PLATFORMS: Rollerblade is a J.D. Edwards' site that requires two-way data transformation between an AS/400 and SQL Servers to run data warehousing and other needs such as inventory shipment tracking.

BACKGROUND: Rollerblade, Inc., headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota, is the founder and leader in the in-line skating industry.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We were looking to create a data warehousing solution because our managers had a difficult time getting quick access to business information. We began our architecture plans by using a multi-faceted query tool to extract data from the AS/400, but we found it to be a heavy burden on our AS/400. We then started looking for alternative data transportation solutions that would allow us to protect the performance of our AS/400 while still meeting the demands of our company for faster access to information. One alternative was to consider an upgrade in hardware, but then we looked for other possibilities to help with our data access needs. Symbiator provided that solution. We used Symbiator to read files on the AS/400 and transform and transport select data down to a dedicated SQL Server, where query tools could be applied to create reports that our product managers needed. By using Symbiator and a dedicated data warehouse server to run queries, we found that queries that once took users one to two hours to run now take less than five minutes. Not only did we save on the potential cost of upgrading our hardware, but it greatly increased productivity.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Symbiator automatically replenishes our SQL Server each night with updated AS/400 data, allowing our managers to have updated information the next business morning. In the future, we plan to create data warehouses at affiliated companies and perhaps a combined warehouse. Symbiator will allow us to transport that data between the AS/400 and multiple remote databases within heterogeneous environments.

STRENGTHS: In addition to Symbiator's performance and support, versatility has been a benefit. While we originally used Symbiator as a one-directional tool to replenish a data warehouse, we recently had a crisis where we had to provide advance-ship notices to our customer. Now we're using Symbiator to push inventory and shipment information back up to the AS/400, and then this information can be sent out to our customers. This has enabled us to add greater value to both our AS/400 and our dedicated servers.

WEAKNESSES: The documentation could be improved by adding more examples in the manuals. However, because of the support we have gotten, this was a minor issue.

SELECTION CRITERIA: One of the reasons we chose Symbiator was because of the cost. For what we were trying to do, Symbiator was the perfect product for our price range. Second, and even more importantly, was support. Because this was a new area for us, we were looking for more of a business partner than a vendor. The support staff was very willing to work with us.

DELIVERABLES: Symbiator is automatically transferring three years of sales data, accounting data and purchasing data for development of sales tools and financial reports. Before Symbiator, providing profit and loss statements took six weeks. With Symbiator replicating to the SQL Server to run dedicated query functions, we're now able to provide monthly P&Ls a week from the close date. In addition, sales reports that previously were not available until 2:00 p.m. the following day are now available on our managers' desks by 9 a.m.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Symbiator's staff has been very responsive to our needs. They have been with us from the beginning and have helped us implement solutions to solve other business issues.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation could use more examples.

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