Decisions On The HP 3000

Third-Party Partners Build A New Image For Image/SQL.

If you were to classify the tools necessary to maintain a data warehouse in anon-native implementation, the categories might be: data extraction tools, middleware/dataaccess tools, reporting/OLAP tools and the actual data warehouse database. The list ofvendors that offer these products is made up of names familiar to long-time HP 3000managers.

A non-native data warehouse must interoperate with multiple databases on multipleplatforms. Even though a company may maintain operational databases stored on the HP 3000,it may opt to place the target data warehouse on a HP-UX-based HP 9000 or Windows NT-basedNetServer. Once the initial data load is accomplished to the target warehouse, maintenanceand incremental loads become a function of data extraction tools or database gateways thatcan work with those specific data sources.

One Track Minds

That's where HP's Channel Partners come in. The first step in populating a non-nativedatabase is getting the data from a HP 3000 database such as Image/SQL to the targetplatform. This process can be accomplished with data extraction tools such as BridgeWarefrom Taurus, ReTarGet from Rankin, Extract from ETI or Suprtool from Robelle Consulting.Platinum Technology, Oracle, Client Systems and Integration Alliance also have productsthat can mine the data from the HP 3000 and target it towards the data warehouse.

Of course, getting the data from the HP 3000 to the target data warehouse is only halfthe job. Making sense of it once it's there is the other half. HP says that over 90% ofdata warehouse queries are multidimensional, using multiple criteria against multiplecolumns.

Data aggregation is usually done with a SUM, COUNT, AVERAGE, MINIMUM or MAXIMUMoperator, then graphically presented to the requestor in a drill-down format. The list ofOLAP/reporting vendors that can do this seems to grow every day. It includes, ArborSoftware, Brio Technology, Cognos, Oracle, Taurus Software, Quest Software, IntegrationAlliance, Mitchell Humphrey, Red Brick Systems, SAS, Speedware and Platinum Technology.

Of course, most IT managers want to simplify their lives by eliminating a layer ofcomplexity anywhere they can, and the same is true of HP 3000 managers. A native datawarehouse adopts the model of working with databases that are on the HP 3000 from whichthere are three to choose: Image/SQL, Allbase and Oracle. Historically it's been common touse Image/SQL as the operational database and Oracle or Allbase as the target datawarehouse.

Vaulty Towers

Image/SQL is well known for its strong OLTP performance. It's long been thought that atrue data warehouse must be relational for ad hoc query capabilities, which is theconventional wisdom that has made the implementation of Image/SQL data warehousesdifficult at best. A recent partnership between HP, DISC, Taurus Software, Quest Softwareand Brio Technology, code named "Decision Vault," is changing that conventionalwisdom by combining to make Image/SQL the target data warehouse database and presentingthe data through graphical end-user tools.

"The traditional ISVs have been the driving force for putting data marts geared totheir customer base on the HP 3000," says Alvina Nishimoto, CSY R & D programmanager at HP. "Mail order catalog customers of Smith-Gardner (Delray Beach, Fla.),for example, have long known the advantages of Image databases. Now they want to be ableto predict buying patterns or design marketing plans directly from that data." Sheadds that it's not just customers that fall into HP's traditional vertical market segmentssuch as banking, mail order and airlines that are taking advantage of Decision Vaultproducts, but, "Home grown customers are building data marts as well."

Decision Vault is a data warehousing technology bundle specifically designed for HP3000 users that want to build a data warehouse in an environment they're familiar with --Image/SQL. Each of the partners provide products and expertise in areas similar to thosenecessary in a non-native implementation.

BridgeWare From Taurus Software & Quest Software

  • Moving data from operational store to data warehouse
  • Data type conversion
  • Data placement
  • Standardization, filtering and cleansing of data
  • Real time data synchronization

Nishimoto explains that data extraction needs to be done in a different format from theoperational database to populate the warehouse. BridgeWare can accomplish not only thetransformation and extraction but it can do it in real-time. She adds that this has provedto be a solid remedy for customers who maintain their main data source on a HP 3000 andtheir supplemental data on another platform, Oracle for instance.

Omnidex from DISC

  • High speed data retrieval
  • ODBC/Web middleware for query optimization
  • Dynamic data aggregation without numerous summary tables
  • Multidimensional analysis
  • Fast index build rate and compressed disk space

The advantage of DISC's Omnidex, according to Nishimoto, is its ability to perform thathigh-speed retrieval without the need for a summary table. She explains that mostcompeting products require first defining an interim summary table to achieve acceptableretrieval performance. "Most data warehouse users are not that sophisticated. Theyprimarily want to do ad hoc queries and pre-defining those summary tables is veryconfining for them."

MEDITATING ON METADATA

Cognos, Inc. (Ottawa, Ontario) is a well-known provider of Business Intelligence software that allows users to cross platforms and databases to gain access to diverse data from diverse sources, including the HP 3000. "Most users want a summarized view of their data with detail provided as necessary," says Colin McAlpin, director of marketing research and strategies at Cognos. "We call that 'Behavioral Decision Flow,' where users can explore their data without thinking about it much. Our job is to serve data up the way people understand it in a business context."

Asked to identify some future trends, McAlpin starts with helping administrators better understand the data they control. "As we've had more success with [presenting data] on the Web, customers are asking for a common metadata layer. Administrators need help with metadata related to the decision stream." That, he explains, includes the data about the data and its associated business rules. Cognos is planning to introduce a metadata product that will integrate with "all the major database players" such that as data elements change in different databases across the enterprise, those changes are automatically reflected in the metadata.

Another area of interest for Cognos is visualization of data once queried. "We want to make the consumption of that data digestible over the Web with business intelligence portals that will also act as a jumping off point to third-party content." Those portals will extend to Cognos Visualizer, a product that McAlpin says will be akin to "a virtual reality idea" for data. It will provide multiple views of a user's business with such things as animations, 3D-column bar charts with watermarks and will allow for the setting of translucent thresholds for presenting that data.

McAlpin also sees a growing interest in building data marts that focus on a specific topic or function within an enterprise. "Our customers want some help building marts and transformation [of data] is the first step." He adds that while most enterprise customers have a fairly good understanding of the value of data warehouses and data staging in an OLAP structure, he sees a trend towards building smaller marts to get started more quickly, "then sharing those dimensions among multiple data marts." He adds that providing sample reports and simple Business Intelligence applications moves the process along quicker.

--K.D.

BrioQuery from Brio Technology

  • GUI client for Business Intelligence for desktops and Web browsers
  • Support for Windows, Macintosh and UNIX desktops
  • Pre-defined data models and reports to build data marts
  • Designed for all levels of users from occasional viewer to IT staff

BrioQuery is one of the more popular GUI front end tools on the market, says Nishimoto.And, because Brio Technology has long maintained a close relationship with Taurus, itsease of use and support for multiple client platforms, it seemed a strong choice forDecision Vault.

Nishimoto says that most ISVs are still very happy with the performance of theirproducts on the HP 3000 platform and with HP's ability to maintain an acceptabletechnological pace with it. Drumming up interest among those ISVs and resellers inDecision Vault has been done primarily through a series of worldwide educational seminarsfirst implemented in the fall of 1998.

While no exact date is forthcoming, she says those seminars should be available to theHP 3000 user community soon.