BACKGROUND: Dixons Stores Group (DSG) specializes in the sale of high technology consumer electronics, personal computers, domestic appliances, photographic equipment, communications products and related financial and after- sales service through its 1000+ Dixons, Currys, PC World and The Link stores in the U.K. and Ireland. Through FreeServe, the company provides the leading Internet service in the United Kingdom. In fiscal 1999, Dixons had revenues of $5.04 billion.

PLATFORMS: The Dixons' Teradata warehouse is comprised of NCR's Teradata relational database and TPump utility software, running on an NCR WorldMark MPP 4700 server in a four-node implementation with an 864+ gigabyte hard disk.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The company wanted to be able to "trickle feed" data into the warehouse from their stores with variable frequency every day. Transfers would be done in small batches throughout the day rather than in one large batch each night. Against this backdrop, the Teradata warehouse had to be available to Dixons' user community throughout any batch data loading exercise, while keeping database locking to a minimum.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Since implementing the TPump software with its Teradata warehouse solution, Dixons has been able to load varying volumes of data into the warehouse, vary the frequency of these data loads both overnight and during the online day ­ while delivering an online service to up to 250 users. TPump allows for frequent updates to Teradata. Other NCR utilities, FastLoad and MultiLoad, can load faster than TPump; however, they demand more extensive locking of the database which could limit the availability of the data to Dixons' users.

STRENGTHS: The users of Dixons' data warehouse will benefit from having today's sales data available today; and there will be minimal impact on the online service provided, both in terms of the load on the machine and the database locking. Because a large percentage of the company's sales information is transferred during the normal working day, support and development staff are typically on site to deal with any problems that may arise. Dixons finds this preferable to the old model in which staff could be called out overnight to resolve problems with limited time to do so before the next online day.

WEAKNESSES: Because TPump works in an entirely linear manner, it is necessary to recognize that it does place a higher demand on the mainframe than loading options such as FastLoad and Insert, Select. We found that when loading high volumes of data, FastLoad was preferred over TPump, because our mainframe was significantly busier than the data warehouse. Users of the loading utilities must also be cautious when using TPump as part of a wider data loading strategy, since TPump (and MultiLoad) handles duplicate keys in a different way than FastLoad and Insert, Select. Early in the project, there was limited TPump expertise, due to the newness of the product, but this has improved over time.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Dixons Stores Group needs to deliver systems that can support a business model that is rapidly moving toward 24x7 operation. TPump has ensured that the company can load and deliver enterprise information in line with these demands. TPump has allowed DSG to populate data into the data warehouse with minimal latency from sale to warehouse. For a limited group of senior managers, this has allowed the company to deliver details of today's sales today. More importantly, it has supported the need for delivery of a more stable, guaranteed service.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Throughout the initial data warehouse project, DSG used NCR Professional Services to shape and guide us through design, development and implementation. Subsequent projects have attempted to use Professional Services in a more expert role, since we had a large amount of skills transfer as part of the first project. On specific subjects, Dixons has used NCR experts to help them better understand particular areas, such as data warehouse project management, BIOS, active data warehousing and return on investment. For TPump specifically, support and documentation were limited initially. We sent staff to a Teradata utilities course, only to discover that it did not include TPump information. Vendor support was adequate, and we understand that the course has been changed to include TPump.

DOCUMENTATION: Adequate documentation is available on the Web site.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Information Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access