BACKGROUND: The Wachovia Corporation is an interstate bank holding company that offers credit and deposit services plus insurance, investment and trust products to consumers in the southeastern United States. Services and products are available through a network of retail offices and ATMs as well as on the Internet. In 1997, Wachovia decided to build a data warehouse to enhance its relationships with its customers and to encourage repeat business and referrals.

PLATFORMS: The UNIX version of SyncSort runs on all major UNIX platforms, including HP-UX, AIX, and Sun Solaris. SyncSort is also available on other platforms, including mainframes and Windows NT.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Our warehouse-related processing load is huge, and we do a tremendous amount of sorting with our RS/6000 SP technology where we cluster multiprocessing nodes in a parallel environment. The efficiency of the sort product is critical in such heavy-duty processing. When we first began to build our warehouse, our monthly loads of 50 to 70 gigabytes were taking two to three weeks, and we've now cut them down to four or five days. We improved our application and workflow design, but SyncSort was also a major factor. It is one of the best tools we have found to cut down warehouse-related processing time.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: SyncSort does much more than sort. It selects and groups records based on the criteria we define. It inserts, removes and reorders fields, converts data from one format to another and summarizes/aggregates records. All of these functions can be combined in a single application, which includes SyncSort's own report-writing features that provide headers/trailers, sectioning and summing on the section, page and report levels.

STRENGTHS: We value SyncSort for several reasons. First of all, we need SyncSort's speed. Because we are manipulating so much historical data, we can't afford to use a slow sort. We liked the fact that we didn't have to change any default parameters when we decided to use SyncSort instead of the UNIX system sort. SyncSort just plugged right in. We need all of SyncSort's functionality to do our data staging, and we are very impressed with SyncSort's reliability. The UNIX platform, in general, is not as mature as the mainframe, so we need to use components like SyncSort that are rock-solid to get our processing done on time.

WEAKNESSES: We sometimes found that SyncSort installation documentation was vague and caused us to do extra work. SyncSort is now including more timely information on special release notes that are included with its installation tapes.

PRODUCT CHARACTERISTICS: We are impressed with both SyncSort's speed and its flexibility, which allows us to use it on both ends of our warehouse. We pre-process (stage) a lot of data with SyncSort so we can load our warehouse faster, and we use it to sort extracted data. For example, if a group asks us for new customers with a certain education level, we will retrieve the new customer data and then sort it by educational level (and any other required criteria) outside the warehouse with SyncSort before handing the data off for study or further processing.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We have used a mainframe version of SyncSort for many years to process daily transactions, so we know how important fast sorting and data manipulation is to meeting processing deadlines. We carefully investigated the UNIX version of SyncSort and found that it delivers the same speed and efficiency as the mainframe version.

DELIVERABLES: SyncSort delivers data that has been selected, sorted, reformatted and/or aggregated according to our specifications. This data can be loaded into our data warehouse or handed off for various report functions. In both cases, SyncSort helps us cut down our processing time, and it delivers exactly the data we need.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Support is available by phone, e-mail or through the company Web site. Phones are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week by product specialists who have special expertise in sorting and data manipulation applications.

DOCUMENTATION: Syncsort provides a book of sample applications that helps new users learn the product's powerful features quickly and lets migrating users make a fast transition. A full set of reference manuals and on-line help is also included.

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