BACKGROUND: The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) provides expertly managed space, supplies, services and solutions, at the best value, to enable federal employees to accomplish their missions. GSA is about great work environments ­ wherever government works, whether in an office building, warehouse, national forest or government car. In support of this mission, GSA provides work space, security, furniture, equipment, supplies, tools, computers and telephones. GSA also provides travel and transportation services, manages the federal motor vehicle fleet, oversees telecommuting centers and federal child care centers, preserves historic buildings, manages a fine arts program and develops, advocates and evaluates government-wide policy.

PLATFORMS: Data is stored on Unisys ClearPath mainframes. Sybase databases run on Sun servers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The GSA Federal Supply Service (FSS) has a national customer service center (NCSC) application which must be able to seamlessly access data distributed throughout the country. The end users are actually in Kansas City. The distributed databases they need to access are on multiple platforms and various database systems installed all over the country. The service personnel answering the inquiry must be able to access information from the enterprise data and give their caller a timely, concise answer. The information required quite often consists of data from multiple databases. A database of the inquiries and resolutions is also maintained. DQbroker supports this requirement.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: DQbroker provides the ability to bring data together to give one complete answer. Multiple users interface with distributed databases on different platforms on different machines in different cities with single queries and quickly and efficiently get the answers to their questions. Instead of a batch process, GSA/FSS created an on-line system. Inquiry information is kept in a database, but matching information in any of the databases around the country appears as though it is in one database. The customer service representatives can respond to the inquiry by reaching the needed information immediately. The system created by GSA/FSS for the NCSC inquiry system, which users have affectionately named HotRods, is written in PowerBuilder using DQbroker executed on the client machines. In the future, others within GSA/FSS are bound to realize the capabilities of DQbroker and add it to their systems. The same data access dilemma exists in other areas, and DQbroker can solve it.

STRENGTHS: From the point of view of GSA/FSS, the greatest strength DQbroker possesses is the ability to get data from multiple distributed databases into one view. Different machines in different locations with distributed databases on multiple platforms are accessible through DQbroker. Results are posted quickly and efficiently from a single query. Information received by the user can be stored in a database and also viewed as part of the single view created by DQbroker. This allows the user to keep necessary information, to track that information and complete the process within one inquiry system. DQbroker allows replacement of the batch process with an on-line system that processes information much more efficiently.

WEAKNESSES: No major problem is apparent with the product. A frustration is faced with documentation when diverse platforms are being configured to present a common view. This frustration is different for each client, as it concerns logins needed to access the correct data.

SELECTION CRITERIA: This product was selected specifically for its capability to connect multiple distributed databases on multiple platforms and ability to use DQbroker with PowerBuilder and URSA.

DELIVERABLES: On-screen and printed reports are available to GSA/FSS clients as a deliverable. The on-screen answers are stored in a database; therefore, the need for the printed report is reduced to practically zero.

VENDOR SUPPORT: In my experience, the level of support GSA/FSS has received is one of the best. In addition to superior class training, good follow-up, an excellent help desk, support beyond these parameters has been absolutely outstanding.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation available is easy to understand and thorough. In the area of the setting up data sources in specific relationships between specific types, the documentation could use more defined guidelines.

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