REVIEWER: Garry Musgrave, e-business development manager for T&F Informa Telecoms and Media Division.
BACKGROUND: T&F Informa originates and delivers business and industry information in nearly 1,500 electronic and print publications that are read in more than 180 countries. In academic markets, it releases more than 760 journals and 1,800 books each year. It also organizes annually approximately 3,000 conferences, exhibitions and seminars worldwide. Its topic content ranges from humanities and social science subjects to finance and the law; from maritime affairs to commodities; and from telecommunications to science, technology and medicine.
PLATFORMS: Desktop development: Windows XP. Server: Custom-built Intel XEON 3.06GHz 1GB RAM running RedHat Enterprise Linux ES, Apache HTTP server.
PROBLEM SOLVED: One of the products sold by the Telecoms and Media division is the Broadband Subscribers Database (BSD), sold under the Baskerville brand, which is a database of global subscriber and national statistics for 160 broadband networks in 45 countries. In late 2003, the BSD was an Excel-based product consisting of 15 linked spreadsheets that were e-mailed to subscribers fortnightly. This spreadsheet delivery caused problems for both Informa and its customers as the overhead of maintaining the spreadsheets was increasing as more countries and networks were added. Also, adding summary views required a considerable amount of time, and only one person could enter data at a time, causing us to redeploy a member of the editorial staff to maintain the spreadsheets. For subscribers, the number of spreadsheets proved to be daunting, causing one major client to cancel their subscription as they could not work with the delivery. The eBusiness team was charged with getting the BSD online in early 2004. Having worked with OLAP solutions in the past, I quickly identified this as the best way to move forward. Once we had selected Databeacon as the delivery tool for Web reporting and analysis, we put an Oracle database in place to hold the data, built browser-based input tools for staff to enter data and migrated the Excel data into the Oracle database. Once the data was in Oracle, creating the OLAP interface with Databeacon and getting it online took less than two days of work.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Databeacon has been well-received by both internal staff and clients. The efficiency of Databeacon's cube builder still astounds us. For one application, we process Web server logs with more than 500,000 lines per day. From hundreds of megabytes of raw data, the resulting cube from many months of log data is only a few megabytes.
STRENGTHS: One of Databeacon's key strengths is the intuitive nature of the interface. We switched to online delivery without needing to offer any training to users. With clean data, we can have a cube up and running within minutes. In addition to the BSD project, we regularly build cubes for data investigations and one-off analyses. We have also implemented a cube for reporting on departmental timesheets, which has simplified the reporting process. Additionally, we have built a reporting system for our accounts team to use for sales analysis reporting - again, replacing labor-intensive Excel work and making reports available to everyone. The ability to control which Databeacon features end users can see allows for multiple pricing levels all from the same cube. Adding a new tier of access is as simple as changing a configuration text file.
WEAKNESSES: The applet delivery has been rejected by some clients due to their restrictive IT security policies. For these clients, we have maintained an Excel delivery by simply exporting data from Databeacon using its Excel links.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Very few OLAP solutions offer online delivery. We did consider Pilot's BusinessAnalyzer, but the per user pricing model was prohibitively expensive. Databeacon is licensed by server CPU.
DELIVERABLES: Databeacon's Web interface gives predefined reports, charting and data export to Excel out of the box. Since we introduced the Databeacon-based delivery model, record numbers of new subscriptions have been sold. The extra revenue generated has more than covered the cost of initial investment - faster than we could have hoped.
VENDOR SUPPORT: The UK reseller, Matraxis, was extremely helpful from the sales process through the present. Their flexibility and product knowledge, in addition to their links to key people at Databeacon, have made the implementation painless.
DOCUMENTATION: The documentation supplied is okay. We benefited greatly from a developer training session provided by Matraxis and their ongoing support. However, with previous OLAP knowledge, I was able to build sample cubes with no training.
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