REVIEWER: Kishor Patel, CTO of Cambridge Scientific Abstracts.
BACKGROUND: Cambridge Information Group (CIG) is an online publisher of bibliographic databases and print journals for more than 4,000 research institutions in more than 30 countries worldwide. Cambridge Scientific Abstracts (CSA) is a division of CIG.
PLATFORMS: Dual 2.4 GHz Dell PowerEdge 2650, 4GB of RAM, Windows 2000 Server SP3.
PROBLEM SOLVED: CSA's main problem was Customer Usage System maintenance, as we were dealing with more than 60 million queries per year to our online abstract and database service. We wanted to understand historical customer usage patterns in order to identify cross-sell and up-sell marketing opportunities; however, doing so required a cost-effective means to access and analyze Web application log data. In order to comprehensively analyze customer behavior, CSA needed to have more than 230 million rows of data available for standard and ad hoc queries. Processing time for existing cubes extended in excess of eight hours, requiring two production machines (Intel P3 servers, one of which had two processors) in order to have at least one live machine while the other was updating cubes. Adding new reports to the system each time a new cube had to be modified or created was resource intensive. Additional time was required for the cube-generation process, as well as the time required to develop Web pages to query those cubes.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Clareos CrossCut provided a scalable analytical platform which addressed each of CSA's requirements to deliver static information to their external customers while providing internal analysts with the ability to quickly develop ad hoc reports. Clareos CrossCut's XML API enabled developers to very quickly build a custom interface that matched the existing client-facing portal, resulting in a seamless integration with the CrossCut back-end engine. Data load and new report creation resulted in significant time savings. Both functions created substantial efficiencies that resulted in significant ROI.
STRENGTHS: Using CrossCut, fast data load times were reduced from 10-12 hours to 2-3 hours. The product has an impressive ratio of query response time relative to size of the database, including the capability to retrieve the details of the aggregated reports quickly. Additionally, CrossCut substantially reduced time to create reports as new requirements were identified.
WEAKNESSES: Documentation was only available electronically; and at the time of installation, education material was not complete.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Competing products were viewed as significantly more expensive due to purchase price, system development and ongoing maintenance. In a prototype environment, the following criteria were used: data load times must be significantly reduced, time to reporting for new reporting requests must be reduced and query response time should not decrease linearly as size of the database increases.
DELIVERABLES: CSA established the following criteria for their new system: all transactional integrity must be preserved (i.e., no summarization/pre-aggregation), the front- end client-facing portal must match the current portal, and query response times must be aligned with the current system.
VENDOR SUPPORT: We were very happy with the assistance we received from Clareos during the implementation phase of the project.
DOCUMENTATION: The electronic documentation is laid out to target the user groups effectively. For end users, it is understandable from a usage perspective; and the reference style manual supplied was complete for administration/programmers.
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