Virgin Media is trialling a datawarehouse appliance that performs queries several times faster than its previous database system in a bid to enable business efficiencies.
Virgin Media, the largest business in the Virgin group, plans to deploy the Netezza Performance Server datawarehouse appliance to query and analyse customer data from the merged and rebranded companies of NTL, Telewest and Virgin Mobile.
Virgin Media previously outsourced the data analysis process, but the Netezza appliance has in-built business intelligence software, allowing Virgin Media to analyse data in-house. It is expecting to make a rapid return on investment.
Howard Watson, chief technology officer at Virgin Media, said, "The project started at Telewest, where we had a datawarehouse to capture call detail records for regulatory compliance, network routing and telephony high usage analysis.
"But owing to the performance issues with the older architecture, we were restricted to querying data specific to international, mobile and premium rate calls for high usage analysis. With Netezza, we are able to analyse all call types and run historical reports. It is a huge step forward to be able to interrogate customer data in real time."
Paul Froggatt, a manager in IT application support at Virgin Media, said the firm had so far migrated two of its largest telephony datawarehouses to the Netezza appliance.
Virgin Media carried out a four-week trial in November, moving 6Tbytes of data from an Oracle 9 database onto Netezza. It recorded a 252% performance improvement on data queries, using dashboard software from Business Objects and Informatica to mine the data.
In mid-February it migrated the second database, a similar IBM pSeries server running Oracle 9 on Unix, which was used by the revenue assurance department. "We have almost recouped the costs of the system by saving money on calls and margins," said Froggatt.
The Netezza appliance is a single piece of hardware that combines a database, server and storage. It can perform detailed queries and analyses on large volumes of stored data because of its dedicated computing resources. Others users of Netezza include Debenhams, Amazon and Carphone Warehouse.
John Enck, research vice-president at Gartner, said, "IT managers will soon be able to choose from a new wave of server appliances offering everything from simple single-function operations to completely integrated hardware systems."
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This was first published in May 2007