PLATFORMS: An NCR high-availability solution that includes a 48-node WorldMark 5100M massively parallel processing server and EMC storage. Sears' expanding six-terabyte data warehouse has NCR's Teradata relational database as its foundation.

BACKGROUND: Founded in 1886, Sears, Roebuck and Co., is the United States' largest department store chain and the second-largest retailer in the country. With revenues in 1997 exceeding $41 billion, Sears serves over 60 million households The company's operations include more than 2,000 stores in the United States with home, apparel and automotive product services.

PROBLEM SOLVED: At the end of each day, Sears had large volumes of critical data from sales and inventory transactions that made it necessary to do nightly updates to its decision support database from its mainframe systems. These nightly updates were an integrated part of Sears' growing business model and ensured that all information was accurate and as up to date as possible. It was critical for business users to see what happened yesterday to make better business decisions today. Sears needed data transfer utilities that could handle large volumes and facilitate quick and responsive updates to its data warehouse. As a long-time customer of NCR, Sears had confidence in its solutions and services and believed the mission-critical tools, MultiLoad and FastLoad, could get the job done. Another tool, FastExport, fulfilled Sears' need to transfer data regularly to the company's legacy systems.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The three NCR utilities for transferring bulk data work in parallel with each other and the current platform and provide the most reliable capabilities available. The three utilities--MultiLoad, FastLoad and FastExport--work behind the scenes to handle a variety of critical tasks involved with moving data efficiently, quickly and dependably.

STRENGTHS: NCR's MultiLoad, FastLoad and FastExport have demonstrated their dependability for handling large volumes of data accurately and effectively. Database administrators (DBAs) can easily use each of these tools to get the job done error free, while working within a short (six hour or less) window when transferring large data files. Data files containing critical data are updated, deleted and archived all in a quick and efficient process. NCR's data transfer utilities provide basic edits, data validation routines and conversion capabilities. Multiple tables can be updated in one pass. A cumbersome, time-consuming task is now less daunting for Sears DBAs.

WEAKNESSES: NCR's data transfer utilities are consistently dependable and reliable for the scope of functions they must perform in the Sears data warehouse environment. However, while transferring data, if the process needs to be restarted by the DBA, it may sometimes require the referencing of a technical manual to check procedures. MultiLoad features automatic checkpoint restartability, but still requires some intuition on the part of the DBA.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Reliability was definitely a determining factor for Sears when it selected NCR's suite of data transfer utilities. If all the data was not updated correctly and quickly every night, it would reduce the value of the information to the business users as a timely decision support tool. In addition, using the utilities provided a seamless integration with NCR's other data warehouse offerings.

DELIVERABLES: NCR's robust data transfer utilities deliver complete reliability and dependability for handling the transferring of critical data quickly and efficiently. All three products allow a DBA to multi-task with other responsibilities while these utilities run. Having updated data every morning provides Sears' employees with the critical information they need to make the world's second largest retailer even more profitable.

VENDOR SUPPORT: NCR Corpora-tion has an extensive professional services portfolio, including design, implementation and integration. When support is needed, one call can be placed to receive the technical support needed.

DOCUMENTATION: Complete print and on-line materials are available from NCR.

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