IBM Teraplex: How to Reduce Technical Risk and Speed ROI\Data Warehouse Expert Advocates Testing Before Buying

Winter Report Challenges Vendors to Prove IT Delivers On Promise of Business Intelligence

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WALTHAM, Mass - 27 Jul 1999: -- Now more than ever companies need to test data warehouses early in the planning stage to ensure success, according to Richard Winter, president of Winter Corp.

In a recently published white paper, Winter and co-author Judith R. Davis outlined how to avoid the pitfalls of building data warehouses exceeding one trillion bytes of data, the fastest growing part of the market. Because data warehouses of this size require a large outlay of capital for hardware, software and services, Winter recommends businesses first conduct large-scale tests on a simulated system using real data. This approach yields three main benefits:

- Reduce technical and financial risk
-- Realize business results sooner through faster implementation of large-scale business intelligence solutions

- Gain valuable business intelligence skills and knowledge

"Nothing reduces risk like large-scale proof-of-concept testing,'' said Winter. "A proof-of-concept lets a company know the outcome of a ''what-if`` scenario.''

For example, what-if after six months the data warehouse becomes so popular with the decision-makers within a company that it has to support twice as many queries a day, or if the data warehouse incorporates data from a Web site where spikes in demand can vary by millions of visitors a day.

"These tests are particularly essential given the frequency of mega-mergers as well, which thrusts many data warehouses into extremely rapid and unpredictable growth,'' said Winter.

Winter cites IBM and its Teraplex Integration Centers as being in the forefront of providing the service to answer what-if scenarios before customers commit a single dollar.

"The IBM Teraplex Centers are the ideal testing grounds for massive systems as the centers offer hardware, software, and teams of data warehouse experts--all free of charge,'' said Winter.

A typical test at the Teraplex can take from four weeks to several months. In the first phase, the Teraplex staff works with the IBM customer to identify success criteria and realistic goals, and to write a step-by-step plan. Execution involves setting up he hardware and software, creating and loading the customer's real data, creating the test scenarios and doing the actual tests, which might include generating queries and simulating user workloads. Then the system is reconfigured and tested again to optimize the settings.

Representing a $63 million investment by IBM, the Teraplex Centers are open to IBM's customers and business partners to test IBM and non-IBM applications and products. There is a center for each IBM platform - one each for S/390 and RS/6000, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; one for AS/400, in Rochester, Minn; and one for Netfinity, in Raleigh, N.C.

The Teraplex Centers proved to be instrumental in proof-of-concept testing for IBM customers, such as Sears, Aetna U.S. Healthcare and AutoZone, as well as for business partners: MicroStrategy, Coglin Mill and Platinum technology inc.
Aetna, for example, used the Teraplex to test the performance and scalability of its RS/6000 data warehouse, which was expected to grow 15-fold, reaching more than 3 terabytes of data in the next years.

Without such a facility, customers have historically relied on less certain options:

-- buying and installing a test system months in advance of implementation
-- conducting a proof-of-concept on a smaller configuration in hopes that the results can be extrapolated
-- finding a reference site that has implemented a similar configuration

- foregoing any testing

All of these alternatives leave a company uncertain and open to failure, according to Winter.

"The major technical challenges involved are those inherent in managing very large databases (VLDB) of a terabyte or more, and integrating complex components into a cohesive business solution,'' said Winter, a leading authority on VLDB. "Building large systems is analogous to building a skyscraper. The design may work perfectly until it reaches 25 stories, at which point higher winds and other unforeseen events may challenge its structural integrity.

"We call it 'large systems phenomena.' Technical problems that happen at a large scale don't necessarily arise when you're working with a smaller system,'' he added.

Data warehouses combine server and storage hardware, database software and analysis tools to function as central collection points for information on a company's customers, products and all the transactions in between. Demand for data warehouses is being driven by marketers, salespeople, financial analysts and customer service managers across all industries as they prize the results of analysis, or `mining,' performed on the data in the warehouse. These results offer what has come to be known as business intelligence, revealing hidden clues on what products and services to sell, to whom, how, and when.

Founded in 1992 by Richard Winter, a specialist in database technology, Winter Corporation is a leading center of expertise focused on databases at, near and beyond the frontiers of scalabililty. Winter Corporation provides consulting, education and research services to leading database users and vendors. Consulting services include advice and techniques to help users plan, design and manage the implementation of large-scale data warehouses. The company also conducts, and publishes research reports based on, its annual Winter Scalability Survey (previously known as the Winter VLDB Survey) which maps the scalability frontier and provides the industry's most authoritative source of information on products and practices at the frontier.

To download the white paper, visit: whitepaper.pdf

For more information on Winter Corporation, visit

Additional information about IBM business intelligence solutions and the Teraplex Integration Centers can be found at

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