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CASE STUDY - Why Open Source Was the Business Intelligence Suite of Choice for ZipRealty

Commentary by Salvatore Scalisi, Director of Data Administration, ZipRealty

Company Overview ZipRealty (NASD: ZIPR), a national, fullservice real estate brokerage, provides home buyers and sellers with an innovative real estate solution. By using the efficiencies of the Internet, ZipRealty has streamlined the real estate process and is able to pass significant savings on to its clients. The brokerage’s licensed, local ZipAgents in each of its markets allow home buyers and sellers to save thousands of dollars, without compromising on service.

The company employs 1,875 ZipAgents, serving a large client base across a growing list of diverse local real estate markets.

Business Challenge

With a large and expanding business, integrated online operations, and nationwide reach in a dynamic market, ZipRealty has long recognized the need and opportunity to integrate information from disparate sources to give business users visibility into strategic metrics. Important metrics span topics such as agent productivity, customer service, and overall return on investment of ZipRealty’s marketing programs.

Technology Evironment and Challenges

Critical business information for ZipRealty exists in multiple transactional systems. ZipRealty uses a combination of packaged as well as custom applications, which run primarily on an Oracle database platform. Getting a complete picture of business activity and performance across these systems requires integrating and rationalizing the data into standardized models and formats.

Prior to Pentaho, ZipRealty used an internally developed Java-based application to access these disparate data stores and to extract, transform, and load the data into a data warehouse running on the MySQL Enterprise database. Using a custom-built solution allowed ZipRealty to deliver initial business value and results without expensive software licensing fees, while deploying an integration solution that was optimized and tailored for their specific environment.

Over time, systems changed as the business grew, and business-user analytical requirements evolved. Therefore, ZipRealty’s IT team ran into challenges in maintaining the data integration environment. Making changes to business rules and integration logic became a complex and time-consuming process. It was important to ZipRealty’s IT team to remain responsive to business needs, while simultaneously preserving precious IT resources for other important systems and projects.

Solution and Results

ZipRealty chose a Pentaho data integration subscription (based on Pentaho’s popular Kettle open source data integration project) to address its needs. After evaluating the product, ZipRealty found that its metadatadriven architecture, graphical drag-and-drop maintenance environment, and rich library of transformations would fit well into its data warehousing environment, and would streamline and simplify maintenance.

ZipRealty also was pleasantly surprised to find a three-fold increase in data loading performance, reducing its batch window by eight hours.

Furthermore, Pentaho’s commercial open source model allowed it to deploy best-inclass open source ETL capabilities with professional telephone and electronic support, as well as IP indemnification with no software license fees and an overall TCO far below that of traditional, proprietary ETL tools. Demonstrating a pragmatic and successful mix of open- and closed-source BI technologies, ZipRealty continues to use MicroStrategy business intelligence tools on the front end to provide reporting and analytics to business users.

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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