REVIEWER: John Shafer, e-business application developer for Levolor.
BACKGROUND: Founded in 1914, Levolor set the standard in window fashions, design innovation, product quality and customer satisfaction. Offering cordless custom blinds, Levolor continues to pioneer window décor and remains the most recognized name in the industry. The company, headquartered in High Point, North Carolina., is a division of Newell-Rubbermaid, a powerful brand family including Sharpie, Paper Mate and Rubbermaid.
PLATFORMS: Red Hat Enterprise Linux Guest running on a VMware Host. The Talend application is backed by a MySQL database and is connecting many systems comprised of databases, flat-files, XML and others.
PROBLEM SOLVED: Before I joined Levolor, all data integration/ETL processes were homegrown. Only one or two people coded the applications, which meant that coding information and knowledge of many related business processes were limited to those people. This created risk and other problems once the people left the company. At the source code level, its difficult to pick up where another person left off in troubleshooting a job and understanding why code has been written a certain way. At Levolor, we wanted a tool like Talend to move to a standard package to develop these jobs that could be reused over time.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: First, Talend integrates data for product orders from various reseller partners, for customers visiting the Web site, and for other retail systems. Talend supports inbound information flows, which run 24 to 7, while shipment information and status details are communicated in response. Talend integrates those data flows to help Levolor reliably process all the information. Second, Talend helps integrate data needed for third-party reporting, such as when Levolor compiles information from different sources about a product and the type of customers who bought it.
STRENGTHS: Ease of use: Talend simplified data integration while still enabling us to write source code for complicated data integration processes. About 80 to 90 percent is object-based, which makes it easy to look at the job and see whats going on without digging through source code. Dashboarding: It lets us easily monitor data integration jobs. Were no longer dependent on one developer if he or she is out that day. Were bringing in orders around the clock, so opening this process to more than a few developers is a blessing. Metrics: Its easy to see that "this job ran" or "this number of rows moved" or "we had this number of errors." Before, we had to dig through the log files. Now, it takes minutes instead of hours.
WEAKNESSES: A weakness is comprehensive documentation on the components and how theyre used. Sometimes a developer is limited to trial and error to determine how a particular component works. This can require extra time.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We decided against Business Objects because of high costs. We also evaluated Pentaho and Jitterbit. We found Talend through a Google search and followed up by reviewing Forrester Research reports on open source. Talends graphical user interface was attractive and allowed us to generate source code for complicated processes. Jitterbit wouldnt allow that - they were drag and drop only. The ability to freely download and try Talend Open Studio before purchasing Talend Integration Suite also helped.
DELIVERABLES: The biggest saving in adopting Talend is that our high-cost developers can focus on tasks other than data integration and support. Our next step after all jobs are migrated into Talend is to expand the dashboard and maintenance tasks to include entry-level IT analysts. That will free up time for our developers to focus on more important opportunities than general ETL maintenance tasks. Were anticipating saving 25 percent in support time each year by using Talend. Other packages we looked at from traditional ETL suppliers cost approximately $230,000 plus support. Talend provided an obvious and significant cost saving to Levolor.
VENDOR SUPPORT: For presupport, Levolor had a technical expert from Talend onsite for a week to do system setup, perform training and support a preliminary proof of concept. Postsupport, the Talend team has been very responsive. Equally important is the availability of community-based support with the forum and the bug tracker. Responses in both areas usually take just a few hours. Overall, Talends product works well. The responsiveness and openness of the Talend sales teams, development and support groups has been very impressive and key to making our implementation a success.
DOCUMENTATION: Documentation is one area that could be improved. However, the Talend environment allows a new user to work through development tasks with an intuitive and consistent user interface. The forum provides practical examples and real-world scenarios that shorten the learning curve.
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