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Relational Tools for DB2 Increases Productivity for PHEAA

  Product Review published in DM Review Magazine
July 1998 Issue
  By Mark Labby
Review of: Relational Tools for DB2 from Princeton Softech, Inc.

PLATFORMS: Relational Tools for DB2 is a suite of data migration products for the MVS environment.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is a student financial services organization. The Relational Tools saved time and created production quality test data for QA testing. With the Relational Tools, PHEAA created test databases that are truly representative of the production environment and tested for special cases and boundary conditions.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: One of PHEAA's DB2 production environments contains over one billion rows of data across 350 tables for over one million borrowers. Move for DB2 extracts complete, relationally intact subsets of data. With Access for DB2 the user can inspect and edit related data from multiple DB2 tables simultaneously on one screen. Compare for DB2 contrasts "before" and "after" versions of DB2 test data in their referential context to be sure that an updated application is performing correctly.

STRENGTHS: The Relational Tools are accurate and have substantially increased the staff's productivity. PHEAA has enhanced its testing environment and improved the quality of its production applications.

WEAKNESSES: The Relational Tools offer tremendous flexibility for defining relationships, but had trouble handling one aspect of PHEAA's data model--specifically, when table A is a parent of both table B and table C, and table B is also a parent of table C. The desire was to use the relationship between A and C to retrieve the appropriate parent, but not to retrieve all the children. This was finally accomplished through the addition of one otherwise unnecessary relationship. However, Princeton Softech has been very responsive and will deliver functionality in its next release to address the problem.

SELECTION CRITERIA: PHEAA had never seen a suite of tools that did as much as the Relational Tools. PHEAA's system is very tightly tied to application RI and the test data had to be 100 percent accurate, no matter how many tables and relationships the database contained. For a system this complex, an automated data acquisition tool is a necessity. Developing an extract program in house that was sophisticated enough to reflect the production data model was more of a challenge than the development staff wanted to take on.

DELIVERABLES: The Relational Tools enable PHEAA to perform tasks that would not be possible manually. Move for DB2 is used daily to extract referentially intact test data from 179 tables, including 452 relationships, more than half of which are not documented in the DB2 Catalog. Using a person's Social Security number, PHEAA is able to automatically and intelligently retrieve all related data. Move for DB2 was also used to extract and age data for Year 2000 testing, with a data model of 271 tables and 584 relationships currently defined. With Compare for DB2, users automatically locate all related database changes, even those in tables that are far removed from the user's focus. An additional benefit is the ability to compare multiple tables with a single request. Recently, PHEAA added well over $2 billion worth of loans to the system. During the conversion process, Access for DB2 was used to browse referentially intact data. It was astounding how easy it was to perform data comparisons with Access for DB2, as opposed to the tool that we had been using which only allowed editing of one table at a time. Hours of effort have been eliminated and accuracy has improved.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Princeton Softech's technical support is outstanding. Their engineers have been very responsive and are easy to contact both by phone and the Internet.

DOCUMENTATION: Princeton Softech provides both beginner and advanced training. An on-line tutorial and printed manuals are also available.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Data Quality, Database/Application Performance and Data Analysis.

Mark Labby, senior database administrator for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.

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