IT Focus news briefs, Nov. 1, 2004

CIBC ramps up data extraction

CIBC had chosen SAS Institute Inc.’s ETL Server for extraction, transformation and loading (ETL) duties. According to Paul Flach, director of business intelligence at CIBC Mortgages and Lending, the firm wanted something that would integrate with the existing business-analysis environment. CIBC already had many business processes written in existing SAS applications. “Rather than start from scratch, let’s see what we’ve got,” went the thought process at CIBC, Flach said. Secondly, the bank wanted to have ETL up and running as quickly as possible. That meant finding software that would work on the existing IBM Corp. z/OS mainframe as well as the incoming client-server architecture. “The business can’t wait for two years for the technology to be there,” Flach said. According to industry research firm Gartner Inc., whereas ETL used to be considered a business intelligence enabler, these days it’s branching out into data consistency, data management and system migrations.

Rethink backup and restore

Canadian companies might want to reconsider their data backup-and-restore architecture as storage requirements increase, according to Ralph Dunham, general manager, business continuity and recovery services, IBM Canada Ltd. At a disaster recovery learning session, he said storage requirements are increasing 30 to 40 per cent each year, making it difficult for companies to restore operations from redundant data centres. Dunham said that as storage requirements increase, it might be impractical to keep two or more copies of each set of data. When asked about an alternate method, Dunham said companies could split the data among multiple data centres and load-balance the backup and restoration processes — use multiple data centres, perhaps four of them, and store 25 per cent of the data in each centre. One way to do this would be to leverage grid computing, Dunham said, advising that companies could connect numerous servers via grid software so the many boxes behave as one entity.

Financial firms turn on sales charm

In an effort to boost sales, financial institutions are purchasing commissions- and incentive-management systems, according to industry analysts at Datamonitor PLC in the U.K. In its recent report, Commission and incentive management in financial services, Datamonitor says banks, insurance companies and other money-minded enterprises will spend US$566 million on such systems by 2006 across Europe and the U.S. Datamonitor says insurance companies will purchase commission and incentive platforms as they turn their attention to future business growth, while banks will do the same as they aim to transform branches into product sales hubs. Datamonitor says it’s a necessary move as products become commodities. “For insurers, the allure of the mass market raises the key question of how to sell lower-value products through multiple (sometimes external) channels,” reads a Datamonitor press release, adding that spending on these systems will grow at a compound annual rate of 10 per cent.

Marlborough signs on with Q9

Marlborough Stirling Canada Ltd., a software maker focusing on the mortgage, life, pension and investment market sectors, has chosen Q9 Networks Inc. to provide managed services to support its hosted mortgage origination and servicing solutions. In a contract outlined this past summer, Marlborough Stirling Canada would use Q9’s firewalls, virtual private network (VPN) capabilities, load balancing, data backup and physical space in one of the Toronto-based network services provider’s data centres. The software vendor’s application service provider (ASP) model means financial firms can access apps without having to lay out the capital for licences and hardware, according to a Q9 press release. According to Bill Pitkin, Marlborough Stirling Canada’s CEO, his company kept its clients’ needs in mind when choosing a hosting partner. “We require…financial stability and a reputation for quality that enhances our own brand,” he said. Marlborough Stirling’s solutions include Omiga for data capture and mortgage application processing, and MorWEB for mortgage origination.

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