Tuesday, August 07, 2007

HP Data Warehouse at Wal-Mart

Intelligent Enterprise reports that "Wal-Mart, a data warehousing pioneer, is showing that it's not afraid to take a gamble if there's more business insight to be gleaned from the 800 million transactions generated by its 30 million customers each day.

"The $345 billion-a-year retailer revealed last week that it's one of the earliest customers of Hewlett-Packard's new Neoview data warehousing system. That Wal-Mart would choose Neoview was unexpected, though not entirely surprising. Unexpected because Neoview is new and unproven, formally introduced just three months ago, and because Wal-Mart is heavily invested in Teradata's data warehousing platform. But it's not surprising because HP CEO Mark Hurd, who once headed Teradata, and HP CIO Randy Mott, who once ran Wal-Mart's IT organization, have firsthand knowledge of the retailer's data warehousing environment and almost certainly drew on that experience to close the deal.

"Neoview will be used in conjunction with Wal-Mart's strategically important Retail Link system, which gives Wal-Mart's 20,000 suppliers access to data about the movement and sales of their products in its stores. In other words, the HP platform isn't being relegated to some secondary business process. HP couldn't have hoped for a better proof-of-concept customer as it tries to sell its new business intelligence platform in a highly competitive market that includes IBM, Oracle, SAS Institute, and Teradata.

"For more than a decade, Wal-Mart has operated one of the largest commercial data warehouses in the world. Over the last two years, that Teradata-based warehouse has doubled in size to more than 1,000 Tbytes, or a petabyte, packed with sales information on every item sold in its stores. 'Business intelligence is huge' at Wal-Mart, says CTO Nancy Stewart. Wal-Mart is making 'significant investments' in BI tools, Stewart adds, though she declined to reveal how much it's spending on the HP system.

"Earlier this year, Wal-Mart created a loose-knit internal BI team under senior VP Marc Rosen that's assessing new graphics-rich desktop tools that render 'what-if' scenarios, as well as new options for cleansing and managing data with an eye on governance. The company also is considering building data marts--smaller, subject-specific data warehouses--that focus on snapshots of operational data, Stewart says.

"...At Neoview's core is the Tandem NonStop operating system kernel and database acquired with Compaq in 2002. Before jumping into the market, HP engineers tuned that software, originally designed for transaction processing, for data analysis workloads.

"... Until now, Wal-Mart's Teradata-based data warehouse has been used to support Retail Link, which tracks everything from percentage of items in stock (Wal-Mart aims for a 98.5% in-stock rate) to profit analysis on markdowns and so-called 'market-basket analysis.' Neoview will now be shouldering some of that workload; Stewart says Wal-Mart is looking at 'a whole new set of queries and algorithms.'

"... In the early going, HP has identified retail as one of its target markets for Neoview. One customer is Bon-Ton Stores, which has 278 stores under such brands as Bergner's and Boston Store. Bon-Ton went live in October with its first Neoview application, which measures suppliers' merchandise performance. The company has since added marketing and merchandising applications, the largest of which contains a database table with more than 4 billion rows, says CIO James Lance in an e-mail interview. The system has exceeded the expectations of users, Lance says."

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