Business: Together, YachtWorld.com and Boats.com are the single most powerful and effective online global marketing solution for the boating industry. With over 140,000 new and used boat listings worldwide offered by over 4,000 brokers, dealers and builders in 115 countries, YachtWorld.com and Boats.com are visited by over 4 million boating consumers every month who click through over 95 million page views.
Challenge: Like many companies, YachtWorld.com and Boats.com were collecting large quantities of data from their diverse operational systems – millions of daily web page views, as well as significant volumes of sales lead emails and toll free calls to their affiliated brokers, dealers, and builders. The web-related data resided in very large log files, the call and email data was distributed across multiple, heterogeneous MySQL and Oracle databases, other supporting data was found in various flat files. The final challenge – the solution needed to be built within a reasonable budget.
Solution: YachtWorld.com and Boats.com required a flexible, highly-scalable, maintainable market intelligence solution that could bring together all the data, and present the information in an easy to use format. This required a centralized data warehouse from which users could perform sophisticated analysis based on cubes, dashboards, and reports. Both open source and proprietary database and business intelligence solutions were considered during the selection process. MySQL was chosen as the database engine; the Pentaho business intelligence suite was chosen to provide extract, transform, load (ETL) and analysis/reporting functionality.
Both selections were based on functionality (especially MySQL 5.1 partitioning); large, active user-bases; existing internal expertise with the engine (MySQL); the long-term viability of the companies; and the availability of professional support subscriptions. Breadboard BI, Inc. (http://www.breadboardbi.com) provided the project management and consulting services necessary to architect and build the solution. They were chosen based on a proven track-record of delivering scalable business intelligence solutions, as well as their MySQL and Pentaho partnerships and certifications.
Results: The new YachtWorld.com and Boats.com solution, named BoatsReports, represents a 100% open source stack – from the Linux operating system on the servers, to the MySQL database, to the Pentaho data integration and presentation layers. This stack required zero upfront investment in database or business intelligence software licenses (usually running well into USD six figures), making it easier to receive internal project approval. In addition, the open architecture of this stack made it easy to integrate with existing systems. Although a contingency plan was developed to swap out open source tools for proprietary or custom-developed solutions, these alternate plans were not needed. Conclusion: Boats.com and YachtWorld.com have affordably transformed their oceans of disparate data into a comprehensive market intelligence product based on open source technologies. The actionable information in BoatsResults offers internal analysts and external partners with previously unavailable insights. Making use of previously unavailable information with the help of open source tools, this powerful solution has quickly proven invaluable in the decision making process for production, sales and marketing strategies. Because of the size of the Boats.com & YachtWorld combined data set, the data in aggregate form now represents some of the most comprehensive benchmark data in the boating industry – by itself a valuable commodity allowing for unmatched competitive analysis. A secondary result of the new solution has been that it has exposed data issues in the source systems. Several projects have been undertaken to further improve operational data, allowing customers to be better-served.
More Details: More details can be found in a case study at http://www.breadboardbi.com/white_papers/case_study_boats.pdf.
Christopher Lavigne is a managing partner at Breadboard BI, Inc. (www.breadboardbi.com). At Breadboard, he leads the creation of superior quality, rapidly developed, affordable business intelligence systems based on commercial and open source tools. Mr. Lavigne has worked for a number of major companies including Cargill, PeopleSoft, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Oracle. He has published a number of white papers focusing on developinng enterprise business intelligence solutions using open source tools. Mr. Lavigne has also spoken at major conferences, including LinuxWorld in San Francisco. He earned a Masters degree from Virginia Tech and holds a number of certifications.
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