NCR mining new frontiers of data

According to Lars Nyberg, it is no longer enough to merely mine customer data for analysis later on.

Comparing the growth of click-stream data collection on the Web to the California Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, Nyberg, NCR’s president and CEO, said strategic data analysis must instead be transformed into actionable and almost-immediate decisions.

Speaking to some 3,000 attendees at the recent 2000 NCR Partners Conference in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., most of them users of NCR’s Teradata data warehousing software, Nyberg said he plans to commit his company to encouraging the evolution of active data warehousing, “and the continued shift from technology for information to technology for relationships.

“Far from being passive containers of data waiting for queries, the new generation of data warehouse is active,” Nyberg said. “If the Web is the heart of the networked economy, then the active data warehouse is the nerve centre of business in the networked economy,” he said

“For example, you want automated direct marketing as the result of a call centre activity,” he described. “Fraud detection during a credit card transaction. At-the-gate upgrades offered to the most appropriate airline passengers.”

While Nyberg’s comments were met with enthusiasm by most, some wondered if NCR’s Teradata division was perhaps leaving behind a section of its customer base that can’t move as quickly as an Internet-based business.

One technical representative from a major American retail chain said although Teradata’s feature set is “ahead of the game” there are still problems he would like to see addressed in its operations.

Specifically, he was hoping Nyberg would comment more on NCR’s plans to help its customers scale their data warehouses more efficiently.

“The software upgrades can be done in minutes, but the hardware upgrades still take longer,” he said. “It’s great to (be able to) double system size over the weekend, but in the active data warehousing game being down all weekend is an eternity.”

The massive size of many Teradata warehouses was a major boast by Nyberg in his keynote address.

“Today, there are more than 220 NCR data warehouses greater than one terabyte in size,” he said. “A leading industry consultant predicts that by 2002, this market will grow to over 3,200.” NCR would not reveal the name of the industry consultant.

Nyberg also said he expects to have a commercial Teradata data warehouse that is 250 terabytes in size by 2002.

“That is a quarter of a petabyte in size,” he gushed to an applauding audience. “This is the very first time I’m using the word petabyte in a serious way.”

Nyberg’s vision of accommodating extremely large warehouses was in sharp contrast to his speech at last year’s conference where he spoke of extending Teradata to the small-gigabyte data warehouse-range.

Fred Pluebell, a former member of the Partners user group board of directors, said he hoped Nyberg’s address this year would not disappoint the majority of Teradata users.

“I would hope that customers would say, ‘If they can handle something that large, it should take care of my system as well,'” Pluebell said.

Jean Labarre, a group leader in databases and data warehouses for Provigo, a Quebec-based supermarket and retail chain bought out by Loblaws in late 1998, said Nyberg hit the nail on the head in relating the concerns of his company.

Although Provigo’s data warehouse is only 200GB in size, the company along with Loblaws recently embarked on a project to implement an active data warehouse.

Labarre said the company’s vision is that its stores from across Canada will send daily sales logs after closing to a centralized distribution centre, which will then automatically figure out what each store needs delivered the next day to replenish its stock.

“It might take a couple of years,” Labarre said. “We’re really at the beginning of the project.”