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Transformation Server Provides Critical Real-Time Replication for Barnes & Noble

Published
  • July 01 1999, 1:00am EDT

BACKGROUND: With 1998 sales of over $3.0 billion, Barnes & Noble is the number one bookseller in the United States. The company operates more than 1,000 stores, including more than 480 superstores and 550 mall stores, as well a high profile direct-mail business and an Internet Web site at www.barnesandnoble.com.

PLATFORMS: The primary data repository for the distribution center is an IBM AS/400.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The Barnes & Noble distribution center, located in Jamesburg, New Jersey, replenishes books sold at all retail stores and fills Web site orders. Individual store locations access the distribution center's databases to search for and order book titles. In addition, inventory planners constantly access the databases to analyze inventory movement and trends in order to best anticipate replenishment needs. Although the AS/400 is a powerful platform for data warehousing, many of our users were asking for tools to make query and analysis more convenient. We felt we could better serve our users and increase productivity through an efficient client/server SQL environment with a GUI.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The large size of the databases and great number of daily transactions presented a challenge: How could we keep the NT-based Microsoft SQL Server databases synchronized in real time with the AS/400? We needed a fast, reliable, easy-to-use solution for replicating data between the two platforms that would require low transaction processing overhead on both the AS/400 and NT servers. We selected DataMirror Transformation Server to provide continuous data synchronization and cross-platform data transformation.

STRENGTHS: We have tables ranging in size from as few as 476 rows to one that is 331 million rows by 132 columns. These tables are constantly replicated. With an estimated 10 million transactions per day, reliability and speed are both vitally important. We needed a replication architecture that could work day in and day out with minimal monitoring. DataMirror proved it could fill this need and meet our benchmarks.

WEAKNESSES: One small weakness we found with the product was that it lacks a graphical user interface on the AS/400 side. We understand that future releases of Transformation Server available in 1999 will provide an optional Java-based GUI for the AS/400 to make setup and administration even easier.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Using Transformation Server, the Barnes & Noble distribution center replicates selected tables on the AS/400 to a network of Windows NT-based SQL servers. While the initial system uses three SQL servers, the company plans to upgrade to six. Retail stores can interrogate inventory and place orders through dial-up and shared server links to the NT machines, taking advantage of the powerful SQL tools and easy-to-use graphical user interface.

DELIVERABLES: The 20 tables currently being replicated average 10 million transactions a day. In fact, since Barnes & Noble implemented the system in July 1997, one table alone has had 1.24 billion transactions. The system sees heavy client usage. Users now query the databases about one thousand times a day. Even with this activity, Transformation Server constantly replicates approximately 7,000 rows per minute. Our users are constantly requesting additional data to be replicated to the NT environment for decision support. Transformation Server has enabled a real-time inventory and business intelligence solution.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We initially zeroed in on DataMirror due to the company's responsiveness and knowledge of both the AS/400 and NT platforms. Since using the product, we have found the support to be top notch and have found the product as reliable and effective as we had hoped.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation provided was useful for our needs.

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