Data warehouse, sweet data warehouse

A company more familiar with helping others build houses is getting help to build one of its own.

The Home Depot has chosen IBM to build a data warehouse that

will capitalize on information from more than one billion transactions a year. According to director of strategy for IBM’s data management division Jeff Jones, a pair of p-6900 servers (also known as Regatta) running AIX and version 7.2 of DB2 will host the data. He adds 7.2 was developed and is supported in one of IBM’s Toronto software labs.

Kevin Murphy, vice-president of information management for the Atlanta-based company, says the goal is to drive sales and increase customer satisfaction.

“”You might not expect to hear that from an IT person, but that’s exactly what we’re doing. Make no mistake about it; we’re not building it for ourselves, we’re building it to build the business,”” Murphy says. “”We think we can really accomplish that with things like better assortment planning — understanding what assortments in our store are really what our customers want — and understanding our customers, too.””

Murphy says his experience building enterprise data warehouses has allowed him to check out much of the available technology. The Regatta series, he says, leads the competition and IBM has a very good mix of symmetric multi-processing and massively parallel processing technology.

Jones says The Home Depot’s software partner choices also played a role. “”We know they have applications from PeopleSoft and SAP and i2 to run various parts of their business,”” Jones says. “”Integrating data from across those application types looked like it was going to be less challenging if they went with DB2. Our openness with these partners helped us in this case immensely.””

Easier than selecting a vendor was convincing senior execs the warehouse was needed. Murphy says a formal return on investment proposal was never put together because everyone involved understood the benefits.

Four areas will be integrated over the course of the project: human resources, merchandising, finance and operations.

“”We will deliver our first business capability at the end of November, focused first on delivering dashboards and metrics for human resources. We have 300,000 associates, so management of our workforce is very important to us,”” Murphy says. The number of employees is rising, however, as the company opens a new store about every 43 hours.

“”The next cut of the warehouse will be sales information and we’ll be putting information from our point-of-sale registers and special services desk in a new real-time fashion into this enterprise warehouse.””

When the install is complete it should have a 60 terabytes of direct access storage device, with about 15 terabytes devoted to the warehouse. Jones says this used to be enormous, but is now considered to be simply big. Murphy says it should last a little more than a year before it needs to expand.

“”People get very creative when you start to produce this capability and I’ve seen these type of things mushroom. We do over a billion transactions a year in our stores and we’re going to bringing that transaction-level information into that warehouse,”” he says.

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