Nebraska Furniture Mart's database migration to Reality goes so smoothly, staff fail to notice the change

Northgate Information Solutions and the Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM) announces the successful migration of NFM 's retail applications to Reality, a MultiValue relational data management system provided by Northgate . The migration, which took only 12 months to complete, went without a hitch. During that period, Northgate assisted NFM in migrating nearly a billion data records together with the suite of sophisticated in-house retail applications used by NFM, the largest furniture retail outlet in the U.S.

"Going live was a non-event," says David Ragan, NFM 's Senior Database Administrator. "We came in at 6.00am the morning of the cutover expecting a flood of panic calls, but the phones never rang. When we asked people how they were getting on with the new system, they replied 'What new system?' They had no clue we'd switched products overnight."

An even tougher test of Reality's resilience came on Black Friday, when sales volumes are ten times greater than on any other day of the year, and peak-time crowds can reach 3,000 in a single store.

As David explains: "We sailed through with only a handful of issues. The fact that senior management had no concerns with doing this upgrade just a few weeks before Black Friday and heading into the busy holiday season demonstrates the faith we had in Reality."

In the beginning, however, Reality was not even a contender for NFM 's database upgrade. NFM sent an RFI to Northgate 'as a courtesy'. But the NFM team soon noticed that Reality had a lot to offer and their staff showed a unique readiness to adapt to NFM 's requirements. By the end of the first-round of evaluations, Northgate was on a shortlist of two. Feedback from existing users helped with the selection process.

"Everyone we spoke to was thrilled with the performance of their database," says David. "It was only when we delved deeper that differences emerged. Users of other MultiValue products seemed satisfied that crashes were as infrequent as one a month; Reality users couldn't remember the last time their system crashed."

NFM saved time and money on the upgrade process. David believes that it would have taken two years to get where they are now if they had chosen another database provider.

He adds: "We saved on staff resources too. We thought we would have to throw the entire IT team into this project. In the end, a large portion of the work was done by just two people. Other than a couple of months of intense testing, the majority of the team was able to continue with their normal day-to-day business tasks."

When NFM first chose Northgate , many industry observers thought the retailer was making a mistake. Some were skeptical that Reality could even scale to the size that NFM needed. David himself admits he had some reservations. At every stage in the process, however, Northgate proved their worth. One of their earliest successes was to identify and resolve an NFM system hardware issue. The problem was so well hidden, NFM was not even aware of it themselves.

Northgate engineers also speeded up the data change-over process. They pioneered a new technique that took completed transactions from the live mvEnterprise system and dropped them into the waiting Reality database. The result was a ready-made, near-real-time copy of the live database. It cut switchover down-time from over 24 hours to less than an hour.

John Seaman, Reality Sales Director, was aware that Northgate was the underdog in the race to secure the NFM contract. "That kind of challenge doesn't worry us," he says. "Over the years, we've upgraded dozens of MultiValue database sites of all flavors and sizes. We never say that the upgrade path will be painless, but we can say that no customer who has gone down that route has ever regretted their choice."