Vibrant and Rapidly Expanding Business
Librerie Feltrinelli is Italy's leading retailer of books, music and videos, with gross sales of more than USD 444 million.The company has 90 stores operating under the brand names Librerie Feltrinelli (books), RicordiMediastores (music and videos), la Feltrinelli International (foreign language books), la Feltrinelli Village (distributing books, music and videos within department stores), and la Feltrinelli Libri e Musica (a recent store concept which has become the most innovative in Italy for the sale of books, music and home videos). Shortly the company will be opening a new chain of stores in train stations called la Feltrinelli Express. The challenge of meeting the information needs of this vibrant and rapidly expanding business falls to the IT Department. Each day, a huge amount of data has to be collated and analyzed to generate sales statistics, product line performance, revenue and demand projections, and evaluations of the status and impact of advertising campaigns.
Large Data Volumes and Rapid Response
The challenges lie not only in the volume and complexity of the data but also in the analysis. Librerie Feltrinelli carries some 1.2 million items sourced from more than 3,000 separate suppliers. In the last few years, the volumes of data have mushroomed, severely testing the reliability of systems and the response time to users. The installation of powerful servers alleviated some of the system problems, but it was clear that performance also relied on the speed of extracting data from operational systems, loading the analytical database and giving rapid response to user inquiries. In particular, Librerie Feltrinelli wanted to be able to store and analyze historical sales transactions to provide a sound foundation for performance evaluation and business decision making. "We decided to change our technology and solve the problem using Sybase IQ," explained Massimo Pisati, CIO. "Sales data is our lifeblood, and each year it is growing at an incredibly fast rate. We could have contained the problem by restricting online availability to last year's data only. But this would have been too much of a constraint on our operations. Analyzing detailed sales patterns are critical to our business. We chose Sybase IQ because it can store large volumes of data in a very compact manner, and provides fast analysis and response."
Optimized Analytical Engine
During the evaluation phase, Librerie Feltrinelli quickly appreciated the extraordinary speed and agility of Sybase IQ in handling large data volumes and delivering rapid response. The software uses sophisticated compression algorithms to reduce storage space by up to 70 percent, and applies clever data indexing to enable retrieval and response times up to 100 times faster than a traditional RDBMS. From an operational standpoint, Sybase IQ does not require resource intensive tuning, and can be easily maintained by administrators familiar with RDBMS technologies. To accommodate the growing volumes of sales data, it was important for Librerie Feltrinelli to check the scalability of the software. Sybase IQ offers near-linear user and operational data store scalability to support thousands of users and terabytes of data.
After the successful trial phase, Librerie Feltrinelli pushed forward to implement the Sybase IQ analytical engine. The first phase involved setting up routines to transfer data from the SQL transaction database into the new Sybase IQ. The transfer was fast and easy, but the data verification procedures were more challenging and were successfully completed by Sybase Professional Services. The second phase focused on redirecting user applications to Sybase IQ rather than the old Microsoft SQL database. There are many user applications in existence within Librerie Feltrinelli — many critical to business operations — so this phase is being completed in stages. Integration with existing applications has proved extremely easy. "Although it is a much more sophisticated technology, Sybase IQ is perceived as a traditional database. It has been minimally disruptive to the existing technologies within our IT infrastructure," said Pisati. "Data transfer was simple and rapid, because Sybase uses well established approaches. But the main advantage concerns application coding. There has been almost no need to modify applications in order to operate with Sybase IQ."
Impressive Performance Benefits
The implementation of Sybase IQ has so far saved almost 30% data storage space at Librerie Feltrinelli and reduced typical query response times from 40 minutes to just 13 seconds. These performance improvements are allowing users to carry out more detailed segmentation breakdowns and sales analysis. This is one of the most significant business benefits of Sybase IQ, allowing Librerie Feltrinelli to research and implement the best and most profitable business strategies. Librerie Feltrinelli now has an accuracy and depth of sales analysis that allows it to ensure that any investments in product lines or promotions are made in areas that will give the best returns. The Purchasing Department is a main beneficiary of the improved information analyses, and the reduction of query response times from many minutes to just a few seconds helps store staff gain information without detracting from their main activities. All of this has been achieved without the IT Department needing to extend beyond the existing budget to implement Sybase IQ. "I suggest that anyone who has not implemented the innovative Sybase IQ technology take the opportunity to evaluate it," concludes Pisati. "Sybase IQ provides an immediate ROI. While sooner or later, hardware investments will fail to cope with growing volumes, Sybase IQ goes on forever. It is the only solution that can guarantee being able to cater for future business needs."