If generating reports for your board or parent company takes hours or days, your whole business is reduced to the speed of the slowest system. Cerebos Australia eliminated reporting bottlenecks by upgrading its core IBM® Db2® databases and adopting IBM BLU Acceleration® to boost analytics performance by a factor of five.
As business grew, Cerebos Australia’s business-critical financial reporting processes were showing signs of stress, and achieving acceptable performance required hours of manual tuning.
By working with Datasync Consulting (link resides outside of ibm.com) to upgrade its core database platform and implement BLU Acceleration technology, Cerebos has lifted analytics performance significantly.
The owner of some of the best-known food and coffee brands, Cerebos Australia is a key part of a larger business empire. The parent company Cerebos Pacific is owned by Suntory, the global Japanese food and beverage group.
To keep its operations closely aligned with group-level strategies, delivering accurate and timely financial analytics is a top priority. Each month, the company gathers data from its general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, inventory management, promotional spend and demand planning systems, and turns them into a series of insightful reports to be used at the group level.
Mark Minard, Technology Services Manager at Cerebos Australia, explains: “Our business relies on an Oracle ERP system and an Infor demand planning system, and all our reporting is completed through an analytics system from MicroStrategy. These systems had been performing well for years, but as our business grew, we started noticing signs of stress.
“Increased data volumes were starting to cause problems for all of our reports, but in particular, our group-level reporting suffered. It took five days each month to produce the top-level reports. We spent a month redesigning those reports and building new indexes in our database to tune performance, which made a big difference—but there’s only so much you can optimize. We still had a situation where our system was taking 15 minutes to generate a report, or even timing out altogether.
“We wanted to find a better solution, and that’s when our long-time IT advisor Datasync Consulting suggested looking at the new version of IBM Db2 with BLU Acceleration.”
Initially, Cerebos’ team of database administrators (DBA) was skeptical about the claim that BLU Acceleration could both dramatically increase query speeds and eliminate the need for DBAs to create and manage indexes to optimize performance.
“Many times, the claims that database vendors make about performance turn out to be too good to be true,” says Mark Minard. “We wanted to be sure that BLU Acceleration was more than just smoke and mirrors, so we asked IBM for a demo license and ran some rigorous tests. The results were truly impressive: for the first report we tested, we saw a leap in performance from 4 minutes 13 seconds down to just 47 seconds. Better still, we didn’t need to make any changes to the report itself, or create any indexes in the database. It just worked.”
Based on positive trials, Cerebos upgraded to IBM Db2 v11.1, which would allow the DBA team to put the BLU Acceleration capability into production. Working with Datasync Consulting, the team converted its entire general ledger—comprising over 90 million rows of data—from a traditional row-based table structure to column-oriented tables that unlock the power of BLU Acceleration.
“From a traditional relational database mindset, the theory behind BLU Acceleration is quite difficult to grasp at first,” says Mark Minard. “But in terms of actually installing the software, converting your tables and getting your queries running, it’s very straightforward. The documentation from IBM is very good, and Datasync Consulting did an excellent job of getting us up to speed.”
Taking a safety-first approach, Cerebos ran the new environment in parallel with its old database architecture for a month, to compare results.
Mark Minard comments: “The results we saw in production matched what we saw during the proof of concept—and we also saw some improvements that we hadn’t been expecting. Loading times for our data warehouse dropped by 20 percent, even though it typically takes slightly longer to load a columnar table than a row-based table. It shows that BLU Acceleration isn’t the only improvement that IBM has made to Db2 over the past few years; simply upgrading from version 9.7 to version 11.1 has given us better performance across the board.”
Speaking about the business benefits of the new solution, Mark Minard comments: “On average, we’re seeing our financial reports run five times faster with BLU Acceleration than they did before, and we’re no longer seeing any errors or time-outs. That means we can reliably deliver the insight that our stakeholders require, whether they are decision-makers within our business or at the group level.”
The DBA team is also making significant time-savings on maintenance and management. “We have been running the new platform in production for more than five months now, and it has been solid—we have had zero unplanned downtime or other unexpected problems,” says Mark Minard.
“BLU Acceleration genuinely delivers on the promise of reducing the need for tuning and optimization too,” he adds. “We used to spend about 10 percent of our time creating indexes and ironing out problems with inefficient queries—and it was time that we could ill afford. Now, for the queries that use BLU Acceleration, this effort has completely vanished. We have 80 general ledger reports and drill-down scenarios that haven’t required any optimization at all.”
With the success of the project to move the company’s financial reporting datasets over to column-based tables, Cerebos is now hoping to adopt the new paradigm for other areas of its analytics landscape too.
“When we introduce any new sources of data, we’re planning to put them into column-based tables straight away,” says Mark Minard. “And we’re considering replacing some of our real-time analytics and financial planning solutions with BLU Acceleration too. There are so many areas of the business that could benefit. For example, we would love to be able to analyze on-hand inventory with the same speed and reliability that we now have in our financial reporting environment.”
He concludes: “Unlike many technologies, BLU Acceleration really lives up to the hype. We’re glad that IBM and Datasync Consulting gave us the support we needed to take the first step, and we’re eager to see how far the new platform can take us in the future.”
Cerebos Australia (link resides outside of ibm.com) is the owner of some of Australia and New Zealand’s best-known gravy, sauce, stock and coffee brands, including Saxa, Gravox, Fountain, Toby’s Estate, Foster Clark’s, Mocopan and Asian Home Gourmet. Its parent company, Cerebos Pacific, is based in Singapore, and is wholly owned by the Suntory group.
Built for the world's mission critical workloads.
IBM Analytics offers one of the world's deepest and broadest analytics platform, domain and industry solutions that deliver new value to businesses, governments and individuals.
For more information about how IBM Analytics helps to transform industries and professions with data, visit ibm.com/analytics. Follow us on Twitter at @IBMAnalytics, on our blog at ibm/blog and join the conversation #IBMAnalytics.
© Copyright IBM Corporation 2017. 1 New Orchard Road, Armonk, New York 10504-1722 United States.
Produced in the United States of America, June 2017.
IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, BLU Acceleration, and Db2 are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/trademark.
This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The performance data and client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions.
THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. The client is responsible for ensuring compliance with laws and regulations applicable to it. IBM does not provide legal advice or represent or warrant that its services or products will ensure that the client is in compliance with any law or regulation.