Enterworks Breaks Down DB Walls

With AS/400s increasingly being used in multiplatform environments, while mergers and acquisitions further muddy the waters of IS departments, companies often need to combine data from different sources for reporting and analysis.

That’s where products like Enterworks’ (formerly Enterworks.com) Virtual DB come in. Virtual DB is a data transformation engine that provides a unified and complete view of enterprise data across multiple platforms, databases and formats. Its latest version, 2.3, can transform disparate data from more than 70 different data sources, including DB2/400. It runs natively on AIX, Solaris and HP-UX with a Windows NT version planned by the end of the year.

"The environment where we are particularly strong is where you have four or five different database systems," says Robert Lewis, president of Ashburn, Va.-based Enterworks. "We pull together the data and leverage the value out of it. That’s where we play. If you just have two or three [Microsoft] Access databases, we’re the wrong thing for you."

Telos Corp., Enterworks' corporate parent, uses Virtual DB with its AS/400 in running its own business. The company handles its accounts payable across two platforms, the AS/400 and HP 9000. Virtual DB combines that data and runs aggregate reports from it. Telos also uses Virtual DB to migrate return shipment and warranty information from its AS/400 to a Sybase database on the HP 9000 for querying and reporting. In the future, Telos, plans to use Virtual DB as a data migration and cleansing tool for a new EIS system that will run on either its AS/400, HP 9000 or a new system altogether, explains J. Greg Hanson, chief technology officer at Telos.

"The value of Virtual DB is that it allows you to play the data wherever it lies," he says. "You can attach to just about anything. You pull it up and build a metacatalog so your business rules use whatever file you want without undermining your database." Lewis also points out that Virtual DB can be used to share data among different companies along the value chain via the Internet. "Customers, retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers can combine or share information, but only the parts they want to, while shielding the rest of the information," he notes.

Ed Acly, director of middleware research at International Data Corp. (Framingham, Mass.), says Virtual DB offers two "high-level value propositions" -- simplified access to business information and real-time access to data without having to set up supporting files for a data warehouse.

"It fits with an overall trend in getting to data -- simplifying the process as much as possible. A product like this alleviates that burden," he says.