Management Science Associates (MSA) Builds Next-Generation Data Warehouse and Near-Real-time Analytics on MapR

MSA Uses Less Hardware and Gets Better Performance with MapR

The Business

Management Science Associates, Inc. (MSA) is a 50+ year old company that is based on analytics. MSA has expertise in taking information and putting it into a consistent story so that their customers can make decisions. They offer its customers data management, advanced analytics and technology services. The Information Management Solutions division provides distributor-shipment and retail point-of-sale analytics to help consumer-packaged goods (CPG) companies expand in-store presence, improve marketing programs, and gain competitive advantage.

MSA collects and processes data from 7,000 distributor-warehouse files, reporting its shipments to over one million unique retail outlets. MSA analyzes this data to help its customers detect demand for a product so distributors and manufacturers can automatically adjust orders to meet demand.

“We provide our clients with two advantages,” explains Karl Herleman, Senior Vice President, Strategy and Innovation at MSA. “We have a critical mass of data providers and relationships with distributors, with broad coverage across North America. As a third party, we are able to integrate various data sources. We also have history with the data. Our data analysts and data scientists have been working with this manufacturing data for 30 years.”

The Challenge

MSA wanted to drive additional revenue and competitive advantage by providing its customers new offerings with near-real-time capabilities. “We’re being asked to collect data from thousands of data sources, aggregate it and turn it around on a daily or even near-real-time basis,” says Corey Grone, Senior Information Systems Manager at MSA. However, to do this they were facing both internal and external challenges.

Internal challenges included rising costs from trying to scale their legacy database and storage infrastructure. With the goal of integrating current data sources, like point-of-sale and shipment data, with many new sources from weather to social media, the volume of data continues to grow. “We saw that our data volumes were going to increase exponentially over the next several years. Investing in our legacy platform would’ve been very costly, number one. Number two, it would not have kept pace with the amount of data that we get and the amount of processing that we needed to do,” explains Herleman.

“As our customers analyze their data they want the ability to ask “What if…?” or they want to ask, “When did this occur?” “What happened when my product went on promotion?” Whitfield explains. “Our customers want to know the answer very quickly. When they query the information, they want that response back, as I’m asking the question, what’s the answer? They don’t want to say, “Let me ask this question? I’ll come back tomorrow and find out what the answer is.” They want a much more interactive operation with the information. By being able to access this information so quickly they are able to then drill even further into what’s happening in the information, so that they don’t have to necessarily sit down ahead of time and think about, “Well, what are the questions I’m going to ask? What are the results I’m expecting to get?”

MapR Solution

MSA is building a next-generation data warehouse environment that will improve their analytic capabilities such as near-real-time predictive analysis. After evaluating Hortonworks and Cloudera, MSA chose the MapR Enterprise Database Edition as the foundation for their new environment. “The other distributions didn’t have the same capabilities as MapR. It was a clear choice. MapR is the industry leader,” says Kevin Whitfield, Director, Applications Group at MSA.

Multi-tenancy is critical. Several of MSA’s critical requirements for its new environment were only available from MapR. One of these was multi-tenancy for data, processing, and users, as MSA’s hosted environment serves thousands of distributors and manufacturers. This unique capability in MapR lets customers keep distinct data sets and user groups isolated from each other all in a single consolidated deployment.

Integrated NoSQL provides flexibility. Another MapR advantage is its integrated, enterprise-grade NoSQL database, which handles their structured, interactive data requirements. “We are able to provide customers with access to structured and unstructured data. For example, one customer wants POS scanner data. We can ingest this data into the cluster and provide near-real-time analytical dashboards on top of MapR-DB. We want to expand in different ways, for whatever devices the end user will have,” says Whitfield.

Unmatched performance. MapR was also chosen because of its superior performance and compression. “The MapR file system is the fastest file system on the planet,” explains Grone. “Now we’re being asked to collect data from thousands of data sources, aggregate it and turn it around on a daily or even nearreal-time basis. The MapR platform running on our Cisco hardware has allowed us to meet that demand.”

Simply stated, “We use less hardware and get better performance with MapR. We would have had to spend a lot more money if we chose a MapR competitor,” says Whitfield.

Disaster recovery capabilities critical. High availability was another critical factor for MSA. “We run and manage and operate 2 data centers, and so having the ability to fail over between them is a critical criteria for us. With our new infrastructure on Cisco and MapR we really feel that we can grow into the petabyte scale with no limitations,” explains Herleman.

Beyond the clear technology advantages, another reason MSA selected MapR was the service and partnership. “The support we get from MapR is just great. They treat us as if we were a very, very large company. We have no doubt that as we move forward, we are going to get the assistance that we needed,” explains Whitfield.

MSA is confident working with MapR as a partner for the future. “We really liked the global nature of MapR and the business direction they are heading in. It’s a business model that is going to succeed,” says Herleman. “With this new Hadoop cluster, we will be expanding our analytic capability across industries and building a secure robust future for MSA.”





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