BACKGROUND: Net Explorer provides Internet solutions to fulfill corporate business strategies. With offices in New York, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles, Net Explorer specializes in e-commerce, communications, portals, customer management, enterprise operations, systems engineering and knowledge management.

PLATFORMS: We run Embarcadero products on NT Workstations and access Oracle, Sybase, Microsoft SQL Server and Access databases on both UNIX and NT-based servers.

PROBLEM SOLVED: At Net Explorer, our challenge was twofold. We needed to standardize inconsistent design, development and administrative approaches, and we were committed to finding a solution that was acceptable for multiple databases. As a client-focused services company, we are often required to recommend a database tool solution that our clients can easily manage using their own internal resources. Therefore, we needed a solution that was cost-effective, easy to use, required little, if any, training and had the capability to develop for an Oracle database on one project and a Sybase or Microsoft SQL Server database on another. We chose Embarcadero's Solution Pack, which consists of three tools: ER/Studio for database design and modeling, DBArtisan for database administration and Rapid SQL for database development.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The compatibility of the Solution Pack with the different database types allows Net Explorer to reuse certain database components. For example, we just tell ER/Studio to generate the scripts for the particular database and use the results to build the objects. When modifications are needed, Net Explorer models the additions in ER/Studio and the new objects are generated. Rapid SQL's ability to interface with version control utilities such as SourceSafe 5.0 allows Net Explorer to maintain version control of the database objects no matter which developer is assigned to the project. The PL/SQL debugger in Rapid SQL Pro has decreased the time spent in developing packages for use in our Oracle databases. The reverse engineering functionality in all products works well in situations where a client has an existing database that they wish to enhance, extend or even administer. Net Explorer has used DBArtisan for some time, and we have found it to be the best tool for administering the database once the initial design process is complete. DBArtisan allows modification and additions to the database with ease. Its user-friendly interface provides a structured view of the entire database. At Net Explorer, DBArtisan is used to monitor all Oracle instances on NT and UNIX platforms within a certain workgroup. The reporting functionality in the Solution Pack allows HTML reports to be placed in a central location for easy access by other developers, managers and clients. The information, collected in minutes and presented in an easy-to-use format, would take hours to collect and present manually. Overall, Embarcadero's Solution Pack has proven to be an effective solution for advanced users as well as beginners.

STRENGTHS: The common interfaces, the speed at which information from reverse engineering is generated, the reporting functionality and the reduced development time must all be considered as strengths of the Embarcadero Solution Pack. Also, the ease of use of each of these database tools has proven to be a great asset.

WEAKNESSES: Occasionally we would run across a bug in one of the products. Fortunately, Embarcadero provides good customer support and has always recommended a workaround or released an interim version in a timely manner.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Net Explorer had been a satisfied user of DBArtisan since its first release. Therefore, it was natural to consider Embarcadero's suite of tools when looking for a complete database tool solution. We were looking for a common interface for our tools, and we were pleased to find that the Solution Pack was not only robust in terms of functionality but was extremely intuitive. This greatly simplified our learning curve and provided a familiarity that the other database tools could not match.

DELIVERABLES: We rely on the Solution Pack for ERDs, generated scripts, object reports or the migration of a schema.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Vendor support has always been reliable and timely. Everything we have requested has been satisfied thus far.

DOCUMENTATION: Embarcadero's documentation is fairly detailed. Embarcadero was always able to provide us with further details if we needed them.

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