Acquisitions and Mergers
Stratapult delivers seamless reports drawn from separate databases.
Photography by Steve Cash
|CUSTOMER: Stratapult, a division of Inmar Inc.
HEADQUARTERS: Winston-Salem, N.C.
BUSINESS: IT service provider
HARDWARE: An IBM System i 550
SOFTWARE: SEQUEL from Help/Systems
CHALLENGE: Providing a customer with accurate reports based on data from two different databases
SOLUTION: Using SEQUEL to merge the data from the two sources and quickly develop and deploy reports
Typically, end users don’t care where data comes from. As long as it’s up-to-date and usable, they’re good to go, reviewing sales reports, addressing accounts receivable or payable issues, or gauging the efficiencies of manufacturing operations. If it comes from an Intel* server, that’s OK. If it comes from an IBM* SystemÊi* server, that’s fine too—just as long as it’s delivered in a timely and understandable fashion.
Data often comes from multiple sources and platforms, and although end users may not care about that, IT people do. They must ensure the data for which they’re responsible appears seamless and is well integrated. If bits of data come from an Intel technology-based source and other bits come from a DB2* for i5/OS* database, they have to wrap it all together and deliver it when and where it’s needed—no excuses. It was that type of multiple-database issue that Stratapult, a division of Inmar Inc., recently faced. After Inmar expanded its service offerings with a new acquisition, it needed to integrate data from both a PC-based environment and a SystemÊi environment for several post-acquisition common customers. Charged with this task, Stratapult initially considered developing Java* technology-based middleware, but soon discovered that would be time-consuming and perhaps clunky.
Instead, the company decided to use Help/Systems’ SEQUEL to do the work for them, grabbing data from the PC server and importing that into a DB2 for i5/OS database. Now, when customers need mission-critical data from its Intel and System i platforms, the company simply merges the data and delivers it to them in whatever format they require.
“We deployed this solution much faster than we could have using Java or creating RPG or CL programs to manipulate the data,” notes Eddie Parker, senior analyst with Stratapult. “And now that it’s up and running, we can generate whatever reports the customer needs, no matter where the data comes from.”
A Split System
Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Inmar is the parent of several companies, including Carolina Logistics Services (CLS), Carolina Supply Chain Services (CLS Supply Chain Services), CLS MedTurn, CMS, Carolina Services, VSI Targeting, Winston Data and Stratapult.
The latter company specializes in custom-technology development for clients in a variety of industries, including retail, government, insurance and healthcare. It also provides similar services—such as application development, Web-site design and development, and remote systems management—to Inmar’s other companies. Parker, for example, focuses on development efforts related to CLS. In particular, he maintains CLS’ “in-house developed customer-service module that handles all of that company’s client and vendor operations,” he says. And tools such as Help/Systems’ SEQUEL are instrumental in the customer-integration process between Stratapult’s System i 550 platform and SQL Server applications.
Inmar has grown considerably since its inception several decades ago as a coupon-redemption company. Some of this growth was due to acquisitions, which the company plans to continue. Because of these acquisitions, Inmar has had to deal with bringing other companies into not only its operational fold, but also its IT environment. That’s in part why Stratapult was created, to act both as a distinct business unit within Inmar, serving its own customers, and as an IT-solution provider for Inmar’s acquired companies.
One recent acquisition included CLS Supply Chain Services, which shared common customers with the already-acquired CLS. Those customers were using CLS Supply Chain Services’ own customer-service application that used SQL Server for some customer data. At the same time, CLS Supply Chain Services was also using DB2 on Stratapult’s System i server, via its existing association with CLS, for other data. When CLS Supply Chain Services was acquired, its customers came with it, and Inmar needed a way to merge the data from the SQL Server and DB2.
“The customer uses both of those systems. Some of the work is supported by CLS Supply Chain Services and some of the work is done by CLS. So they asked for a report that required us to get information directly from the SQL Server database and combine that with the data on their primary database on the System i server,” Parker explains. “We had to find a way to bring these two sets of data from two sources together to create a single, integrated report.”
In the past, Stratapult would have done this in a more traditional way, with a database administrator pulling the data from the remote database and moving it to the SystemÊi platform. But Parker says this process was cumbersome. For example, someone had to monitor the process, making sure the data was extracted from the SQL Server and placed in DB2. Additionally, if there were any changes required in the data being merged on the System i platform, the database administrator would have to make changes to the extraction process.
“We would then have to test things on their end and then test things on our end to make sure the changes had been properly executed,” Parker says.
“We had to find a way to bring these two sets of data from two sources together to create a single, integrated report.”—Eddie Parker, senior analyst, Stratapult