Accelerating Data Transfer

In corporate America today, data optimization is quickly maturing. More applications are leveraging data once siloed in specialized business functions and systems. More sensitivity is applied to data access with an eye not only to security but to expert utilization. In this environment, the push of data that intends to maximize corporate productivity can instead hit a slowdown.

So small-business software developers look for niches in a marketplace dominated by a few big players. MAStransit is designed to export Sage MAS 90 and MAS 200 accounting and enterprise resource data to a Microsoft SQL Server. It was created by HighTower, a business software developer in Skokie, Ill., at customer request. With MAStransit, staff that needs to access the data does not need to query the ERP solution and can gain access faster.

By pushing the records to another server and leapfrogging the open database connection (ODBC) used by Crystal Reports to connect to Sage MAS 90 or MAS 200, this information also can be accessed from more places than when data must be called up through ODBC and Crystal Reports.

Eliminating Obstacles to Greater Efficiency
With worries about the economy at several small and midsize firms, the study of data to expose the state of business and predict its future has become more critical. Poky reporting was inconsistent with aggressive decision-making at some of HighTower’s customers. To keep their businesses competitive, they required a quick, reliable way to retrieve data from Sage ERP systems.

“We have customers that have been with us for as long as 20 years, and their historical data is quite extensive,” said HighTower president Rob Nordin. “Crystal Reports, Sage’s best-of-breed reporting tool, uses an ODBC connection to get to MAS 90 data. Once a report gets beyond joining a couple of tables, Crystal really slows down.

“When Crystal Reports is attached to an SQL Database, however, it screams. Reports that took overnight to print start printing in 15 minutes.”

MAStransit rolled out to HighTower’s complete customer base a year ago, following extended testing by clients who cooperated in its creation.

“Our customers drove the design process,” Nordin said. “We were in discussions with five different customers, working their requirements into a fully configurable, automated system.”

Race to the Database
MySQL Connector/ODBC (a.k.a. MyODBC) comes from MySQL and Sun Microsystems. In effect, it does the reverse of MAStransit, connecting users to a MySQL database server through ODBC, but to the same result – efficiency gains through access to a wealth of data on the server.

MySQL similarly promises fast performance, high reliability and ease of use for developers and business users. Behind the user interface of these software packages, though, are rules that optimize data transfer for speed.

“One of the configuration parameters under discussion was the frequency in which MAStransit would replicate the data,” Nordin explained. “Some tables needed to be almost instantaneous, while others could be replicated once a night.”

HighTower categorized data accordingly but also designed the solution to accept end-user requirements.

“MAS 90 tables can be individually selected for replication,” he said. “You can set up as many or as few as you need and have them replicate on different schedules.”

Even small businesses can be data intensive, especially inventory-based firms.

“Our experience has been that high-volume customers – those with a higher inventory turn – need MAStransit,” Nordin said. “Inventory transaction reporting can involve a number of tables — customer, sales history and item history, to name a few. The joins for those tables give Crystal Reports the biggest challenge.

The developers anticipate some software customization out of MAStransit, probably around the creation of proprietary reports.

Kelly Shermach is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y., who frequently writes about technology and data security. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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