However, Stein Mart’s data warehouse wasn’t providing the speed it needed. The system, based on IBM DB2 and AS/400 data servers, had size limitations and performance issues that led to delays — with weekly data processing taking at least 14 hours.
On top of slow performance, Stein Mart’s data warehouse system was costing the retailer thousands of dollars a month in hardware, licensing and maintenance costs to support it. With all that money spent, the system still didn’t provide the in-depth business analysis capabilities Stein Mart was looking for.
“Our business revolves around merchandise reports that compare sales data, but we really wanted to become more analytical and be able to do data mining, sales forecasting and analysis,” explains Ilan Wajsman, data systems manager for Stein Mart.
Reports in Under 3 Hours
To address these issues, Stein Mart selected a new solution from Microsoft based on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Enterprise database software, SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services and SQL Server Fast Track Data Warehouse.
The new solution loads sales data sequentially into partitions using parallel loads, meaning that data is loaded quickly and larger amounts can be queried. The solution also uses data compression to shrink the multi-terabyte data warehouse to less than two terabytes, which improves performance. As a result, weekly reports are processed in less than three hours.
“Querying data is much faster than before with the new solution” says Wajsman. “Now, our executives can access the latest business data on time.”
All in the Details
Using SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services, Stein Mart also has the ability to pull transactional data and analyze its business from end to end. These capabilities allow Stein Mart to use data to demonstrate business success.
“With [the solution], we can look at our entire transaction history and do market analysis and business forecasting, which we could not do previously. Now, for example, we will be able to study the correlation between promotions and sales. This gives us the ability to be more fact-based as a company,” explains Wajsman.
Stein Mart was also able to consolidate its AS/400 data warehouse into one industry standard hardware server. As a result, Stein Mart now saves $50,000 a month in hardware leasing and maintenance costs.
Additionally, Stein Mart IT employees no longer need to spend time managing the AS/400 servers. “We need fewer people to operate the new system,” says Wajsman. “The time savings helps us focus on business and customer challenges, rather than technical ones.”