4-page Case Study
Posted: 2/26/2013
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Smartro Financial Services Firm Lays Foundation for Growth with Data Warehouse Appliance

* “Thanks to the Microsoft Parallel Data Warehouse… report requests for invoices, settlements, credits, cash receipts, and their purchases have dropped by 62 percent.” *

Byeong-gon Kim
Director of VAN Operations, IT Division

Smartro successfully built the data warehouse using the HP Enterprise Data Warehouse Appliance Optimized for Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse. Smartro's IT department had been manually collecting, verifying data when a front or middle office requested an analysis. As it took anything from a few days to up to a month to analyze transaction data and extract management information such as invoices, settlements, credits, and purchases, both the IT division and users had difficulties in carrying out their tasks efficiently. For this reason, Smartro decided to build a data warehouse as one of its business innovation projects. The efficiency of Smartro's transaction analysis has drastically improved since the implementation of the data warehouse. The company-wide report requests have decreased by 62% and the man-hours required for data extraction have reduced by up to 80%. Smartro's IT division plans to utilize the data warehouse by offering additional services to VAN customers, by adding a data warehouse to the VAN service.


Smartro provides value-added network (VAN) services to businesses across Korea, processing sales data for retailers and analyzing that data for trends. Smartro had 2011 revenues of US$97 million and employs 146 people. It is based in Mok-dong, Yangcheon-gu, Seoul, Korea.

As an intermediary between retailers and credit card companies, Smartro processes millions of invoice, settlement, credit, and purchase transactions a day and analyzes more than 200 million transactions each month searching for trends. For years, Smartro collected, verified, analyzed, extracted, and distributed information using a series of manual processes that were labor-intensive and time-consuming. Due to the large number of transactions, the company’s storage system could hold only six months’ worth of data. Older data was backed up on tapes and stored offsite. When the Smartro IT Division received a request from a Smartro business team that required analysis of older data, the IT team had to search for and restore the data, which could take up to a month—too long for the team to make use of it.

Neither the Smartro IT Division nor business users were happy with the amount of time that elapsed between data collection, extraction, and analysis. IT management did not like the fact that the simple task of extracting and refining data required so much of its staff’s time. The operating teams complained about the length of time that it took to receive the data and the amount of effort that they had to invest to interpret it, usually by using Microsoft Excel spreadsheet software.

Smartro knew that it needed a high-performance data warehouse solution. However, most commercial solutions were too expensive, and Smartro had tried unsuccessfully to develop such a system internally. “The regulatory environment governing VAN services changes frequently in Korea, and the business logic for processing transactions is quite complicated," says Byeong-gon Kim, Director of VAN Operations, IT Division, Smartro. “The business logic of a data warehouse solution has to change as the policies change, and the policy-change cycle can be shorter than the time it takes to develop the application. For this reason, we decided that it was pointless for us to implement an analysis system ourselves.”

However, as business continued to boom and Smartro was acquired by a larger company that wanted to expand operations, it became imperative that Smartro acquire more sophisticated data analysis capabilities. Building a data warehouse became a strategic necessity for continued growth and success.

* “The deciding factors [in choosing the HP-Microsoft solution] were the fact that Windows Server better matched the SQL Server database that we had chosen and that our business users could use Excel to easily analyze data.” *

Byeong-gon Kim
Director of VAN Operations, IT Division


The company’s primary goal in the effort was rapid implementation. Rather than spend a long time creating a system that would satisfy every business need, Smartro decided to build a basic data warehouse as soon as possible and add functionality along the way.

Using this strategy, the Smartro IT Division commissioned Chicago Consulting in early 2012 to create the requirements definition for a data warehouse. During this process, the IT Division determined various requirements such as transaction monitoring by channel and monitoring of various key performance indicators (KPIs). It also included recommendations from Smartro business teams for ideal processes for handling branch settlements, invoicing card companies, and creating nonstandard reports. Based on these suggestions, the IT team created standards for report types and data structures.

The IT Division decided that the best way to speed implementation was to deploy a data warehouse appliance since purchasing and integrating a server, storage, and software would take a long time—months for the optimization processes alone.

The IT group compared all the major data warehouse appliances. Because a large portion of the Smartro IT environment was based on IBM hardware and the UNIX operating system, some favored the IBM Netezza appliance. However, after an extensive review of IBM Netezza, the Oracle Exadata appliance, and the HP Enterprise Data Warehouse Appliance Optimized for Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse, Smartro decided to go with the HP and Microsoft solution. Jointly engineered by HP and Microsoft, the HP Enterprise Data Warehouse Appliance provides enterprise-class performance, excellent scalability, and simplified implementation to accelerate time-to-business-value for demanding data warehousing requirements.

“In the end, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse and IBM Netezza were the two runners-up,” Kim says. “The deciding factors were the fact that Windows Server better matched the SQL Server database that we had chosen and that our business users could use Excel to easily analyze data.”

With the selection made, Smartro set out to build the data warehouse in June 2012 with help from Inbrein, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network in Korea. It took less than five months to implement the system thanks to the preconfiguration of server, storage, and software. Smartro integrated all of its analysis data in a 10-terabyte data warehouse, enough room to store three years’ worth of data. Data is backed up to the Parallel Data Warehouse rather than to tapes, making restoration faster and easier.

Smartro linked its existing Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise application to the new data warehouse environment to simplify report distribution and access. Business users can easily access report templates from the SharePoint site, complete the necessary fields, select the KPIs that they want to analyze, and use Microsoft Excel 2010 Professional Plus to perform the analysis—all within minutes.

Smartro continues to build out the system with new functionality. When the data warehouse is complete, the IT Division plans to upgrade to Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse, which will provide three times greater data compression and storage for five years’ worth of data.

* ”[With the HP-Microsoft Parallel Data Warehouse solution] We were able to reduce the time needed for data extraction by up to 80 percent.”  *

Byeong-gon Kim
Director of VAN Operations, IT Division



By implementing the HP-Microsoft Parallel Data Warehouse solution, Smartro has a technology foundation that can accommodate business growth. Employees can produce their own reports, which has decreased report requests to the IT Division by 62 percent, and reduced the time spent on data extraction by 80 percent. The new system also helps Smartro respond quickly to regulatory changes.

Lays Foundation for Continued Growth
Smartro now has a technology foundation on which to expand its business. It has the ability to add many more transaction and data types, including Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) data. The company’s ambition is to become a Marketing Service Provider that offers customer-oriented services that combine finance, communications, and logistics. The increased analysis efficiency made possible by the Parallel Data Warehouse will speed the progress toward this goal.

Another growth area that Smatro can now pursue is providing purchase transaction analysis services for small and midsize retailers, which cannot afford to build their own data analysis systems.

"We can also use our data warehouse to provide additional services to retailers who are current VAN service customers," says GwangSoo Jung, Head of the Business Support Division at Smartro. "Retailers can greatly benefit from deep analysis of sales by region and customer demographic when carrying out marketing campaigns. For example, it is possible to identify which credit card a consumer uses for payment at a retail store and offer special promotions the next time the consumer shops with it by linking coupons and points to the card."

Reduces Report Requests by 62 Percent and Data Extraction Time by 80 Percent
Since implementing its data warehouse, Smartro business users have been pleased with the new pace of transaction analyses. Users who process invoices and settlements are particularly excited. "In the past, printing the data, applying the invoice and settlement-related policies, and verifying them were all done manually," says Kim. "Thanks to the Microsoft Parallel Data Warehouse, the only thing employees need to do is verify the data. Because they can quickly access the necessary data and use report templates for analysis, report requests for invoices, settlements, credits, cash receipts, and their purchases has dropped by 62 percent.”

Additionally, because of the efficiency of the data warehouse, the Smartro IT group has been able to free up a big portion of its workforce. "We were able to reduce the time needed for data extraction by up to 80 percent,” Kim says. “Printing and verifying data is a repetitive task that we no longer have to deal with.”

Gains Rapid Response to Policy Changes
The Smartro data warehouse can also accommodate the frequent regulatory policy changes common to the VAN business. In fact, the company had an opportunity to test the flexibility of its new system when Korean law changed the definitions of retail branches and branch offices. Smartro had to change all of its invoice, settlement, credit, and purchase transaction records to accommodate the change. But by giving customers access to its data warehouse through SharePoint sites, Smartro empowered customers to make these changes themselves.

Going forward, Smartro plans to share data warehouse reports with customers and partners and even provide analysis services from a cloud environment. “The possibilities are endless with our Microsoft Parallel Data Warehouse,” says Kim.
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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 100 employees

Organization Profile
Established in 1998, Smartro is a comprehensive online payment service provider that specializes in value-added network (VAN) services for Korean retailers.

Business Situation
Smartro could not expand its business until it could process more transaction data faster.

Smartro quickly implemented an HP Enterprise Data Warehouse Appliance Optimized for Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse.

• Lays foundation for continued growth
• Reduces report requests by 62 percent
• Cuts data extraction time by 80 percent
• Gains flexible response to policy change

Software and Services
Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Parallel Data Warehouse

Vertical Industries
Capital Markets/Securities


Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Mission Critical

IT Issue
  • Data Warehousing
  • Parallel Computing
  • Data Migrations