Data warehousing a retail necessity: NCR

NCR's data warehouse expert Rob Armstrong has a telling anecdote illustrating why in his opinion, you should have a data warehouse.

NCR’s data warehouse expert Rob Armstrong has a telling anecdote illustrating why in his opinion, you should have a data warehouse.

With the recent addition of a baby to the family, it was a matter of 'the time is right' when he received a car seat promotion from a large retailer.

“The price was right so I went to the store but they were out of stock. I asked the sales person when they’d have more in and she didn’t know. She didn’t even know they were running a promotion. She was going to give me the phone numbers for other stores in San Diego for me to call. I left and bought one from a competitor. Basically they spent thousands of dollars promoting the competition.”

So what was the problem? Basically the ERP systems had no idea what the marketing system was doing and vice versa. This is where a data warehouse comes in.

Armstrong, who co-authored Secrets of the Best Data Warehouses in the World says ERP systems collect data and move it around processes. CRM manages customer relationships across all contact points. Data warehousing merges the two.

“ERP provides the information to the data warehouse and CRM needs the information from the data warehouse to work.”

Another story concerns an NCR customer that was trying to clear old videotape and was selling it below cost. People were buying it up but when the inventory system saw this it would order more.

“The ERP system had a database but it had different data in different areas. That’s typically what happens with ERP and CRM systems - they function through the process but they don’t look at inventory versus sales, versus ordering etc.”

Armstrong says when the customer built a data warehouse and made it cross functional they saw what was happening.

US shipping company FedEx, which uses NCR’s Teradata product, says the data warehouse allows it to make faster business decisions by providing an enterprise wide view of each of its customer contacts.

Armstrong estimates that with a CRM/data warehouse/ERP solution – the CRM component would account for 20% to 30% of the environment, the data warehouse piece (using NCR Teradata) would be less than 25% and the ERP system would make up the rest.

One of New Zealand’s best known NCR Teradata customers is The Warehouse.

Last year NCR ported Teradata, which was available on Unix, to Windows NT. A product review by Infoworld praised the system for its flexibility and scalability.

Teradata is a relational database system that provides decision-support capabilities for organisations needing to store and analyse gigabytes to terabytes of data. The heart of TNT is how it brings MPP (massively parallel processing) and SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) technologies together. TNT’s BYNET architecture loosely couples up to four Windows NT SMP systems, or nodes, into a single, logical database system.

Each of the NT nodes runs two types of virtual processors: PEs (parsing engines) and AMPs (access module processors). PEs process the SQL statements from clients and manage the sessions with the AMPs. AMPs manage the database access and provide the database parallelism.

For example, a client application executes a standard ANSI SQL SELECT statement used to retrieve a results set from the database. The request is received and processed by the PEs. They parse the SQL statements, optimise the query plans, and send the requests to the AMPs through BYNET. Each AMP processes its portion of the request and sends the results back to the PEs. The PEs combine the results and return the answer set to the client. The result is incredibly fast information retrieval, even with the most complex queries.


Excellent system scalability

+ Simplified database administration and development

+ Helpful client utilities


- Lack of a stored procedure language for the RDBMS database

- Vendor assistance required for system setup

- Some character-based utilities

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