This review was received after the press deadline for the February issue and we are including it here for your convenience.

BACKGROUND: Southwest Gas Corporation (SWG) purchases, transports and distributes natural gas to its 1.2 million residential, commercial and industrial customers in the southwestern United States. SWG needed a faster and less costly method for moving customer billing information from its mainframe system to a relational database so that the information could be queried and analyzed more quickly by customer service representatives and account managers.

PLATFORMS: DataMove and ChangeDataMove are part of the MAXM Enterprise Data Propagation management system from BMC Software. The products are used in tandem to propagate both bulk and changed data from our IMS database on the mainframe to a relational database in Oracle on a Sun server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Currently, with the use of DataMove and ChangeDataMove, we're able to move changed data in a near real- time (i.e., less than one second) environment. SWG had developed an in-house system for migrating customer billing information, such as payment and customer service histories, from an IMS legacy system to an Oracle database. However, the maintenance required for this solution was very time-consuming, and the time it took to both create delta files and load updates left us with data that was at least 48 hours old.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: BMC Software's DataMove and ChangeDataMove delivered on our requirements. Our users are very excited to be able to immediately view changes being made to our customer information system in IMS via an Oracle front-end reporting tool. We are processing about 1.2 million transactions nightly in batch updates, and we handle more than 450,000 transactions. The product handles that volume without any problems or performance degradation to our production application. DataMove and ChangeDataMove also provide many statistical logs in order to ensure the accurate migration of data.

STRENGTHS: DataMove offers us a high- speed solution for extracting and loading data without compromising the data or the mainframe. Also, ChangeDataMove allows us to capture changes in our production environment and update our customer information system in near real time. That simply was not possible before. The graphical user interface (GUI) is very easy and intuitive to use, especially when mapping the data that we want to propagate.

WEAKNESSES: The products are customizable ­ allowing us to create user exits to handle special data requirements. Programming user exits is not complicated, but a GUI option to handle special data would be beneficial.

SELECTION CRITERIA: SWG found that ChangeDataMove captures changes at the IMS buffer level without requiring user exits or IMS recovery logs. No other product that we evaluated could match BMC Software's functionality or performance in this area.

DELIVERABLES: The proof-of-concept project took data from the IMS legacy system to an Oracle database for a Y2K disaster recovery system in case the mainframe legacy system goes down. The same system will be maintained as part of a disaster recovery plan. Plans for this application will be to access the data via our intranet. We are building a Web-based application providing our customers with access to their current account information online to track utility usage and even pay bills.

VENDOR SUPPORT: I give BMC Software's support services an A+. Vendor support weighed heavily in our decision to purchase BMC Software's products. Immediate access to their knowledgeable support staff allowed us to resolve issues and questions over the phone ­ saving us a lot of potential consulting fees.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is thorough; however, I would advise against relying solely on it for information, especially during the start-up process. This is not an out-of-the-box database utility, but rather a strategic application that needs to be treated as such.

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