Great data, less fussing

Extraction, transformation, and loading tools help companies prepare data for warehousing and analysis.
Posted September 1, 1999

Beth Stackpole

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Carlson Wagonlit Travel has loads of expertise in routing corporate passengers between destinations efficiently and economically. But the $11 billion travel management company needed help when it came to directing data from myriad sources into a data warehouse. That's why Carlson Wagonlit Travel took flight with Informatica Corp.'s PowerCenter, a hub system for integrating enterprise information that made the delivery of key analytical data to consultants a less arduous trip.

AT A GLANCE: Carlson Wagonlit Travel
The company: Carlson Wagonlit Travel is an $11 billion travel management company headquartered in New York City. Each day, the company handles about 35,000 transactions for corporate customers.

The problem: Carlson Wagonlit Travel needed a relatively easy and fast way to route data from online transaction processing systems and other sources into a data warehouse. This would give travel consultants access to the data as well as the ad hoc query and reporting capabilities they need to deliver travel pattern analysis to customers.

The solution: With Informatica Corp.'s PowerCenter data extraction, transformation, and loading tool, Carlson reduced the deployment time on the data warehouse from years to months. The tool acts as a hub system for integrating data from disparate enterprise systems via an intuitive, point-and-click interface.

The IT infrastructure: Carlson Wagonlit Travel's source is a transaction-oriented Sybase Inc. SQL Server database; the target is an Oracle Corp. Oracle 8.0 RDBMS system optimized for reporting. The data warehouse architecture also integrates Cognos Corp.'s front-end tool suite, including PowerPlay for OLAP queries and Impromptu for query and reporting.

The PowerCenter data extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL) tool aggregates the appropriate operational and transactional data. The data is then optimized for online analytical processing (OLAP), allowing the New York City-based company's travel analysts to perform ad hoc queries that uncover key trends for clients. "The types of contracts from suppliers are much more complex; the greater access to a greater level of detailed data, the easier we can help clients," explains Leslie Schroeder, Minneapolis-based director of industry consulting and analysis for Carlson Wagonlit Travel. "The basic core of our service offering is to take a look at clients' travel patterns and help them define what strategy to take to align with preferred carriers."

Although it's only one piece of Carlson Wagonlit Travel's data warehousing architecture, Informatica's PowerCenter was the bridge that connected the various information sources. The company's source is a transaction-oriented Sybase Inc. SQL Server database; the target is an Oracle Corp. Oracle 8.0 RDBMS system optimized for reporting. Carlson Wagonlit Travel's databases store information such as their clients' passenger profiles, travel arrangements, and preferred carriers, as well as airlines' routes, hubs, and flight information.

With its databases and PowerCenter, "all we have to do is point, click, update, and rerun" to get at the appropriate information, says Jay Vetsch, the company's director of global information delivery, who's also in Minneapolis.

Gather the information, and move it around

Carlson Wagonlit Travel isn't the only company making data extraction, transformation, and loading tools a pivotal stop on their data warehousing itinerary. As data warehouse or datamart projects increase in complexity and span multitier architectures, many companies need to automate the routing of data between systems.

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