The Air Force Improves its Decision-Making with Talend Data Integration

The CSIA (Air Information Systems Center) implemented Talend’s open source data integration solution to modernize its data warehouse loading system.
The implementation and use of Talend Data Integration proved to be more economical than Oracle Data Integrator, because of its invoicing method that is based on the number of developers versus the number of sources and targets with Oracle.
Captain Ludovic Martin, Assistant Head of the Business Intelligence, Administration and Finance Department in the French Air Force

With origins dating back to World War II, the CSIA is the French Air Force’s expertise center in terms of information systems. Like a software and computer services company, the CSIA covers the entire lifecycle of a software product: user assistance during IT projects (customer support), software development (project management) and application hosting. As of January 1, 2011, the Air Force has a staff of 59,000, of which 51,500 are military personnel and 7,400 are civilians. Its budget is 8.02 billion euro, or 21.6% of the National Defense budget.

Improving strategic decision-making

The CSIA is based on two departments dedicated to software: the first is responsible for developing logistics applications (i.e.: technical logistics or aircraft maintenance assistance) and the second, which completes developments in other areas, also manages business intelligence activities: it develops hierarchical dashboards covering a vast range of business data.
The latter is in charge of the “REPAIR” (Air Management Repository) project, a BI data warehouse for air activity monitoring, aircraft technical availability monitoring, maintenance activity monitoring and Finance and HR monitoring. This warehouse makes use of an Oracle database and was modeled in accordance with good BI practices (star model). Initially, each application was connected to an information center, but the system’s performance was not satisfactory.

“In 2007 we started reviewing business intelligence and we evaluated open source tools, including Talend Open Studio for Data Integration for data integration purposes. We compared its performance with Oracle Data Integrator and ultimately chose Talend Open Studio for Data Integration to complete testing for a minor project – the ability to download the tool for free allowed us to do so quickly, without impacting our budget,” comments Captain Ludovic Martin, Assistant Head of the Business Intelligence, Administration and Finance Department. “Not only was its performance extremely satisfactory, but it also was very easy to learn how to use. In addition, the tool provides a comprehensive view of our jobs, while the Oracle solution only offers a single vision of flows. Finally, the Java orientation of the tool is a better match to our developers’ skills than Oracle’s proprietary language.”

Talend Data Integration as the basis of all data integration projects

Given the success of the TOS-based project, the CSIA decided to implement Talend Data Integration to benefit from the collaborative development and central control features that would enable it to industrialize its data integration approach. “The implementation and use of Talend Data Integration proved to be more economical than Oracle Data Integrator, because of its invoicing method that is based on the number of developers versus the number of sources and targets with Oracle,” adds Captain Ludovic Martin.

In 2010, the CSIA started migrating old ODI jobs to Talend. The process, including about forty jobs, was completed without any problems in less than one month, by two non-specialized employees. Meanwhile, the CSIA wanted to be able to publish comments on some reports produced by Business Objects software. Only allowing consultation, it prohibited any data entry.

“The team set up a data insert web service based on Talend Data Integration. We took care to integrate a security and rights management module to ensure that the user is authorized to comment on the report,” explains Captain Ludovic Martin. “Once again, Talend’s flexibility helped us achieve our goal quickly.”

Today, six people use the Talend solution. New projects were started under the REPAIR project and 40 new Talend loading flows were developed, bringing the total number of data integration jobs to 80. Most data comes from MySQL databases and Excel files, but the system has to evolve this year due to the direct connections to three applications. The project gradually increases in power and all of the Air Force’s structuring systems are little by little connected to the data warehouse via Talend.

Usability, scalability, sustainability

One of the main benefits for the Air Force is, according to the CSIA, the speed and ease of learning how to use the Talend solution. “In the military career, staff changes are frequent and consistent. Team replacements are constant and it is important that new entrants are trained quickly. With the graphical programming method and the complete visibility of all processes offered by Talend Data Integration, our developers are quickly productive and exchanges with project managers and analysts are well-documented,” comments Captain Ludovic Martin.

In addition to the economic aspects already mentioned, the CSIA appreciates the solution’s openness, which enables it to develop its own components. “The Java orientation enables us to quickly gain independence, but we also enjoy the tool’s openness to develop our own unique components. This is important because even if a rich component palette is provided, sometimes we have to create a specific component or modify the behavior of an existing component to adapt it to our needs,” says Captain Ludovic Martin. “At the same time, we rely on Talend’s open source community to help us solve some problems, like bugs, and on service providers, like Manapps, one of Talend’s Platinum Partners, for training, guidance and developments.”

“In a nutshell, we now have a solution that, at a lower cost, offers a similar or even superior technical performance.  We no longer have to worry about the sustainability of our system since we have the skills necessary for its administration and free access to the solution’s source code for any developments,” concludes Captain Ludovic Martin. “Lastly, support services are quite satisfactory. Although we have not had many issues, they were resolved quickly. The solution’s reliability is crucial, since the Air Force’s BI activities are strategic.”