HP Enables Operational BI

HP's Neoview data warehouse provides real-time access to high volumes of business information.

Hewlett-Packard is rolling out Version 2.3 of its Neoview data warehouse application, which offers several patented technologies designed to enable operational business intelligence. HP introduced the new version June 2.

"Information continues to explode at a rapid rate and companies continue to struggle with volumes of data and getting access to that data for large numbers of people," said Vish Mulchand, director of Neoview product marketing for HP. "Neoview takes critical information and makes it available to lots of knowledge workers on the frontline."

Mulchand said operational BI is the "collective sum of many small decisions coming together as a powerful whole. It gives the user access to a large amount of any type of data quickly. When you need it, you get it." He said a data warehouse serving as a central repository for all data is a key piece of any operational BI system.

Greg Battas, chief technology officer of Neoview for HP, said BI has evolved over the past 10 years from a means of figuring out "massive analytic questions" to a method for solving "knowledge-oriented questions." He said operational BI handles a much more mission-critical and diverse set of informational queries.

"Now our users plug their business intelligence system into frontline systems," Battas said. "You get situations like a customer service center pulling out customer records as they are serving a customer, or a name match being performed on a customer at the point of sale."

In response to these uses, Battas said HP has added new technologies such as adaptive segmentation to Neoview 2.3.

"Adaptive segmentation allows Neoview to handle large queries or a high volume of small queries," he said. "You can create multiple lanes of traffic to move though a machine or use the entire system to handle large queries."

A new workload management system ensures that users always know who is using what data warehousing resources, and protects workloads from each other while allowing multiple users to simultaneously run queries against the same data, Battas said. He added that a publish-and-subscribe function allows users to create specific streams of data flowing from the data warehouse.

In addition, Battas said a module called HP Skew Elimination helps improve performance.

"There is a nasty problem in business intelligence that sometimes data is skewed where you have a lot of data with one value," he said. "For example, you might substitute a zero for a missing customer ID number."

Battas said HP has developed algorithms to detect and eliminate these skews in data while the data warehouse is running. Some Neoview users have reported a 35 percent improvement in performance levels, according to Battas.

Furthermore, he said the new HP Transporter module allows data to be "ingested" into the data warehouse, rather than loaded in the traditional way.

"The database is always online and never needs to be taken down to load information. A trickle feed and a batch load are handled the same. It serves as the one and only environment for loading data into the database," he said.

Richard Winter, president of database technology research firm Winter Corporation, said the principle behind operational BI has already been proven by retailers using products currently on the market.

"For many retailers, it's very important to have certain products on the shelf when a customer comes looking for them," Winter said. "If you go to a grocery store looking for a half-gallon of milk and they don't have the milk you like, you will likely walk away disappointed. It doesn't take many disappointments before you start shopping at another grocery store."

Winter said operational BI also enables retailers to respond to "transitional opportunities that are very high-value," such as immediately upselling targeted items to customers as they make a purchase at the point of sale.

"It's possible because you have a data warehouse that's up-to-the-minute and able to respond to situations or alert a human being to take necessary actions," he said. "HP is positioning Neoview as an operational business intelligence solution."

Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out eWEEK.com's Retail Site.