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Posted: 12/11/2013
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Blackball Taiwanese Tea and Dessert Restaurant Chain Gains Big Data Insight with Hybrid Cloud Solution

BlackBall, a Taiwanese restaurant chain, wanted better business intelligence (BI) to help support regional growth. With help from Fusionex, BlackBall implemented a Big Data solution in a hybrid cloud deployment based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise and Windows Azure HDInsight Service. The company is using new insight into data from multiple sources, including social media feedback and its own product sales, to improve its competitive advantage and make better marketing decisions

Business Needs

BlackBall is a tea and dessert company based in Taipei, Taiwan. Established in 2006, BlackBall has expanded from 20 stores in Taiwan to 40 more locations throughout Malaysia. To support regional growth, BlackBall wanted better insight into business operations.

Each store sent point-of-sale (POS) data to the corporate headquarters, where managers manually entered the information into spreadsheets. They also monitored other sources such as social

media, but it was difficult to make connections between the disparate sources of information. “Our main challenge involved reporting,” says Andrew Cheong, Senior Manager at BlackBall. “There were a lot of questions that we were just unable to ask about customer behavior. Without insight into regional demand, it’s very difficult to grow our business.”

In addition to wanting to more targeted promotions, the company wanted to improve product distribution. BlackBall had built its reputation on the quality of its highly perishable ingredients, and getting them to the right place at the right time was critical to the company’s success. “We use a lot of fruits in our desserts, and if they don’t taste right, then we lose our competitive advantage,” says Cheong.

To meet its goals, BlackBall knew it needed BI tools capable of pulling together disparate sources of information. However, it also wanted to implement a solution without the burden of purchasing and maintaining additional on-premises infrastructure. BlackBall operates with a small IT team and has little interest in building out a data center. Instead, the company wants a solution that will be easy to use and manage. As Cheong points out, “Our people are not IT professionals, so a highly complex system just doesn’t work out for us.”

* By implementing a Fusionex solution that includes HDInsight Service and integrates many data sources, we expect to gain a big competitive advantage. We will be able to manage our stock more efficiently and persuade more franchisees to come on board—all of which will help us build a better brand.  *

Andrew Cheong
Senior Manager


After looking at a variety of BI tools, BlackBall asked Fusionex, a Microsoft Country Partner of the Year winner in Malaysia for 2012 and 2013, to help implement a hybrid cloud solution based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise software running on-premises and Windows Azure HDInsight Service on the Windows Azure platform. The company would be able to use self-service BI tools built into SQL Server 2012 to work with data processed on an Apache Hadoop cluster with HDInsight Service.

In May 2013, BlackBall began a proof of concept with HDInsight Service that integrates unstructured data from the company’s Facebook page and online weather reports with information pulled from POS systems in the Malaysian stores. To work with the data, BlackBall employees use a web-based interface created by Fusionex. The interface includes a dashboard built with Power View, an interactive data visualization tool in Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services. The solution also includes SQL Server 2012 PowerPivot for Excel.

By working with the tool, BlackBall employees can immediately correlate sales data with regional weather patterns and social media feedback.


BlackBall is building a stronger competitive advantage, making better marketing decisions, and simplifying access to multiple sources of information with a Fusionex Big Data solution based on Windows Azure and self-service Microsoft BI tools.

Strengthens Competitive Advantage

BlackBall believes that it will be more competitive with a big data solution based on Microsoft technology. In addition to improving business insight at the corporate level, the company expects that it can attract more franchise owners by providing accurate, data-driven reports on sales and customer behavior. “By implementing a Fusionex solution that includes HDInsight Service and integrates many data sources, we expect to gain a big competitive advantage,” says Cheong. “We will be able to manage our stock more efficiently and persuade more franchisees to come on board—all of which will help us build a better brand.”

Gains Rapid Insight and Better Marketing Decisions

BlackBall offers more than 70 products, and constantly works on developing new ingredients and combinations. By monitoring customer feedback on social media as well as sales data, the company can plan more strategically. For example, BlackBall is using the information to develop new products and execute more effective promotions.

“By capitalizing on the strengths of HDInsight Service, we have a much better understanding of what people want,” says Cheong. “We also found that our marketing can be vastly improved because we can quickly identify top-selling products and push that information out to each store. We used to only be able to do that on a weekly basis, but now we can do that in near-real time.”

The company is already gaining surprising insights that it can use to improve product distribution and marketing. For example, BlackBall expected to see that the weather affected sales; however, the results were not what it anticipated. “Before, we thought that people would choose cold drinks and desserts in hot weather,” says Cheong. “But contrary to our assumptions, in certain outlets we saw an opposite trend.” As a result, the company can ensure that those outlets are equipped with the staff and supplies needed to meet customer demand.

Simplifies Access to Big Data

With a hybrid cloud solution from Fusionex and Microsoft, BlackBall can gain valuable new insight without investing in additional on-premises infrastructure. As a result, the company can stay focused on enhancing its own products instead of managing technology. “I looked at some of the other BI solutions on the market, and most were overly complex, especially from an end-user point of view,” says Cheong. “In contrast, a Fusionex solution based on a Microsoft Big Data platform with BI tools such as Power View is very easy to use. It’s both powerful and accessible.”

This case study is for informational purposes only.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 2000 employees

Organization Profile

  • BlackBall is a tea and dessert company based in Taipei, Taiwan, with business operations that include 40 outlets in Malaysia. It offers more than 70 products based on fruit and other fresh ingredients.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise
  • Microsoft Azure HDInsight Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server PowerPivot for Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services

Vertical Industries
Food & Beverage


Business Need
Business Intelligence and Reporting

IT Issue
High Performance Computing