REVIEWER: Craig Richards, manager of directory services at Comcast.

BACKGROUND: Comcast, founded in 1963, is the largest cable operator and the largest home Internet service provider in the U.S. Comcast provides cable television, broadband Internet and telephone services to both residential and commercial customers.

PLATFORMS: The Composite Information Server runs on Microsoft Windows 2000, 2003, XP; SunOS 5.8/Solaris 9 and higher; Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3, 4, 32/64 bit; SUSE Linux Enterprise Server v9.3, v10, 32/64 bit; IBM AIX 5.2, 52000-04; and HP-UX 11.11, B.11.11.0412.5 Gold Base 11i.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Comcast is a market leader in the telecommunications industry, and developing new products quickly for its core cable business is essential to remaining profitable in this highly competitive industry. The directory services IT team must produce high-performing and robust services very quickly. Its mission is to engineer, develop and maintain Comcast’s Provisioning Data System for high-speed internet (HSI) and digital voice (CDV); develop Web service access to the data store; provide customer authentication, authorization, entitlements (more than 25 million) for enterprise customers; and do it all faster, cleaner and cheaper. New services are constantly being added to the range of products offered to Comcast subscribers. These services are the core of Comcast’s business, because they are the source of new customers and new revenue. However, the challenge is that these services are maintained and managed across many different, disparate applications. When customers log in, they must be authenticated for accessible services. Performance is crucial, as it is immediately measurable by online customers. However, the various functions that provide necessary data – such as billing data, email data and credential data –  must be brought together from different domains, and this process can be slow, causing customer frustration. Using disparate data sources poses an added challenge as it introduces a complex reconciliation model and potential failure points. This can result in lost customers and high customer call-center loads and costs. As more and more services continue to come online, the problem becomes more acute. Some account provisioning changes were either cumbersome or not possible at all, due to the different legacy systems involved, resulting in authentication and billing problems. For example, in the “change ownership” capability – primary and secondary email accounts – security notifications, access to BillPay and other functions are tied to the account owner. These functions cannot be done by self-service in real time without Composite Information Server, because there were two different systems involved – legacy email on one node and authentication provisioning on another. With Composite Information Server, both of these are now in the same abstraction layer and together show virtually as one source. Accordingly, the Directory Services IT team implemented the following solution. They created a data services layer, based on the Composite Information Server, so that each application would not have to create the same kind of access over and over; and abstracted the different functions – billing data, email data, credential data, etc. – to federate and bring different sources together into a virtual view, shown as one source.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The Composite-based Directory Services layer delivers the following capabilities: data virtualization to eliminate complex federation and reconciliation of source provisioning, entitlement, and credential systems; abstraction of data sources to simplify application access and integration; and query optimization to reduce transaction time for processing a request.

STRENGTHS: The main strength is the ability to rapidly deliver data services from federated disparate sources and meet service level agreements for high volume transaction processing.

WEAKNESSES: The product requires another layer of development and administration. There is additional cost for licensing and operational support.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected Composite Software because it offered the right combination of price and product features over other comparable data service products.

DELIVERABLES: We currently deliver Composite-based data services sourced from complex data to customer care applications, customer self-service applications and entitlement stores.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Vendor support is consistently reliable and fast.

DOCUMENTATION: The training and documentation are easy to use.

Composite Information Server 5.1
Composite Software, Inc.
2655 Campus Drive, Suite 200
San Mateo, CA 94403
(650) 227-8200
http://www.compositesw.com/

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