BACKGROUND: Both Synectics Solutions and J.D. Williams are part of parent company M. Brown. J.D. Williams is a trading and mail order company, the fifth largest in the United Kingdom (U.K.), with approximately $700 million in annual sales. Synectics Solutions is a rapidly growing database service bureau based in the U.K. The roster of clients for which Synectics manages complex databases includes motor vehicle manufacturer Rover BMW, J.D. Williams Co. and the U.K. Audit Commission (for a fraud application). Clients such as these require complex and innovative uses of the kind of processing, analytical and predictive applications that a Teradata Warehouse can easily handle in an NT environment.
PLATFORMS: NCR's Teradata for Windows NT parallel relational database running on a NCR four-node WorldMark 4800 MPP (massively parallel processing) server, configured with 16 Xeon processors, with a 500 GB LSI Logic RAID 5 disk array.
PROBLEM SOLVED: As a long-time Teradata user, Synectics' client, J.D. Williams, believed that the move to an NT-based platform would better fit with their future plans and direction. Those plans included using their Teradata Warehouse for executing marketing campaigns that target unique niches including those have special sizing requirements (garments, shoes, etc.) and older segments that other companies fail to address.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Since Teradata for NT has been installed, Synectics has had no downtime. A key requirement for the new Teradata Warehouse was a very high level of reliability and serviceability because J.D. Williams' systems run 24x7 and must be available to query at any time. In moving from a UNIX to an NT platform, we believed that there was a risk that system reliability might not be as good. However, in practice, we found that the NT platform met or exceeded the performance of the equivalent UNIX platform.
STRENGTHS: The ease of use of Teradata on NT and the minimal requirements for expensive DBA skills benefit both Synectics and its customers. Additionally, an important factor was the speed with which Teradata can process and perform complex analyses for the large volumes of data that J.D. Williams has.
WEAKNESSES: The MPP technology is currently not available on non-NCR hardware. When it becomes available, it will give our customers freedom of choice when making their hardware decisions.
SELECTION CRITERIA: With the NT version of Teradata, Synectics is able to start with a small application and scale upward dramatically as our customers' needs inevitably grow. Because we have enjoyed a good and successful working relationship with NCR for the past seven years, we have acquired extensive experience with Teradata and its lower database administrator (DBA) requirements. Teradata's minimal DBA requirements were a key factor in our selection. The reason that NT is important is because it is already 64-bit capable, allowing us to ride the Intel technology wave without having to change operating systems.
DELIVERABLES: The new Teradata Warehouse helps Synectics serve its customers better than competitors, and it does this by providing unique reports and analyses. Running on NT, our Teradata warehouse enables us to provide matching reports for fraud investigations, as well as complex decision support analyses for a pilot customer relationship management program for Rover Group. In particular for J.D. Williams, we have been able to develop, implement and support a complex mailing extract system. We are also able to manage inventory to a much higher degree than we ever could before. Currently, we are working with a large U.K.-based retailer to help this company analyze the success of their direct marketing campaigns. Teradata on NT has been instrumental as a prototyping environment for these types of projects, as well as being an outstanding production system.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Because of Synectics' expertise in running large databases, when the NCR Teradata Warehouse arrived, we were able to bring in and have it work right away. However, on the software side, we have had occasion to use NCR's Services professionals, who responded rapidly to our requests. NCR's help and guidance throughout the beta testing phase and roll out of the NT-based Teradata system was exemplary. On the rare occasions when there was a problem, we were able to download fixes in real time.
DOCUMENTATION: The print, video and online materials available from NCR are numerous and excellent. Although these are for a truly industrial-strength product, the documentation is relatively easy to understand.
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