BACKGROUND: Van Kampen Funds is one of the nation's largest investment management companies with more than $79 billion in assets under management or supervision. The company offers more than 50 open-end mutual funds, 39 closed-end funds and has sponsored over 2,500 series of fixed, tax- exempt and equity unit investment trusts. Van Kampen is an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.

PLATFORMS: We are running CONNX on an open VMS system. The client software we are using is Microsoft Windows NT. For hardware, we are using a VAX platform from the server side and an Intel-based platform from the client side.

PROBLEM SOLVED: CONNX filled a void for Van Kampen by providing a more efficient way for us to access our rdb databases using OLE DB, the next generation of ODBC. It provides secure, real-time, read/write access to all of our data. Using CONNX is a much more robust way to interface with various database systems. We can now achieve complete database connectivity which allows us to define our mutual fund characteristics much more efficiently. CONNX also provides us with the capability to build a three-tier application, instead of only a two-tier application.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: CONNX has performed very well for us. One of the most useful functions has been its ability to integrate disconnected record sets to achieve a stateless middle layer. Connection pooling is now happening ­ and with very high quality ­ so we can now build more scalable applications that can be distributed to more clients. Because CONNX for Oracle Rdb has performed so well for us, we are in the process of purchasing CONNX for Dataflex to access our Dataflex database.

STRENGTHS: The ability to have disconnected record sets easily updated is a very strong feature of this product. We also can do complete batch updates with CONNX, which are executed directly on the server instead of back and forth between the client and server. Before we used CONNX, we had to integrate data structures and create SQL statements ­ so using the product is lot more efficient because there is less code to write and maintain.

WEAKNESSES: Because the product stores a local copy of meta data, it needs to be refreshed and duplicated into a proprietary database. This adds a layer of maintenance for us. However, it is my understanding that SolutionsIQ will resolve this issue with an upcoming version.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Performance and reliability were the top reasons we selected CONNX over its competitors. Other systems crashed when we were testing them, but CONNX maintained an impressive performance record.

DELIVERABLES: The most important data CONNX allows us to generate is mutual fund setup application statistics. The differentiating criteria for each fund are analyzed by our portfolio managers and posted on our Web site for our customers to access. Without CONNX, we would have to find a method to link all of our disparate databases together to find this information. CONNX provides a much more efficient and accurate method while presenting all of our data as if it existed in one relational database.

VENDOR SUPPORT: SolutionsIQ delivered excellent support from start to finish. Their technical support team was very responsive and always provided a solution to resolve any issue we might have or a way to work around it. They delivered fast, complete professional service.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation delivered with CONNX is good.

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