AUTOonline provides information on used and damaged cars throughout Europe. To support faster business intelligence (BI) activities for employees and customers, the company created a separate BI database with a solution based on Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 technology and data replication from partner Attunity. With its new BI platform, AUTOonline and its customers produce reports 86 percent faster than before and have access to real-time information for making better business decisions.Business Needs
AUTOonline is an Internet-based network for sharing information about used and damaged vehicles in Europe. The company provides data that helps more than 3,500 automobile dealers and another 4,000 appraisers, insurers, claims adjusters, fleet owners, and individual bidders obtain the salvage and replacement value of specific vehicles. AUTOonline, which in 2010 helped market and provide estimates for more than 1 million used vehicles, is based in Germany and operates in 26 countries.
||With the Attunity and SQL Server 2008 R2 technology, it now takes about 10 minutes to produce a report—an improvement of about 86 percent over what users faced in the past.
On a typical day, AUTOonline receives information on about 4,000 vehicles. Along with standard information such as year, model, and mileage, the data also includes images—as many as 40,000 daily—and damage reports on cars that have been involved in accidents. The mission-critical database holds about 1 terabyte of information.
Since its launch in 1996, AUTOonline relied on an Oracle database solution to receive, store, and distribute this information. As the amount of data grew, however, external users and AUTOonline employees experienced serious performance problems when seeking to generate reports or obtain up-to-date information.
“We were increasingly receiving requests from management to provide real-time business intelligence and reporting,” says Kai Müller, IT Director for AUTOonline. “We also needed to ensure that our dealers and registered buyers had access to the most accurate, up-to-the-minute vehicle information online, and that their experience on our site was as efficient and streamlined as possible.”
But the competing demands on the system—gathering and storing data while providing real-time access to information for business intelligence (BI)—put tremendous strain on performance. AUTOonline employees usually had to postpone analysis tasks until slow times of the day, and creating reports took an hour or more. Customers who spent much of their day querying the system frequently faced delays of 10 minutes or longer on a single request. Information in the system was updated only once a day.
“One option was to add another Oracle database to handle reporting. But we decided that this approach was too complex and expensive,” says Müller. “We needed a solution that would scale up our business-intelligence processing while reducing the impact on our core e-commerce servers.”Solution
AUTOonline found a cost-effective BI solution using a Microsoft business intelligence platform and data replication software from Attunity, a Microsoft technology partner. The innovative solution, which AUTOonline deployed in 2010, uses Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise data management software and Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Integration Services. It also takes advantage of change data capture (CDC) technology by Attunity to manage the flow of information between the AUTOonline Oracle production database and the SQL Server BI database system.
The solution, called Attunity Oracle-CDC for SSIS, uses CDC technology to capture and deliver only the changes that are made to the Oracle production database. The solution replicates that information to the SQL Server 2008 R2 database, where the data is used for analysis and generating reports. It provides real-time information for automobile buyers and sellers while giving them access to historical information.
AUTOonline created a variety of forms that staff and customers can use to create reports. Because the Attunity solution transmits only new or modified data between the production and BI databases, information is refreshed every 30 seconds instead of once a day. Benefits
The Attunity-Microsoft solution has greatly improved the performance of the AUTOonline e-commerce system. Users can create reports faster than in the past because the solution quickly transfers information from the production database to the separate BI system in a matter of seconds. The solution supports real-time information analysis, which helps customers make faster decisions. In addition, it is cost-effective and helped AUTOonline avoid the expense and complexity of adding another production database.
By moving its business-intelligence and reporting activities to the separate SQL Server 2008 R2 database, AUTOonline and its customers can produce reports significantly faster than before. “Before, it might have taken an employee an hour or longer to produce a report due to the slow response times of the system,” says Müller. “With the Attunity and SQL Server 2008 R2 technology, it now takes about 10 minutes to produce a report—an improvement of about 86 percent over what users faced in the past. The speed of the solution is a huge help for us and our customers when performing analysis that might be used, for example, in writing an appraisal on a damaged car.”
Provides Real-Time Information
With the separation of the production and BI database activities, customers can access information almost instantly. “The Attunity solution with SQL Server 2008 R2 provides a much better situation for our customers, particularly people who are bidding on automobiles,” says Müller. “The BI database is updated every 30 seconds, so automobile buyers know they have up-to-date information. It gives them more confidence and reduces or eliminates the complaints about slow system performance that were common in the past.”
Delivers Cost-Effective Solution
The Attunity solution was much more cost-effective than the alternatives. “If we had installed a separate Oracle database running on one CPU for a BI solution, it would have cost us about 30,000 euros and would have required a lot of IT maintenance to keep it running,” says Müller. “The Attunity solution running on SQL Server 2008 R2 was much more cost-effective. We got a very efficient BI solution for less money than the alternative.”This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.