NextAction taps Oracle 10g for database marketing operations
I like stability more than features, says CTO Steve Helle
Computerworld - Some people choose databases from Oracle Corp. because of their cutting-edge features, but Steve Helle, chief technology officer at Denver area database marketing firm NextAction Corp., wanted something else.
I like stability more than features, said Helle. And no wonder: When Helle arrived at Westminster, Colo.-based NextAction in mid-2004, the company was plagued with near-weekly crashes of its core database, which aggregates and analyzes consumer purchasing data from more than 1,100 retailers such as Home Depot and Williams-Sonoma.
NextAction uses a custom-written extract, transform and load (ETL) tool to clean up and import the data. Unlike competing consumer databases that can aggregate only where and when a consumer goes shopping, NextAction can also tell what the consumer actually bought at each store, according to Helle.
In 2004, the companys 13TB data warehouse was spread across five Microsoft SQL Server 2000 databases. But within a year, the fast-growing firms database had grown to 30TB spread across eight instances of SQL Server 2000. My guys were working 70 to 80 hours a week, he said. We were dying on the vine.
NextActions data warehouse was growing too fast to easily manage on SQL Server, said Helle, and it would crash so often that the process of mining data for retailers grew from three and a half days to eight days -- a major problem, since the data mining took place weekly. Thats what really impacted revenue, the fact that it failed quite often, Helle said.
One of the first actions Helle, a 15-year veteran of database marketing, took was to convince his boss that NextAction would need to upgrade to new hardware and a new database to handle its intensive and fast-growing data needs.
Partly because the rest of NextAction was mostly a Microsoft .Net environment, Helle tested the then-beta version of SQL Server 2005 against Oracle 10g, both of which had 64-bit versions.
Microsoft treated Helle well, putting NextAction into a special program for extremely large databases that included plenty of support. But within two weeks, the results were clear to Helle. SQL Server has made great strides in the past couple of years. But like I told the Microsoft guys, its hard to match [Oracles] 15 years of evolution, he said.
Not only was Oracle Enterprise Manager 10g much more stable, it was also much faster, Helle said. We ran about 20 benchmarks. Creating applications was, on average, eight times faster on Oracle. Loading data was about 12 times faster. An updating statement that died after 1.5 days on SQL Server without completing took one hour and 10 minutes to finish on Oracle.
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