CATEGORY: Data Acquisition, Transformation and Replication

REVIEWER: Bob Bertrand, project manager of solutions delivery for Reliant Energy.

BACKGROUND: Reliant Energy is an international energy delivery and energy services company with a presence in most of the major power regions in the United States. It has more than 27,000 megawatts of power generation in operation and a wholesale energy trading and marketing business that is among the nation's top five in combined electricity and natural gas volumes.

PLATFORMS: Reliant's mainframe-based outage analysis system (OAS) runs on IBM's OS/390, and customer power-outage records are created and stored in VSAM files. The target platform is Oracle Parallel Server 8.0.5 running on a Sun Solaris 2.6 machine.

PROBLEM SOLVED: In June 1997, Houston, Texas, suffered a major storm. During the storm, Reliant Energy processed more than 1.5 million transactions and recorded more than 400 simultaneous users on the system. The query volume was a contributing factor in the ensuing overload of the mainframe-based application and also caused significant processing delays that were not acceptable for Reliant Energy's CICS-based outage analysis system. A solution was needed that would move inquiry-only users from the mainframe to another platform, leaving the mainframe system for use by distribution personnel directing service- restoration activities. To do this, power outage records (stored in VSAM files) would need to be captured, transformed to relational format and applied to an Oracle database where users could query the records without affecting the CICS outage application.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Reliant Energy is not creating a data warehouse in the traditional sense, but rather an operational data store (ODS) where the Oracle tables are designed to be efficient for the type of near real-time query and analysis that Reliant Energy's users perform on the customer data. BMC Software's ChangeDataMove keeps the ODS synchronized within seconds of the VSAM database.

STRENGTHS: The BMC Software Professional Services team was very important to the project's success. Through design and tuning, Reliant Energy has managed to improve the results from their original tests. The time required to capture 1,000 CICS transactions with multiple updates, insets and deletes and propagate them to Oracle has been reduced from 12 minutes to just two, yielding a throughput of between 60 and 80 rows per second.

WEAKNESSES: The implementation of BMC Software's ChangeDataMove required quite a bit of customization on our part to meet our business needs. We made extensive use of the user exits available in the product to apply our own business rules for how data should be recognized, transformed and reconciled.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Our two most critical requirements were that the solution to have minimal impact on the performance of the source system in terms of CPU usage and availability, and that the data be applied and made available in near real time. We did a product search and found that ChangeDataMove from BMC Software was the preferred solution for meeting these requirements.

DELIVERABLES: The outage analysis inquiry application is available to Reliant Energy's employees via the corporate intranet. Management, services representatives and all employees dealing with reliability issues will be able to query the application from any location and be proactive in solving customer problems quickly and efficiently.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The continued use of the product and the support we receive from BMC Software has encouraged us to consider ChangeDataMove for other projects across the business that have a need for the real-time integration of mainframe data.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation that BMC Software provides for this solution has been fairly comprehensive. However, we would like to see a simple tutorial detailing how to start and run the tool from the GUI for our users who are not as experienced in using the product.

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