REVIEWER: Helmut Zahner, senior project manager for BMG.

BACKGROUND: BMG is the global music division of Bertelsmann AG, one of the world's leading media companies. With more than 200 record labels and operations in 41 countries, BMG's music publishing operation is the third largest in the world. Headquartered in New York, BMG employs 4,600 people and generates $3.5 billion in revenue.

PLATFORMS: Development environment: Oracle8. on Linux box. Production environment: Oracle8. on HP-UX 11.00 box. Agents: HP-UX 11.00 box, SunOs 5.7 box and SunOs 5.8 box. Sunopsis Designer runs on Windows 2000, XP and XP Terminal Server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We need to implement very complex logistics systems to effectively manage our distribution, royalty, copyright, inventory and accounting processes. In the past, we developed all interfaces between systems by hand-coding them. Over time, we ended up with a complex infrastructure in which data quality controls were barely adequate, code maintenance was difficult and making even the slightest modification to an interface was time and labor intensive. To streamline our distribution system for Europe, we launched an initiative to overhaul the interfaces between our distribution system and downstream applications. Cost and time to deployment were key considerations when assessing data integration product options. It was important for us to feel confident that the technologies chosen could properly and efficiently handle our complex data transformation requirements. We also needed the chosen product to help us easily deploy 14 instances of the system across Europe.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Sunopsis is a full-Java product that runs on any platform without loss of functionality. It comprises a fully graphical, codeless development environment to define the data integration processes. In production, it generates native SQL code for each RDBMS engine involved into the process and then orchestrates the execution of this code for maximum performance.

STRENGTHS: Sunopsis allowed us to address our data transport and transformation needs and provided us with on-the-fly data quality, impact analysis, meta data repository and database connectivity - all within one product. Instead of relying on a proprietary transformation engine driven by a proprietary language, Sunopsis relies on industry standards and uses existing infrastructure components to perform the data integration tasks. We did not need to learn any new languages and could leverage existing in-house expertise.

WEAKNESSES: The current version of Sunopsis does not offer strong version control or release management functionality. However, this functionality will be available in the next version of the product. The product's scheduling functionality is another area that could be improved.

SELECTION CRITERIA: When we assessed Sunopsis, we immediately felt that it was a highly sophisticated data integration solution that would more than address our needs. We also liked the fact that the price of the product was a fraction of the cost of many of the other products we assessed.

DELIVERABLES: Sunopsis not only helps us to significantly improve our development productivity, but also helps us save a tremendous amount of time and money on the maintenance of our data integration processes. We are now able to incorporate automatic data quality - something almost impossible to do with manual scripts. Sunopsis' project documentation, meta data management and tracking functionality are also important benefits for maintenance purposes and strongly help us meet regulatory requirements. We estimate that by using Sunopsis we have saved as much as 50% on development and support costs and have been able to significantly reduce our dependency on external resources when tackling critical data integration projects. And, Sunopsis has helped us bring IT closer to business units within BMG. With the old systems, it took us weeks to get answers to business users' questions. Now, when business users ask us to rerun certain extractions, we can immediately address their needs, and all systems are fully documented.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Working with Sunopsis has been excellent. Their sales and tech support teams are very professional and have consistently been there when we needed them.

DOCUMENTATION: The product documentation is very good and provided our team the information they needed to be productive.

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