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The least expensive data warehouse ever? (30-12-04)

PETALING JAYA: A local software developer is claiming that it can implement data warehousing solutions with fewer consultants and for as little as one-fifth the cost of solutions from larger rivals.

The solution uses its own data engine, which cuts licence fees and the need to fly in expensive consultants from abroad; it can be implemented in less time with fewer people; and it requires less hardware to run.

Speedminer (www.speedminer.com) began life a decade ago when Thomas How, who was then implementing the first generation of data warehousing solutions, first noticed how the cost and complexity of data warehousing was keeping it out of the hands of companies and organisations that sorely needed it.

Hospitals, for example, had traditionally not been a major market for data warehousing solutions, he said. For the most part, data warehousing solution vendors had gone after the much more lucrative financial services market, and so data analysis tools specific to hospitals' needs had not been developed.

Another issue was that hospitals had massive data sets - Selayang Hospital's was in the region of 300 gigabytes, he estimated - that required massive, and expensive, scalability in hardware and software.

So How and his colleagues spent the better part of the next decade building a data warehouse solution that would fit those needs, he said.

In the past two years since the Speedminer solution had been made available, it has been installed in sites such as the Darul Ehsan Medical Centre, Selayang Hospital, the National Heart Institute and Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre in Malaysia; Fouzhou General Hospital and a general hospital at the People's Liberation Army's Guang Zhou Command in China; and the Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City in Saudi Arabia, which is claimed to be the world's largest rehabilitation facility.

How said his company -- Speedminer, a subsidiary of Hesper Technology Sdn Bhd (www.hesper.com.my) -- offered that huge scalability at minimal cost because of its data engine technology.

The most common data warehouses use a two-dimensional relational OLAP (online analytical processing) database, or ROLAP, architecture. But a two-dimensional relational database was inadequate for data mining, so solution vendors have added more dimensions, and thus flexibility, by building lookup tables.

Unfortunately, building these tables ate up processing cycles and required more hardware for scalability.

There is an alternative called multidimensional OLAP (MOLAP), How said, but what MOLAP gained in processing speed it lost in flexibility.

The Speedminer Data WareHouse and Business Performance Management solutions were based on what How called an object-based OLAP database, which he claimed was almost as fast as MOLAP but could match ROLAP's flexibility.

And since the technology was developed in Malaysia by Speedminer, a Multimedia Super Corridor company, all its expert support was local.

This factor, and the fact that Speedminer had a complete suite of business intelligence tools and was well versed in implementation issues, meant lists of savings. Expensive licence fees for the database technology and the importation of expensive consultants from regional head offices, whose fees which typically accounted for half of implementation costs, were no longer part of the tab.

Speedy implementation times also meant that projects had less time to go wrong, How claimed.

All in all, he said, a 200-bed hospital might be able to implement data warehousing solutions for RM200,000 in under two months with Speedminer, compared with RM1mil or more for a comparable solution from a larger rival.

"We are able to offer realtime data warehousing solutions at a very reasonable price for hospitals in Malaysia," How claimed.

And not just hospitals. How said his company had already completed a proof-of-concept data warehousing exercise for a Malaysian conglomerate, and was seeking partners in Malaysia and around the world in such sectors as manufacturing and insurance.

To this end, he said, Speedminer's parent company Hesper Technology had incorporated Speedminer Australia, where the subsidiary had a technology partner.

And on the technological front, Speedminer was preparing a web-accessible version of its database architecture for release by the end of this year, he added.