About the Client

The client is a Fortune 100 technology company operating in more than 170 countries and provides technology solutions and services to consumers, small-businesses, enterprises and government.

Business Challenge

Silicus had initially helped the client develop its global e-commerce platform. Based on the success of that project, the client entrusted Silicus with software application management services – development, maintenance, support and modernization of its existing e-commerce assets.

The client's online product marketing team had challenges managing product marketing, pricing and configuration data across storefronts globally. This information was available in disparate systems, presenting time-to-market challenges in how to distribute data to the storefronts.

Silicus was tasked with developing a product data management solution to consolidate the product administration processes and reduce time to update product information across all of the client's online storefronts – approximately 30 storefronts and steadily increasing.

The key objectives of the project were:

  • Integration and transformation of the data from disparate systems
  • Handling huge volume of initial data, to the tune of several terabytes
  • Achieving near zero-time delays in data updates between upstream systems, the data warehouse and web store fronts

The design and architecture of the system was a big challenge and required the architects to be knowledgeable about product lifecycle management processes in the client's organization, product configuration, pricing in the client's industry, and its global e-commerce platform. Additionally, the project required strong technical know-how in service architecture to loosely couple multiple systems.

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Silicus Solution

Silicus worked with the client to develop a single data repository that would integrate with disparate upstream legacy systems, and aggregate the data by customer, product and geography segments before feeding them to the downstream online storefronts.

Silicus delivered a highly scalable solution to address the client's requirements. In line with the concept, the system exposed services for (a) upstream systems to supply bulk and incremental data updates, and (b) downstream systems to subscribe to its data services in a near real-time basis.

The data repository was developed to include the following features:

  • Development of upstream and downstream services to support near zero-time data integration
  • Data modeling for the data warehouse and data marts for each storefront
  • Automated ETL (Extract, Transform and Load) of upstream data
  • Automated publication of relevant data to the downstream applications
  • User interface to manage the data marts
  • Configuration and integration of upstream systems to trigger flow of data to the data warehouse
  • Configuration and integration of downstream storefronts to receive data published by the data repository
Developing Data Repository and Interfaces

Silicus worked with the client's product divisions and marketing teams to understand the common taxonomy and metadata that could be leveraged across all systems requiring interaction with this repository. The taxonomy included product marketing, pricing, complex configuration and availability by customer segment. Subsequently, Silicus developed a scalable database schema that allowed flexibility in importing, manipulating and exporting product information. Subsequently, Silicus built the necessary services and validated them across upstream and downstream systems.

Usability

Silicus built an intuitive user interface to interact with the repository. The user interface was developed to meet specific requirements from the marketing and engineering personnel for searching through product data, quick and easy versioning of documents, and links to relevant product.

Silicus leveraged its expertise in working with Microsoft .NET compatible controls to provide a rich, easy-to-use and intuitive user interface while maintaining application performance. The user interface was designed for easy navigation and improved productivity with lesser mouse clicks to locate data.

Integration with Upstream Systems

In order to validate the repository and APIs, Silicus took on the maintenance of an existing Product Data Management System - PIRS. Subsequently, Silicus upgraded the PIRS database to leverage new features like database replication to enable triggers to capture all data modification. These data updates were then passed on to the repository using the import API in near real-time.

Integration with E-commerce Storefronts

A bridge was built between the repository and the existing e-commerce storefront. The storefront subscribed to the data services using this bridge to get updates on-demand or on a periodic basis.

Performance and Scalability

Silicus and client representatives worked with Microsoft to develop technical solutions that included using MS BizTalk Server and Microsoft .NET web services. The client utilized the .NET platform and Microsoft SQL Server to build the data repository. Using this combination, the client now had a platform with robust service architecture capabilities that allowed for a flexible and scalable technical solution.

Information Security

The client's personnel across different levels of hierarchy, business units and geographies used the data repositories for storing and retrieving information. Users were given access to product data for their work, while privileges for modifying information were set at the administrator level. This ensured information was protected from un-authorized personnel.

Technology Components:

.NET Framework

This project showcased the capabilities of Microsoft .NET. Using new programming and runtime environments, Silicus delivered a cost competitive and robust solution for the challenging task of managing, replicating and providing up to six terabytes of corporate data with much superior performance than previously possible.

Web Services

Silicus leveraged web services architecture to solve the data workflow and integration problem in the absence of a satisfactory off-the-shelf product. Features were made available over the Internet and the Intranet using standard Internet protocols such as HTTP, SOAP and XML.

SQL Server 2000

By leveraging the XML features of SQL Server 2000, system developers generated XML at the database tier rather than at the application or presentation tiers. The support for XML automated steps required to construct, send, and parse XML documents efficiently in SQL Server.

Technologies Used

Database
Database

Microsoft SQL Server

Third Party
Data Integration And Data Flow

Web Services along with HTTP, SOAP and XML

Server
Server

Microsoft BizTalk

Framework
Framework

Microsoft .NET Framework

Client Benefits

Cost Savings

Silicus designed and developed a centralized single point-of-reference system for aggregation, storage, maintenance, and distribution of worldwide product data to provide accurate and timely data availability. This saved the client the expense of maintaining and integrating multiple product databases.

For solution development, Silicus provided a transparent pricing framework that enabled it to work on a fixed bid approach, thereby saving the customer 40% over other vendors.

Improved Productivity

Product marketing personnel could easily access required information instead of searching through several disconnected systems using a single data repository. The user interface was designed for easy navigation and access to data with minimal mouse clicks. This significantly improved marketing team productivity.

Accelerated Time To Market

The centralized data repository simplified data workflow, reduced the number of downstream data interfaces, and provided significant time-to-market benefits to the client.

Reliable, Mature Technology Partner For Complex Project

The project demanded excellence in solution design, architecture, technology, and process capabilities, which Silicus was able to deliver in a robust solution.

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