The power of real-time information

Thursday, 21 October 2010 03:30 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Sajid Akbar

Everyone knows the importance of real-time access to real-time information. Organisations that are integrating data from disparate sources and distributing it in real time have found that they can cut costs, reduce risk and improve business insight at the same time.

With more organisations operating around the clock in multiple locations and time zones, the need for real-time information is imperative. Data must be continuously available for transactional processing by mission-critical systems and to support business intelligence activities. It must also be accessible across the enterprise, anywhere in the world.

As most business activities today are transaction-based — whether making purchases, paying bills, updating account information or managing patient records within hospital networks — end users are demanding the right to access, analyse, act on, integrate, store, and verify transactional data, often in real time and without system interruption or downtime.

The number one challenge facing organisations that want to provide real-time access to real-time data is integrating an ever growing amount of information from heterogeneous enterprise IT environments. This must be done while ensuring no service interruptions or performance degradation to critical business applications. Data integrity must also be assured as information is moved between systems.

High performance data integration

Many organisations are wary of data integration projects, believing they involve data migrations that are complicated, expensive, and likely to impact day-to-day operations. However, data integration and replication solutions exist that facilitate the capture, routing, transformation, and delivery of transactional data between heterogeneous databases in real time with minimal overhead. Best of all, the benefits of data integration can be felt almost immediately.

Take Hyundai Securities as an example. To ensure its systems could utilise information from a range of sources, the investment bank implemented a data integration solution that captures and updates critical information as changes occur without impacting on the source system or network performance. This provides continuous data synchronisation across heterogeneous environments and enables real-time updates.

For Hyundai Securities, this means transactions are based on consistent information even if they take place between different systems. Transactions are completed faster, more efficiently, and with minimal wait time for customers. The bank can now process over 5,000 transactions per second, more than five times the number it could complete previously.

India’s largest department store chain, Shoppers Stop, has also benefitted from faster data refreshes. The company uses a data integration tool to load information about customer buying patterns and store sales performance from multiple enterprise resource planning systems into its data warehouse.

This reduced the time it took to refresh data in the data warehouse from half a day to one hour, which ensured managers received timely sales, inventory, and loyalty program data. As a result, they can better analyse which products are selling through stores and maintain optimum inventory levels.

Accurate customer views

The ability to access integrated data to build an accurate customer profile will help organisations tailor their offerings and increase sales opportunities. For instance, a better understanding of customer groups has made it easier for Hyundai Securities to undertake targeted marketing. This can help improve campaign response rates and potentially deliver greater revenue to the securities firm.

Similarly, Shoppers Stop can analyse customer buying behaviour, which helps managers develop marketing campaigns that meet the requirements of specific customer segments based on their purchasing history.

Ensuring compliance and data security

Data integration solutions can help organisations that operate in multiple locations to capture and distribute information from a central database. The Bombay Stock Exchange deployed a data integration and replication tool to synchronise and integrate data across mixed environments, avoiding the need for expensive data migration. Transactional data is captured from its core system, delivered to multiple target databases at several locations, and made available online for analysis.

This allowed the stock exchange to meet regulations set out by the Securities and Exchange Board of India that required daily stock transactions to be monitored online in real time. In addition, transactional data was replicated at a disaster recovery site to eliminate downtime caused by planned and unplanned outages and adhere to regulatory guidelines around data security.

Lower total cost of ownership

Because data integration solutions support the legacy databases of heterogeneous systems and integrate information from these systems in real time, organisations can avoid the need for costly data migration activities, as Hyundai Securities found. Its solution also reduced the administrative burden on the firm’s staff by eliminating manual transactions. As a result, it has reduced total cost of ownership while increasing the availability and timeliness of information.

Real-time data is a necessity not a luxury for today’s growing businesses. A data integration solution that use unique log-based change data capture and replication technology that enable the capture, routing, transformation and delivery of transactional data between multiple databases in real time can be deployed quickly, cost-effectively and with minimal impact on the business.

(Sajid Akbar is Country Sales Manager – Oracle Fusion Middleware Business – Pakistan & Sage West.)