erwin Data Modeler (DM) Review

Makes logical and conceptual models easy to look at, helping us to engage and collaborate with the business side

What is our primary use case?

We use it for our conceptual business-data model, for logical data modeling, and to generate physical database schemas. We also create dimensional modeling models.

How has it helped my organization?

One of the ways Data Modeler has benefited our company is that it gives us the ability to engage with the business alongside IT, because it's friendly. It has friendly views that we can use when we meet with them. They can follow them and understand them. That increases the quality and accuracy of our IT solutions.

The solution's ability to generate database code from a model for a wide array of data sources helps cut development time. We generate all the DDL for our hub through a modeling exercise and generate the alter statements and maintenance through the erwin modeling tool. I would estimate that reduces development time by 30 to 40 percent because it's so accurate. We don't have to go back in. It takes care of the naming standards and the data types. And because we use OData, we generate our service calls off of those schemas too. So that's also more accurate because it uses what we've created from the model all the way through to a service call with OData.

What is most valuable?

I find the logical data modeling very useful because we're building out a lot of our integration architecture. The logical is specific to my role, since I do conceptual/logical, but I partner with a team that does the physical. And we absolutely see value in the physical, because we deploy databases for some of those solutions.

I would rate erwin's visual data models very highly for helping to overcome data source complexity. We have divided our data into subject areas for the company, and we do a logical data model for every one of those subject areas. We work directly with business data stewards. Because the logical and the conceptual are so easy to look at, the business side can be very engaged and collaborate on those. That adds a lot of value because they're then governing the solutions that we implement in our architecture.

We definitely use the solution's ability to compare and synchronize data sources with data models. We have a data hub that we've built to integrate our data. We're able to look at the data model from the source system, the abstracted model we do for the hub, and we can use erwin to reverse-engineer a model and compare them. We also use these abilities for the lifecycle of the hub. If we make a change, we can run a comparison report and file it with the release notes.

What needs improvement?

I would like to see improved reporting and, potentially, dashboards built on top of that. Right now, it's a little manual. More automated reporting and dashboard views would help because currently you have to push things out to a spreadsheet, or to HTML, and there aren't many other options that I know of. I would like to be able to produce graphs and additional things right in the tool, instead of having to export the data somewhere else. And that should work in an intuitive way which doesn't require so much of my time or my exporting things to a spreadsheet to make the reporting work.

For how long have I used the solution?

I've used the erwin Data Modeling tool since about 1990. I work more with the Standard Edition, 64-bit.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's stable. This specific tool has been around a long time and it has matured. We don't encounter many defects and, when we do, a ticket is typically taken care of within a couple of days.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We're using standalone versions, so we don't need to scale much. In the Workgroup Edition we've got it on a server and we have concurrent licensing, and we've had no issues with performance. It can definitely handle multiple users when we need it to.

At any time we have six to 10 people using the Workgroup Edition. They are logical data modelers and DBAs.

We've already increased the number of people using it and we've likely topped-out for a while, but we did double it each year over the past three years. We added more licenses and more people during that time. It has probably evolved as far as it's going to for our company because we don't have more people in those roles. We've met our objectives in terms of how much we need.

How are customer service and technical support?

I would rate erwin's technical support at seven out of 10. One of the reasons is that it's inconsistent. Sometimes we get responses quickly, and sometimes it takes a couple of days. But it's mostly good. It's online, so that's helpful. But we've had to follow up on tickets that we just weren't hearing a status on from them.

They publish good forums so you can see if somebody else is having a given problem and that's helpful. That way you know it's not just you.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did not have a previous solution.

How was the initial setup?

I've brought this tool into four different companies, when I came to each as a data architect. So I was always involved early on in establishing the tool and the usage guidelines. The setup process is pretty straightforward, and it has improved over the years.

To install or make updates takes an hour, maybe.

A lot of the implementation strategy for Data Modeler in my current company was the starting of a data governance and data architecture program. Three years ago, those concepts were brand-new to this company. We got the tool as part of the new program.

For deployment and maintenance of the solution we need one to two people. Once it's installed, it's very low maintenance.

What about the implementation team?

We did it ourselves, because we have experience.

What was our ROI?

We're very happy with the return on investment. It has probably exceeded the expectations of some, just because the program is new and they hadn't seen tools before. So everyone is really happy with it.

erwin's automation of reusable design rules and standards, especially compared to those of basic drawing tools, has been part of our high ROI. We're using a tool that we keep building upon, and we are also able to report on it and generate code from it. So it has drastically improved what was a manual process for doing those same things. That's one of the main reasons we got it.

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

We pay maintenance on a yearly basis, and it's a low cost. There are no additional costs or transactional fees.

The accuracy and speed of the solution in transforming complex designs into well-aligned data sources make the cost of the tool worth it.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at a couple of solutions. Embarcadero was one of them.

erwin can definitely handle more DBMSs and formats. It's not just SQL. It has a long list of interfaces with Oracle and SQL Server and XSD formats. That's a very rich set of interfaces. It also does both reverse- and forward-engineering well, through a physical and logical data model. And one of the other things is that it has dimensional modeling. We wanted to use it for our data warehouse and BI, and I don't believe Embarcadero had that capability at the time. Most tools don't have all of that, so erwin was more complete. erwin also has several choices for notation and we specifically wanted to use IDEF notation. erwin is very strong in that.

The con for erwin is the reporting, compared to other tools. The interface and reporting could be improved.

What other advice do I have?

My advice would depend on how you're going to be using it. I would definitely advise that, at a minimum, you maintain logical and physical views of the data. That's one of the strengths of the tool. Also, while this might sound like a minor thing, it's important to create standard templates — Erwin is good at that — and you can customize them. You can create a standard template so that your models have the same look and feel. And then, anyone using the tool is using the same font and the same general layout. erwin's very good at helping enforce that. You should do that early on so that you don't have to redo anything later to make things look more cohesive.

Another feature of erwin is that it can help you enforce your naming standards. It has little modules that you can set up and, as you're building the data model, it's ensuring that they conform to the naming standards that you've developed. I think that's something that some people don't realize is there and don't take advantage of.

The biggest lesson I have learned from using this solution faces in two directions. One is the ability to engage the business to participate in the modeling. The second is that the forward-engineering and automation of the technical solution make it more seamless all the way through. We can meet with the business, we can model, and then we can generate a solution in a database, or a service, and this tool is our primary way for interacting with those roles, and producing the actual output. It's made things more seamless.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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