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In the world of enterprise software applications, transactional processing and data analytics have long lived independently—largely because the latter was an afterthought. This separation makes the reporting process cumbersome for organizations. It also creates data latency that prevents them from using the most up-to-date data for running scenarios, making decisions and planning.

Businesses and their data analysts understand these limitations and tolerate them. But at Cornerstone, we think making decisions based on stale data is not the right way for modern organizations to operate.

To reduce data latency and accelerate the reporting process for our customers—from hours or days to just minutes in most cases—we deployed a near real-time data warehouse (RTDW) last year. This project was built on another big improvement that Cornerstone made last fall: our migration to Microsoft SQL Server 2014 AlwaysOn from Windows Server 2012 R2. This upgrade places us at the leading edge of Microsoft database technology.

Along with the upgrade, we changed our high-availability model so that we can provide even longer uptime for our customers. We can also recover data even faster than before in the event of a disaster. We completely updated our server hardware. And we're using faster CPU and more memory.

Even more important, however, is our migration to state-of-the-art storage technology—from traditional SAN to Flash. It's a significant investment, but well worth it. We're seeing a five- to tenfold performance increase because of this upgrade. The end-user experience is drastically improved, as well.

Another benefit of the migration is our ability to introduce new services to our customers that help them make better use of their data. We see our new architecture as a building block for innovation at Cornerstone. As our IT architect Reza Seraji said in a case study about the upgrade, “Without this project we wouldn't be able to provide a near [RTDW] solution to our clients."

Another new offering that stems from the recent migration project is Cornerstone View. The solution provides interactive data visualization tools for searching, filtering and comparing talent data quickly and easily. This innovation is not something we could deliver to our customers if we had not made the move to Microsoft SQL Server 2014 AlwaysOn and deployed the near RTDW on top of it.

These changes enable our customers to finally combine their transactional processing and data analytics and generate reports based on their most up-to-date data. They can enter a transaction, pull a report and see the impact of a change almost immediately.

We're now working to add even more reporting technology and functionality on top of our new database architecture. One project currently in development is an analytics engine that will enable our customers to perform “what if" scenarios based on rapid calculations of their data.

The database migration project, and the introduction of the RTDW, have shortened the distance for our customers between the worlds of transaction processing and data analytics from both a storage and process standpoint. So, in the Cornerstone world, analytics is no longer an afterthought.