Now that we are no longer constrained by the technical limitations of our integration tool, we can develop new services to meet the demands of our internal and external users. Thanks to Talend, reliability is no longer an issue and we can focus entirely on our customers.Ahmed Noui, Technical Project Manager
A leader in classified ads
Car & Boat Media is a publishing conglomerate created in 2007 by a merger between French media group SPIR - a leader of automotive web sites in France (Caradisiac.fr) - and the Scandinavian media group Schibsted (Internet, newspapers, mobile services). Originally focused on automotive ads, over time Car & Boat Media has grown to include motorbikes, RVs, trailers, and boats.
With offices in 20 countries and 10,000 employees, Car & Boat Media is best known for La Centrale and the free daily 20 Minutes, currently the most widely read genre independent newspaper in both France and Spain.
Founded in 1969 as La Centrale des Particuliers, the publication was reinvented as a multimedia brand in1999 and today is the French leader in automobile classified ads. LaCentrale.fr has 160,000 ads online; 3,500 professional customers; and 6 million visitors every month.
Information systems at the heart of the business
Historically, Car & Boat Media's information systems have been strategic to the company's business.
"The Information Systems Department has always been directly involved in the growth of the company and in helping business users," explains Ahmed Noui, Technical Project Manager at Car & Boat Media. "We've always tried to improve our tools and performance. When the Internet became dominant at the end of the 90s, we deployed a public web site containing all of our classified ads, today numbering close to 180,000. Because all data acquisition, validation, and publishing had to be done manually, it was becoming impossible to operate in real-time as required by the Internet."
At the same time, Car & Boat Media needed to reconcile the needs of two types of customers - individuals publishing classifieds infrequently, and businesses which publish a significant number of ads on a daily basis - and also wanted to establish targeted customer relationship strategies. Equally important was the ability to publish classifieds simultaneously on the Web and in print.
EDI - a first step
In 2004 the company implemented an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system which automated several manual steps and accelerated the way the classifieds were handled.
Classifieds submitted by businesses were no longer entered manually. Instead, corporations exported a flat file or an XML file and uploaded it to an FTP site from which it would be processed automatically.
Classifieds submitted by businesses were no longer entered manually. Instead, they would export a flat file or an XML file and upload it to an FTP site from which it would be processed automatically.
"In 2008, the EDI channel started to exceed the traditional web channel by a ratio of 60:40. As the EDI increased, the IT Department needed to improve the information system to strengthen the processing chain," explained Ahmed Noui. "We were using a Java development tool on Linux, which allowed us to manage workflow issues (Business Process Management). But by 2005 this solution was showing scalability limitations. We developed patches and increased the number of product servers to make the system more reliable, but we knew it was only a temporary fix. As data volumes grew, the software would behave randomly, even after a version upgrade. We felt it was time to implement a real data integration solution instead of a workflow tool. The aim was to solve our performance problems but also to take into account the data heterogeneity and the variety of our partners."
Talend Data Integration - an obvious choice
After studying the solutions available, the Information Systems Department undertook a technical study to select the best integration solution, according to very specific criteria. Four solutions were tested, including Talend Open Studio for Data Integration and Talend Data Integration, the new version of the workflow tool previously used, and a commercial data integration solution.
"We quickly dismissed the commercial alternatives because of budgetary and philosophical reasons (Car & Boat Media's information system has relied on open source for a long time), but also because we did not want to depend on a software provider for development. In fact, the choice of Talend Data Integration quickly became obvious," explained Ahmed Noui. "The main assessment criteria, beyond the economic aspects (license + maintenance) and type of license (GPL, users or processors, etc.), were ease of use and maintenance, adaptability (the ease of integration into our environment), automation capabilities, compatibility with many platforms and databases, management of alerts, and the reporting capabilities. Talend Data Integration and Talend Open Studio for Data Integration were graded 7.6 and 6.6 respectively on a scale of 10, while the two other products under consideration did not even reach 5. Talend Data Integration's deployment capabilities, plus the quality of the support services convinced us."
Scalability, flexibility, range of components
Car & Boat Media developers performed the migration over a 4-month period, calling upon Talend expertise to validate the architecture.
After using Talend Data Integration for a few months, Ahmed Noui noted several benefits: "The tool is user-friendly and its graphical mode allows us to develop without mastering programming languages. The generated code is optimized and we don't have to waste time verifying the program. In addition, after performing advanced tests on large amounts of data, we are convinced of the scalability of this solution. This is extremely important to us because our data needs are increasing exponentially; we needed a solution that could grow with us."
"Compared to the GPL version, Talend Data Integration helped automate the deployments and balance the load which, at the end of the day, will help us increase productivity. The solution also includes many graphical components, speeding up the connection to databases such as Oracle or MySQL and to XML and CSV data sources. We're saving development time as well as maintenance cycles."
After this first successful project, Car & Boat Media plans to deploy additional projects with Talend Data Integration. For example, the company will automate the transaction flow between the Internet site and the back-office (management of orders, classifieds, invoicing, etc.) via XML They also plan to optimize the Business Objects reporting scripts to reduce the maintenance costs of its Business Intelligence system.
"Now that we are no longer constrained by the technical limitations of our integration tool, we can develop new services to meet the demands of our internal and external users," Ahmed Noui concluded. "Thanks to Talend, reliability is no longer an issue and we can focus entirely on our customers."