PLATFORMS: The Workbench runs on a Compaq Pentium Workstation with 64MB RAM and 200MHz with Windows NT and LAN connection. The source systems are SAP R/3 based on Windows NT and the IBM MVS host, connected to the LAN via third-party middleware. The target Oracle database is based on HP 9000. The development and monitoring of transitions will then be done on several LAN Windows 95 workstations.

BACKGROUND: British- American Tobacco (Holdings) Ltd. is one of the world´s largest suppliers of tobacco products. With its 240 brands British- American Tobacco has a market share of about 13 percent worldwide and is one of the leading German tobacco manufacturers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The Info Warehouse project had been set up in order to migrate several host-based analysis tools to client/server technology. The pilot project started in September 1997. Since then we have installed an Info Warehouse containing different kinds of market-related data. The first part of the system has been in productive use since January 2, 1998. One main project target has been to set up a stable data loading mechanism that secures integrated and consistent data in the Info Warehouse. For this task we have chosen the Warehouse Workbench of systemfabrik GmbH.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The project team developed a solution that processes approximately 250,000 records (25MB) daily from SAP R/3 and host- based systems. In the Warehouse Workbench's transition process the original records are checked, transferred and aggregated to the Oracle Info Warehouse. This Info Warehouse is used as an archive as well as for keeping aggregated data in a star schema. Together with the daily transitions from the OLTP systems, a set of transitions for external data has been implemented. This data is validated, duplicated and partly translated from EBCDIC to ASCII before it is inserted into the Info Warehouse using the Workbench.

STRENGTHS: We decided to use this new tool because it does not contain any middleware or connectivity that we will not use in the future. It is committed to pure client/server computing. The system requirements are quite low as is the overall installation cost. We found the Warehouse Workbench to be reliable and easy to use. The development of data transitions stored in the Oracle database repository makes additional programming of interface programs redundant. The development process offers great benefits with its on-line modeling interface. This allows on-line checking of the results when defining a new data transition. The transition rules can be adapted for future performance requirements by executing parallel transitions using multiple loading engines. The main strengths of the Warehouse Workbench are that it uses native database SQL, has its own repository and is easily scalable for the processing of bigger files or tables with its data-slicing mechanism. We found it useful that almost nothing had to be hand coded. The data transition process allows us to have a consistent Info Warehouse due to its built-in rollback mechanisms. We appreciate the latest news from systemfabrik concerning the possibility of having SAP R/3 as a data source although we have implemented our solution without this feature. [SAP R/3 Connector now shipping.]

WEAKNESSES: The scheduling mechanism is not as flexible as it could be. An integration to external scheduling and monitoring tools is desired. Furthermore there should be more flexibility in the definition of dependencies between different loading sessions.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The main work during the first phase was done by systemfabrik consultants who delivered a stable system. Bug-fixes were installed quickly. systemfabrik has proved to be a reliable partner.

DOCUMENTATION: The product is well documented and easy to learn.

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