BACKGROUND: Hellenic Telecommunications & Telematics Applications Company (FORTHnet S.A.) is the leading Internet service provider of Greece. The ability of the company to provide integrated and reliable services has resulted in our dominant position in the Greek Internet market. FORTHnet is a company that is moving the Greek Internet market into new areas including sectorial telematic services such as e-commerce, VPN and frame relay services.

PLATFORMS: FORTHnet runs Sybase products on Sun Solaris 2.6, Ultra 450 server, 640MB RAM, 44GB disks.

PROBLEM SOLVED: FORTHnet's R&D group defined a set of requirements for a management information system (MIS), FORTHnet Management System (FMS), that focused on the special needs of network services providers. The nature of the company required that the system always be on-line. FMS had to handle customer care, service provisioning, accounting, billing, data visualization, FMS administration, network management and on-line network monitoring. The system would be used by sales, administration, marketing and technical staff as well as by FORTHnet authorized dealers and points of presence. A client-independent, distributed Web-based solution was required at the three main offices. The distributed FMS was configured for high availability (HA) that would operate regardless of hardware or software failures as well as network breakdowns. The FMS was fully developed by FORTHnet R&D group using Sybase's database servers and replication servers for its back end, complying with the high-availability requirements as well as the distribution nature of the system. The use of Sybase's products allows FORTHnet to continuously and rapidly upgrade to new services, empowering our competitiveness.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: The FMS system began with 50 Web clients and currently has 950 clients that can connect at any time of the day. Using Sybase servers and their numerous configuration options, FORTHnet was able to reconfigure and optimize the system in order to accommodate growing user requirements. Performance of the database and replication servers greatly improved over time by using many configuration options provided by Sybase servers. There is an average of three transactions per second, and FMS operates without any interruption of service provision.

STRENGTHS: Sybase's products provide unique features that give its users competitive advantage. They are highly configurable, easily optimized and very scalable. FORTHnet managed to improve performance by almost 60 percent by enabling the database server to use both processors at the primary site. Another big advantage is that we managed to provide predictable performance on critical queries using SQL Server's advanced caching technology. Replication servers are also easily configured and very powerful when adjusted and customized for specific needs. With high-availability features, Replication Server 11.0 also provides techniques for achieving bidirectional replication, something that was crucial for FORTHnet.

WEAKNESSES: Installing the bidirectional replication for FMS was not straightforward, but there were ways to overcome the difficulties.

SELECTION CRITERIA: FORTHnet required a flexible and powerful database solution that has the ability to support distribution between three database servers. Sybase SQL Server 11.0 successfully passed all tests that FORTHnet ran in order to find the best possible solution. The most valuable advantage of Sybase's SQL Server 11.0 is its flexibility to adapt to different hardware/software configurations and platforms. Replication Server was chosen as a result of its database distribution and interoperability features. Cooperating perfectly with Sybase's SQL Server, Sybase Replication Server has high availability features and is mature enough for many installations.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Relational Technology SA, the Sybase distributor for Greece, provided FORTHnet with the essential expertise and support required to build a simulation environment to test FORTHnet's distributed model. The post-sales and technical support also are exceptional.

DOCUMENTATION: Full documentation support was provided from electronic manuals on CD-ROM, Sybase's Web site, Sybase's technical support documents and hard-copy manuals. Documentation is very clear without ambiguities.

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