell Grocery employs more than 400 staff and is located in Northeast Alabama.

PLATFORMS: IBM AS/400 model 500; Dell PowerEdge 4300 NT SQL Server running Microsoft SQL Server 7.0; Microsoft NT 4.0 server: two 500 MHz Processors, 1GB RAM; Raid 5 with 27GB hard-disk space.

PROBLEM SOLVED: With an average of 50 to 60 truckloads of products arriving and being shipped each day, we needed to ensure that our data warehouse which stores purchase, inventory and delivery data was populated with accurate and up-to-date information. We required a proven data integration solution that would help flow business data in real time between our AS/400 and SQL Server, providing our employees with the most current inventory and shipment information. Prior to implementing a data integration solution, we performed manual downloads from the AS/400 to the SQL Server. We then needed to manually upload all completed data from the SQL Server and flow it back into the AS/400. Not only did this process prove to be very tedious, but it also required someone who knew how to perform this task to be available at all times. Today, we use DataMirror Transformation Server for two primary business functions. As our purchase orders and invoices are electronically transmitted to and from suppliers through electronic data interchange (EDI), the data is flowed by Transformation Server into SQL Server where it is transformed, uploaded and stored in the AS/400. Also, as our R.F. Communications units scan new inventory as it arrives, Transformation Server flows this data in real time into SQL Server where it is uploaded and imported into the AS/400. From there, the data is streamed into various business applications to enable employees to more efficiently perform query, reporting and analysis functions.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Transformation Server is operating extremely well on both of our systems. In fact, the solution is transparent to us. We no longer need to do anything to move the product data between the AS/400 and the NT SQL Server, and there's no need to allocate staff to manually upload the data. The DataMirror solution has empowered our production systems to run smoothly and effortlessly, resulting in a well-maintained and efficient business system.

STRENGTHS: Transformation Server is efficient, scalable and highly reliable. Through this solution's solid data integration capabilities, we are now able to access the most up-to-date data for our business needs. Transformation Server has helped us enhance operational efficiencies, streamline business processes and allows us to continue working on ongoing projects without any delays.

WEAKNESSES: We are required to halt the DataMirror solution whenever we perform such functions as adding tables to be mirrored or changing tables that are already mirrored.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Prior to implementing Transformation Server, we utilized a similar product from a different vendor. However, after several months, neither the vendor nor we could get the product properly installed and functioning on our servers. Thus our search for another more scalable solution began. After careful deliberation and testing, we selected Transformation Server. The DataMirror solution proved to be relatively easy to install and configure.

DELIVERABLES: Transformation Server helps integrate more than 50,000 transactions daily. The table is 500MB in size and contains 18 million records.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The DataMirror support team has been very helpful both during and after the implementation. While we haven't needed very much assistance since the initial implementation, we know that we can count on DataMirror's support team to help us should an issue arise.

DOCUMENTATION: The support documentation is very detailed and easy to follow. Because of DataMirror's experienced team, the solution's out-of-the-box features and the organized support materials, our implementation team was able to easily implement and use the software, saving us time and money that would have otherwise been spent on extensive training and programming.

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