In practice: Leveraging XML databases

Douglas Holding

Douglas Holding is a Germany-headquartered retailer of perfumes, fashion accessories and cosmetics, with 2,400 retail outlets in Europe and the US, trading under brand names such as Thalia, Christ and Hussel.

Its use of IBM’s DB2 version 9 is a classic example of how hybrid XML databases are beginning to be used. The business challenge it sought to address was how to consolidate and analyse all the transactions generated at its stores. Previously, the data from its cash registers was exported as text files, and then converted to a consolidated format that the back-end applications could use. So many steps were involved that inconsistencies were difficult to track.

The company decided to tackle this problem by storing the sales data in both XML and relational formats. The data is now sent as XML files from the cash registers or related systems, and stored as native XML in the IBM DB2 9 database. The XML documents can then be directly accessed and queried by other company applications, or used to generate sales reports. At the same time, the data is stored in relational tables, enabling financial and analytical applications to process it.


UPS, the international courier service celebrating its 100th birthday this year, is lauded for the quality and reliability of its global package delivery service. But in recent times, it has also become well known for its advanced application of IT  – its Delivery Information Acquisition Device (DIAD), a good case in point.

The information from this field service device is not stored in a traditional database, but is held in XML format in Oracle’s XML DB.

The DIAD data is sent in XML from various field locations and transformed into structured content for further processing. The system stores and processes between 80,000 and 115,000 transactions per day, using a variety of schemas, and can manage up to 66 weeks of live data.

By using XML, UPS says it was able to develop the application much faster than with traditional approaches, avoiding the need for it to revert to expensive customised code.

Nippon Chemi-Con

Nippon Chemi-Con, a 75 year-old supplier of electronic components, suffered from a classic integration problem. It has core production sites with eight different systems that manage order and inventory.

Enterprise-wide visibility and structure into fulfillment was “almost nil”, and silos of tactical data made it difficult to coordinate efforts or track performance at the corporate level.

Nippon Chemi-Con decided to unify order entry across all production sites by building a central system that could handle more than 180,000 orders per day for hundreds of unique products. On top of this, the company wanted “an interface so rich, visual and useable that employees would enjoy using it.”

This classic challenge is usually solved by largescale software re-engineering and consolidation. But Nippon Chemi-Con came up with an enterprise-class but elegant solution: it built a new application that took the production data in XML format, with the results integrated in a new user-friendly application built using the xfy information integration and presentation development suite from JustSystems.

The xfy solution seamlessly analyses the XML data returned from Nippon’s DB2 9 database, displaying it in highly readable, customised views.

According to Nippon, the baseline system was built in just one week, with users throughout to ensure an intuitive visual interface. Staff are able to enter data at diverse global locations, in their native languages, irrespective of their skill levels.

And Nippon claims it has seen major business impact: production and planning inefficiencies resulting from incompatible or diverse local databases have been all but eliminated.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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