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InfoShuttle: A data transfer tool

Customers weigh in on a data transfer tool.


A data transfer tool may not sound that exciting, but some analysts and customers said a new tool by Gamma Enterprise Technologies holds some neat business benefits.

The idea behind Gamma's InfoShuttle is to enable users to easily transfer subsets of live SAP R/3 business data into testing and development environments, non-SAP applications and data warehouse applications.

The product works by letting users create a "shuttle manifest" where the user can select the data object to be transferred in a simple tree menu. After inspection, the information is launched and deployed at its destination. Sounds simple? It is, said some customers.

About Gamma Enterprise Technologies
Company snapshot:
  • Based in Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Founded in late 1980s and incorporated in 1991.
  • 65 employees in 12 states.
  • Core business: ERP implementation and e-business integration.

Gamma homepage

"We have about five people on our SAP support staff that are currently using InfoShuttle," said Lisa Saupp, applications project manager at Graham Packaging in York, Pa. "None of them has yet had to touch the manual."

Graham has only used the product for two months, but is already beginning to see benefits such as more thorough testing and enhanced user support. The latter is accomplished by duplicating user problems into a test environment, where the issue can be resolved without messing around in the live system.

Gregory Nelson, manager of the SAP technical competency center at cosmetics company Wella Corp. in Woodland Hills, Calif., agrees that the product has merits. It has used InfoShuttle since the summer and has seen a big impact in terms of saved time for the company. Wella primarily uses InfoShuttle to move test data between different environments, he said.

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InfoShuttle helps preserve the cost center information, Nelson said. Normally, you risk losing the cost center information as you pass data between development and production, but with InfoShuttle, you don't have to redo the work. That saves a lot of time, especially if they take on new acquisitions and set up new cost centers in the future, he said.

Both Saupp and Nelson said the tool is easy to start using. Both implemented the product in a matter of hours, and the configuration process is so easy any techie or Basis person worth their salt should be able to figure it out without the help of external consultants, Nelson said.

The problem with this type of product is that its value is not obvious to non-technical people, said Jennifer Kemmeter, research analyst at AMR Research in Boston, Mass.

ROI difficult to pin down

While it can be hard to establish a set return on investment, the tool can cut downtime and administrative costs. Sometimes companies will take systems down for a whole day for maintenance. If you can eliminate that without interfering with the business, that's a clear benefit that proves the value of the product, she said.

Both customers gave the product overall high marks for functionality.

"The only issues we've had with copying data between our systems have been configuration related items like setting up document number ranges," Saupp said. "These need to be manually maintained in each client."

The weakness of InfoShuttle at this point is that it is a young product, customers said. It has certain limitations in terms of objects; meaning users can't get data from all modules yet. Also, one user she spoke to consider the payroll-piece of HR a weakness, Kemmeter said.

Monica Berndt, director of marketing at Gamma, Woodland Hills, Calif., said future releases of InfoShuttle will have more support for more data objects in more modules, out of the box. Human Resources will also get increased attention, due to great demand.

"Future releases will continue to enhance our support for HR," she said, "with features that include such things as anonymous data, to make sure sensitive information in HR is protected."

Another important area of development for InfoShuttle is enhancement and support for XML. This enables taking discrete data objects out of an SAP system and making them available to both SAP and non-SAP systems, Berndt said.

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