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Drug market analysis team replaces Oracle data warehouse with Netezza

Wolters Kluwer Health division finds Netezza a better fit than Oracle for executing high-volume queries of relatively static data

By , Network World
January 18, 2007 01:27 PM ET

Network World - The drug market-analysis team at Wolters Kluwer Health used to turn away customers every month. It wasn’t because they didn’t have enough staff to handle every data request from customers in the pharmaceutical industry. The problem was that their Oracle-based data warehouse couldn’t handle all the requests quickly enough.

“Because of the processing times to perform the queries in Oracle, we were literally capacity-bound in terms of . . . the amount of work we were able to get out of the door in a month,” says Emory Heisler, vice president of global IT services for the Wolters Kluwer healthcare analytics team in Phoenix. “We had to turn work away.”

This changed about a year ago when the healthcare analytics division switched a portion of its data warehousing from Oracle to Netezza.

Netezza offers a data warehouse appliance that bundles hardware, software and storage capacity in one prepackaged unit. Complex data-analysis queries that used to take days now take minutes, Heisler says.

Netezza says the unique aspect of its system is the placement of processing power right next to the data storage, which eliminates the need to shuttle records sets back and forth between storage systems and processors.

Wolters Kluwer’s healthcare analytics team, which provides drug-utilization data to companies like Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, now stores 9T bytes of data on a Netezza system, and about 40T bytes on an Oracle system. The division continues to use Oracle for queries that are not particularly time-sensitive, but Heisler says productivity has increased 25% in the portion of the company that is using Netezza. In addition, the company has saved money because the Netezza database doesn't require as much internal staff to maintain, he says. For users, the simplicity of the data warehouse appliance is “eye-popping,” he adds.

Netezza claims its product lets data queries be performed 10 to 100 times faster than systems like the one made by Oracle. In some cases, this is true, says analyst Richard Winter, president of research and consulting firm Winter Corp. in Waltham, Mass. But Oracle’s data warehousing product is more mature and better able to handle the most complex database structures, says Winter, who has consulted for both Oracle and Netezza.

The products made by Oracle and Netezza represent two ends of the data warehousing spectrum, Winter says. Oracle, like competitors Teradata and Microsoft’s SQL Server, sells data warehouse software and lets customers choose their own server, storage unit and operating system, he says. This gives customers the freedom to make changes to their data warehousing infrastructure, and it also makes it easy to incorporate Oracle into an existing system.

“Almost no matter what your environment, you can bring Oracle into it and you can use the standards you’ve established in your environment. You don’t have to change anything,” Winter says.

On the other hand, companies that use Oracle have to buy from several suppliers to get all the necessary components.

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