erwin Data Modeler (DM) Review

The data comes to life to where customers understand exactly what they're asking for

What is our primary use case?

When I work from home, my use case for erwin is for when I get a request for a database upgrade. Usually, the request comes in with a whole bunch of tables and names so I'll go into the DM and I'll start building out what they're asking for. Once we actually get them to be able to view it and understand it, then we'll go back and forth with the developers and the requesters to make sure that it's exactly what they're looking for. We'll spend a few days making sure everything looks correct. Once that's finished, I'll send it out. 

Unfortunately, I can't do a PDF straight from erwin so I'll copy everything into Word and then save my Word as a PDF. With that PDF, I'll be able to send it off to all the stakeholders, not just the developers and the requesters, so that everybody can see it, even the ones that don't have erwin itself.

My office use case is pretty much the same, except with the office, we add in Model Mart. We have our entire network, all the databases, and everything in Model Mart and it's over 1,500 different tables, relationships, attributes, and things like that. It's a really large model. Then, we break down that model into individual subject areas and we work through those. We go back to any new requests, we'll build them in Data Modeler and we'll go back and forth with the requesters, making sure everything looks like what they're expecting it to. They'll usually just send us either a spreadsheet of names and data types and then we build from there.

How has it helped my organization?

erwin brings data to life. We're currently working with a requester at that moment, who provided us with a spreadsheet of their ideas of tables and attributes with the metadata associated with each. Then they provided us a rudimentary diagram with tables and keys. I was able to put it into erwin along with the metadata that they were asking for, and it really brought questions to life. The people said, "We didn't realize the relationships were going to bring in these extra keys." And they didn't realize there were a lot of extra pieces coming in as well. Once we did that, we were able to show them exactly what they were asking for and it brought much more conversation between us.

We don't use DM's modeling support for Snowflake cloud yet. I am interested in cloud technology and I just came across that support that erwin has. It made me even more interested in cloud technology. 

Its ability to generate database code from a model for a wide array of data helps another office in my company that uses it quite a bit. 

What is most valuable?

The automatic build to the physical is a really nice feature. I like the fact that it will bring the keys down from one table to the next, from a parent to child table. Those two things make erwin a very easy to use product. 

It's a safeguard for me because I'm always concerned that somebody is free handing it and will forget a key coming from the parent. The migrating keys are a great feature. Identifying relationships, non-identifying relationships, and being visually right there to understand the differences are great features.

erwin is key to being able to visually understand whatever the customer is requesting. They'll give you words on a paper, but once they can actually view it as a picture, it really comes to life. The data comes to life to where they understand exactly what they're asking for.

What needs improvement?

I'd really like to see the PDF function become available. It would make my life much easier than what it is at the moment because whenever I need to collaborate with people that do not have erwin, I have to go through the wonkiness of going to Word and then save it from Word into PDF. There's a lot of differences between erwin 4.4 and 2020. It's a learning curve for me. It could be easier to use, but it's not a Windows/Microsoft type of application. It's close to it but it's also not. Once I've used it enough and learned it, then I'll know where all the pieces are.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've been a data modeler in my office for six years so I've been using erwin for six years. My office has been using erwin since the beginning of time. I'm not exactly sure when they started using it, but the office has been around for 20 years so they've probably been using it since erwin started.

It's on our secret network and I believe they've been going back and forth quite a bit with erwin's tech teams as far as getting it to work because I think our workstations are virtual workstations and there were some issues with the licensing and the license server. I've been watching that from the peripherals but not really getting in the weeds with them. I'm not sure exactly what they're doing.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I've only had it crash on me once. I can't remember what I was doing and when or how it crashed. It was one of those inconvenient times and so I started again. I don't think an auto-save was done. That happened three weeks ago.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I use it at home every day and there are days where I've used it almost an entire eight hour day. I'm using it quite heavily right now.

How are customer service and technical support?

The only time I've had to use erwin technical support was when I requested an extension on my trial license. They were really quick and good about it.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was straightforward. I was able to install it at home without a problem whatsoever. Within a few seconds, I was able to figure out how to start building a table. I had no problems whatsoever. I think my colleagues who are going into work might have a little bit of a different answer because of issues with service, license keys, and what have you.

The deployment took five to ten minutes. There wasn't a lot of customization necessary. It's been a couple of months now since I've started doing it. I can see from the tab that I'm on that I need to just click on the table, click the area there, and start building tables. I've also had experience with it, so that makes it easier as well. It's intuitive.

At the office, there's quite a bit of strategy on how they needed to deploy it and how they needed to have it totally set up in the virtual world. They were upgrading from an older version.

At our office, we have two or three different people that were truly involved, but we did have one main person doing the going back and forth with erwin as far as getting help and setting it up. That took a couple of weeks, if not longer, to actually get it set up working correctly.

We bought a total of 10 licenses, although I'm not so sure. It's less than 25.

What was our ROI?

I would definitely say that it's a time saver once you learn how to use the application. It takes a little while to teach people how to use it just like with any other application, but as far as time-saving afterward, it's invaluable. As far as taking the time to truly show a person the end result, we can show them exactly what we're talking about and that's really invaluable. I'm sure the deployment would say the same thing as far as being able to build the database off of it.

The accuracy and speed in transforming complex designs into well-aligned data sources make the cost of the tool worth it. At the same time, I don't do that.

It saves us a couple of hours of actually trying to build something. It's not something that my office does every day. However, when we do it, I could not imagine building tables or building a diagram from any other tools that are currently in the office. It's impossible to do it from PowerPoint or Word. 

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I don't think that the pricing for my office is horrible. However, from my home, there's absolutely no way I could afford erwin on my own as far as doing my own work.

There have been discussions between my office and the actual company that I work for and trying to decide on who would actually pay the bill. I'm the person stuck in the middle saying that I can't do my work here and luckily, I've been able to get one or two extensions on my free trial license from erwin. However, I'm afraid that I won't be able to get my company to pay for it and fairly soon the trial license will end up expiring on me.

I decided to build physical only but later on that kind of bit me and so I will start building logical first and then the physical. It would be nice to be able to build out my own set of tables and maybe a Model Mart type of situation but I don't see me being able to afford a copy at home for myself. I won't be able to continue keeping a trial copy forever and until COVID is over.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

When COVID started, I did start looking at home versions of other freeware because I had time to actually do some research. I found that most of the freeware wasn't really free. It was also still kind of clunky and one of the applications that I was using didn't automatically bring the keys down and for me, that was a killer right there. I would not suggest the application to anyone. From the trial copies of the other applications they use, I think that's where erwin really comes up ahead, above the other applications.

What other advice do I have?

The biggest lesson I have learned from erwin is the old cliche, that a picture is worth a thousand words. It is truly erwin in itself. When a person asks for a set of tables and they actually see that diagram visually, it really assists in any meeting that you will have. It is key to any meeting you have.

I would rate Data Modeler an eight out of ten. The reason for this rating is because I did a couple of dumb attributes and it took me forever to find how to truly delete it. It was a parent-child relationship and I deleted the parent and did not answer the question from the next box that popped up correctly. So I had an attribute hanging out in a table and it took me forever to find the dangling relationships. Because of that, I knocked it down a rating because it did take me a long time to find that.

I'm quite happy with the modeling tool. It does just about everything that I need it to do. I can't really think of what it doesn't do that I would need other than the PDF. I'm really happy with it.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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