"Initially, Symmetry was skeptical," Stanley explains. "'There are probably bigger companies with more robust solutions out there,' they said. So, with that kind of background, they came in, looked at Knosys' proposal, and said, 'Wow. They really do have a compelling product here. For what your group wants to do and the way you want to implement it, it's a very compelling proposition—especially as you move into the future.'"
SQL Server 7.0 Saves Money, Meets Sophisticated Analytical Needs
With the endorsement of Symmetry, the Business Analysis Group decided to move ahead with the SQL Server 7.0 and ProClarity solution, which they are currently rolling out. Knosys has helped the group build the data flow algorithms with the Microsoft Visual Basic development system and SQL Server 7.0's Data Transformation Services. Some of the original data was in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, other flat files, and OLAP exports from other vendors. HP needed some common ground to establish the data flow procedures. Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) and Microsoft Access 97 provided that common ground, and made the data easier to maintain. From Access, the data goes into SQL Server 7.0.
At the highest level, SQL Server 7.0 is expected to deliver significant cost savings in two critical areas. First—as the first database on the market with integrated Data Transformation Services—it will make moving the data from multiple, disparate sources easier than competing solutions. Second, Microsoft's OLAP Services can meet the needs of a sophisticated analytical environment without excessive management overhead.
The OLAP Services include a number of additional features that are attractive to HP. According to Clay Young, Vice President of Marketing for Knosys Inc., the Business Analysis Group was particularly impressed with SQL Server 7.0's hybrid OLAP (HOLAP) capabilities.
"Because of HP's enormous sell-through data volumes, it would take too long to build analytical models with a pure, multidimensional OLAP solution," explains Young. "And pure relational OLAP solutions don't meet the query performance requirements of HP decision-makers. The hybrid architecture of SQL Server 7.0's OLAP Services will enable HP to deal with high data volumes and still deliver fast query response."
Further, HP appreciated SQL Server 7.0's virtual cubes and cube partitioning capabilities. Cubes are databases with multiple dimensions: HP has at least eight OLAP cubes, each of which will support a particular group of decision-makers. Virtual cube capabilities also allow decision-makers to cross-analyze data from all these OLAP sources simultaneously.
Cube partitioning will allow HP to more effectively manage a large number of OLAP cubes and to easily manage differing levels of aggregation and views of time. Additionally, the virtual cube capabilities allow HP to easily derive new business views from the existing cubes, making it considerably easier for the Business Analysis Group to manage its business views. "Basically," Young remarks, "it will give them information about market share, econometrics, demographics, pricing, sell through, and channel activity—all in one view if they desire."
ProClarity Adds Sophisticated Data Visualization Capabilities "Knosys ProClarity provides HP decision-makers with the key to analyzing masses of data," explains Young. "It gives them previously unavailable data visualization techniques as well as easy-to-use, full Web-enabled analysis capabilities." ProClarity is fully integrated with Microsoft products, and its PC-based client is modeled after Internet Explorer 4.0. "This is because analyzing business data is a lot like trying to find information on the Web," he adds.
ProClarity's powerful analytical features, which take full advantage of the robust capabilities found in SQL Server 7.0's OLAP Services, help knowledge workers understand complex data. The software's state-of-the-art data visualization tools enable workers to quickly see patterns, trends, and exception—even in complex environments such as HP's, where they must analyze hundreds of products across thousands of reseller partners.
Finally, HP needed a solution that required minimal training and support. ProClarity's ease of use and deployment were key