REVIEWER: Tim Kuchlein, director of information systems for Clarity Incentive Systems, Inc.
BACKGROUND: Clarity Incentive Systems develops electronic payment solutions and processes payment transactions for emerging and specialty markets. The company provides solutions for companies in numerous vertical markets that include incentives, customer promotions, healthcare, insurance, teen payments and payroll, transforming their legacy, paper-based payment processes into efficient and cost-effective electronic systems. The company's proprietary payment processing platform supports multiple payment vehicles such as debit, stored value, chip and private label, and incorporates Internet-enabled and other technologies that are specifically designed to provide competitive advantages within each market. Clarity Incentive Systems is headquartered in New York City with European operations based in Lisbon, Portugal.
PLATFORMS: Clarity is currently running DB2 Workgroup Edition on Intel servers with an IBM FAStT500 RAID on Red Hat Linux. Clarity has made plans to move over to DB2 EEE for Linux when V8.1 becomes available.
PROBLEM SOLVED: With more than 100 companies using its platform by its second year of operation, Clarity needed a fast, scalable database on a reliable operating system to form the core of its service offering. Clarity depends upon its database to manage information on accounts, transactions and users for all of its payment processing operations. Recognizing the large number of companies shifting from paper-based processes to electronic-based systems, Clarity needed a cost-effective solution with the capability to quickly drill through large amounts of data at any time. More importantly, Clarity needed to be able to rely on its database to be up and running at all times.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: With its growing customer base, Clarity foresees the need to scale beyond a single-server architecture, which it will be able to do with DB2 Enterprise-Extended Edition for Linux. DB2 gives Clarity the ability to split a database across multiple servers. Each corporate program can have its own server and storage system and remain completely separate from all other data. When it comes to database management and interactions with other components such as the application server, however, Clarity still has only one database, allowing Clarity to easily add additional servers to the system. Clarity also intends to expand globally; and with the adherence of DB2 to the Unicode Transformation Format-8 (UTF-8) standard, a single standard for encoding all languages and currencies, Clarity will be able to sell its services worldwide.
STRENGTHS: DB2 can be deployed on a wide variety of hardware and operating systems and can scale to support very large amounts of data. In light of company growth, Clarity wanted to have a relational database management system (RDBMS) that is designed to scale with the company's expected growth. Clarity also partners with many financial institutions that use DB2 and must integrate their system with those already in place. The use of DB2 made selling their systems to these institutions simple and logical.
WEAKNESSES: IBM is working with Clarity to improve its system monitoring. When a deadlock situation occurs, DB2 is able to provide an internal reference to the locked object (e.g., table or row); but in the case of a row lock, it isn't possible to work out what record it corresponds to. On OS/390, users are able to determine the object that is locked.
SELECTION CRITERIA: DB2 provided a much better cost/performance ratio than any competitors. A $250,000 DB2 and Linux solution performed better than a $1.5 million Oracle/Solaris solution, and DB2 has better multiplatform support than the competition. With its DB2 for Linux solution, Clarity is also confident that its database infrastructure will be able to scale to meet the increasing usage demands in the coming year.
DELIVERABLES: Clarity's entire production system relies on DB2. DB2 powers all of the company's Web sites and stores all data, including customer profiles, images, accounts and transactions.
VENDOR SUPPORT: Clarity handled the pre-implementation preparations internally, and any post-implementation support that has been required is covered in the support contract with IBM. Clarity has experienced only one performance glitch with DB2, which was addressed quickly and efficiently by support services.
DOCUMENTATION: Clarity installed DB2 using only the documentation and minimal assistance from IBM vendor support. Clarity found that most questions brought to IBM vendor support had already been answered within the documentation. Clarity found excellent support from the news groups as well; a number of developers participate in these groups, which often results in a quick response time.
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