REVIEWERS: Scott Todd, lead data architect, and Gerald Norman, consultant, for Thazar Solutions Corporation.

BACKGROUND: Thazar Solutions Corporation is a leading provider of business intelligence solutions and analytic applications to property and casualty insurers. Thazar's INSsight Business Intelligence Suite is the industry's first low-cost, low-risk integrated business intelligence environment. INSsight enables insurance executives to effectively monitor and analyze their core business operations and make timely, informed business decisions. INSsight includes Thazar's proven data model and data mapping templates to bring legacy and transactional data together into a single, predefined data warehouse for use with Thazar's advanced analytic applications.

PLATFORMS: Data Junction and the Data Junction Integration Engine are running on Windows NT Server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: In order to populate its warehouse, Thazar needed to integrate data from many disparate legacy and current transactional systems. Data in a variety of formats including flat files, DB2, Oracle, Informix and Excel had to be brought into one database for analysis. Data Junction and the Integration Engine swiftly populate the warehouse as well as extract data to build and populate Thazar's data marts. More than a gigabyte of data is integrated daily through Data Junction. Recently, Thazar moved from a system that involved the customization of its warehouse for each client to a standardized warehouse model. A process was designed that enables clients or business analysts to map data to a database template using whatever database platform they are comfortable with and then use data objects (in this case ActiveX) to write to XML. Thazar gains a substantial advantage by providing clients with a user-friendly interface and simple mapping steps while shielding them from the complexities of the system's processing such as key generation, validation, XML and multiple record layouts. With the help of Data Junction, this innovative new system has enabled Thazar to focus on its core competency of back-end business intelligence while providing a more customer-friendly front end to our clients.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Data Junction enables programmers and analysts to quickly create conversions, saving Thazar weeks of programming time. Using features such as extensive connectivity options, XML support, ActiveX support and robust Oracle support has facilitated rapid integration using a variety of options ­ direct path, multitarget and SQL Loader. The event handling subsystem within Data Junction allows added flexibility and functionality with increased performance. The ability to extend the product by using ActiveX to incorporate complex business requirements and processing as part of the transformation process has been important to the development of our warehouse system because it provides the capability to standardize procedures and distribute the processes across multiple servers.

STRENGTHS: Data Junction is easy to use and offers connectivity to a wide range of data applications and formats. Also, the ease with which you can extend the functionality of Data Junction has enabled us to further develop our warehouse processes and business model. Other strengths important to Thazar are Data Junction's support of XML and the ability through the Integration Engine COM Interface to stamp custom versions for each of our clients, including template platforms and connection information.

WEAKNESSES: It would be helpful if we could call stored procedures directly. We have to write a wrapper to call those procedures, which is an extra step that we could do without.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Data Junction was initially chosen because it is very simple to use and yet offers a lot of functionality. We needed an integration tool that could help us get up and running quickly. The fact that Data Junction could handle complex data transformation using a wide range of connectivity and development options was also important.

DELIVERABLES: Data Junction is used to automatically populate and refresh Thazar's data warehouse, data marts and aggregate tables for critical business intelligence. With Data Junction, we have been able to develop a processing system that is more customer friendly for our clients as well as more efficient internally.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Overall, it's been pretty good. An advantage for Thazar IT staff has been working with a consultant who is knowledgeable in the product. However, whenever staff has had to call tech support, our issues have been addressed promptly.

DOCUMENTATION: It would be nice to see more documentation on how to use the complex features of Data Junction as well as how to extend the core functionality of the products with ActiveX, Java and other development tools.

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