Alvion Technologies sits squarely in the crossroads where e-commerce and business intelligence meet. Growing out of AccuData America, the largest distributor of compiled marketing data in America, our original mission was to create a powerful e-commerce portal that could provide instant access to AccuData America's extensive collection of marketing data. Alvion Technologies now focuses on leveraging proprietary technologies, extensive very large database (VLDB) data warehousing expertise and marketing know-how to serve as a Web application service provider specializing in Web hosting and Web sites for marketing applications.

Early in 1997, it became quite clear that the Web was not merely an interesting and entertaining new development, but was rather a medium that had enormous potential for commercial applications. Recognizing this potential, the executive leadership at AccuData decided to offer public access to our products over the Web. The initial phase of the project, which we planned to complete within six months, was intended to support more than 100 internal sales and customer service representatives. The second phase would be designed to provide limited external access, and the complete launch would be open to the public.

From the beginning, we recognized the biggest issue would be performance balanced against cost. Our customers, both internal and external, are very experienced marketers; and they require complex list segmentation and instantaneous counts. Some of these ad hoc queries can be so lengthy that they actually fill a page. We were confident that we could develop an easy-to-use Web application to build these sophisticated queries. The real issue would be how fast those queries would run. Web-based, ad hoc access to very large databases would require really fast query speeds. To be successful we would have to meet this need without spending a fortune on software or hardware, or taxing our IT group with constant database tuning.

We decided to do something that was considered by many to be impossible: host our data warehouse, with its very large files and high- performance demands, on an Intel-based NT platform. At the time, there were few successful NT data warehouses we could point to. In order to mitigate the risk and meet a very short time frame, we decided to outsource the project. In a word, this effort failed. After seven months, the vendor, who initially assured everyone they only needed to "tweak the software," was unable to meet our performance needs using Informix and a string of constantly changing consultants.

Not willing to give up, we decided to give it a go ourselves. We formed a small development team of acting project developers, DBAs and system engineers. After only five months, we had the architecture designed and implemented, the data cleansed and loaded. Once again though, the problem was the same ­ query times were just not acceptable using Microsoft SQL Server, the only database our development team was familiar with.

Realizing that database performance issues were killing us, we decided to use a database search engine and settled on a product that promised state-of- the-art technology. Although this product did get us closer to our performance goal, we found ourselves on the bleeding edge as the product was constantly crashing. We decided to temporarily go back to Microsoft SQL Server and look for other options. We needed something that would give us the necessary performance and was ready to operate in a mission-critical, high-volume, 24x7 Web environment.

We decided it was time to look at the large database vendors. The majority of their offerings turned out to be well outside the project budget and offered little technological advantages to relieve our performance issues. The only exception was Sybase. They had an enterprise-ready DBMS, Adaptive Server IQ with Multiplex, with the technology we needed built right into it. From our previous experiences we were skeptical, but after a three-day on-site pilot study we were up and running. We couldn't believe it! Using a random test set of previously submitted queries, which had been taking two minutes on average, we now started to see results averaging less than 20 seconds. One extreme example was a query that had previously taken 53 minutes now returned in only 2.8 seconds. Needless to say we were quite pleased. We were also impressed with the additional results that we did not anticipate: our load times were greatly reduced and our storage needs shrunk considerably.

Our original site, AccuLeads.com, has been enormously successful and currently supports more than 100 internal sales and customer service representatives, as well as sales and marketing departments in more than 3,000 other organizations. AccuLeads.com handles more than a thousand ad hoc list requests each day and still maintains an average response time of approximately 20 seconds.

AccuData executive leadership, again recognizing market potential, decided to spin off the AccuLeads.com development group to form Alvion Technologies, Inc. Alvion Technologies is about to reach 50 employees, focusing on delivering and hosting e-commerce as well as private intranet marketing solutions. With the help of Sybase, after less than one year of operation Alvion Technologies has successfully delivered solutions for some of the largest marketing databases in the world.

Sybase Adaptive Server IQ with Multiplex

Sybase Adaptive Server IQ with Multiplex is Sybase's high-performance database designed from the ground up for data analysis. It is the ideal analytical engine for BI systems, including the latest generation of Web-enabled data warehousing tools which meet all three key BI requirements: breakthrough speed, open scalability and true ease of use. For more information visit http://www.sybase.com/bi/ or e-mail bi@sybase.com.

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