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Teradata Merges Databases On One Track

Improved software lets warehouses answer tactical and strategic queries
Union Pacific Corp. taps into its 4-terabyte data warehouse for serious strategic planning -- everything from analyzing the prices it charges customers to scrutinizing the traffic patterns of its freight cars. But for day-to-day tactical decisions such as scheduling train crews, the railroad operates many separate databases, and managing them all is a challenge, says Paul Evans, enterprise data warehousing senior manager.

This week Teradata, the NCR Corp. division that supplies Union Pacific's data warehouse technology, will debut an upgrade of the Teradata suite that will help to erase the gulf between strategic and tactical business-intelligence technology. Teradata 7.0 advances the active data warehouse concept of processing data in real time and providing analysis capabilities to front-line employees.

Paul Evans, enterprise data warehousing senior managing at Union Pacific.

Union Pacific wants its Teradata data warehouse to help make tactical decisions, Evans says.
"We're definitely looking at doing more consolidation and turning the data warehouse into a platform for broad decision making," Evans says. Union Pacific has already begun increasing the capacity of its data warehouse to 7 terabytes in anticipation of merging it with the railroad's tactical databases using Teradata 7.0.

The data warehouse, now updated daily, will be refreshed as often as once a minute. Evans expects the number of employees who use the warehouse to grow from around 4,000 to as many as 10,000 within five years.

Until now, building a data warehouse for strategic and tactical analysis has been practically impossible, because data is organized differently for each process. Strategic queries analyze huge amounts of historical information across many dimensions, such as time and geography. Tactical queries are narrower in scope and involve less data, but they require faster answers using data that's updated frequently, sometimes even in real time.

Teradata 7.0 offers enhancements for building data warehouses for both kinds of analysis. A partitioned primary index organizes database tables for strategic and tactical queries. A query priority-scheduling tool balances a data warehouse's workload, giving priority to queries from, say, a ticket-counter agent serving a customer over a marketing analyst using the warehouse to research ticket sales.

Last week, Teradata struck a deal to resell Informatica Corp.'s data-integration software, including its PowerCenter RT real-time product, for quickly moving high volumes of data from operational systems into data warehouses. That, combined with other Teradata 7.0 enhancements, will help data warehouse managers update information in real time or near-real time.

"Teradata is a couple of years ahead of everybody else," says Richard Winter, president at consulting company Winter Corp. He estimates that only 5% to 10% of all data warehouse users today need the scalability and performance enhancements Teradata 7.0 offers.