REVIEWER: Dominic Blackburn, IT director for i-CD Publishing Limited.

BACKGROUND: i-CD Publishing Limited is the leading provider of low-cost personal and corporate directory information in the UK. i- CD's Web site, 192.com, is the fastest growing online directory service and one of the busiest sites in the UK. The 192.com site processes over 300,000 searches a day and is accessed by over half a million people every month. 192.com was voted one of the top 80 Web sites in the world at Internet Online 2000 in San Diego and was designated site of the month by Internet Magazine. Described as a "watershed in the information age" and "directory enquiries on steroids," i-CD continues to set the pace for the information age.

PLATFORMS: We are currently running Freedom Intelligence on Windows NT 4.0.

PROBLEM SOLVED: i-CD performed an extensive search for a product that could provide fast query resolution on a large data set while at the same time scaling to provide access to thousands of Web users. After looking at the traditional vendors, it soon became apparent that a novel, leading-edge solution would be required. Freedom Intelligence was able to consistently resolve queries on our 5GB database in sub-second times. When volume peaked at over 300,000 searches per day, Freedom Intelligence handled the load.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Freedom Intelligence has enabled us to do what others regarded as impossible. Using this product, we can offer amazing power to users based on very modest hardware. Freedom Intelligence has enabled our site to handle traffic higher than that of Yellow Pages and Scoot sites combined (the two nearest competitors to 192.com) and the two largest brick-and-mortar competitors. Through Freedom Intelligence, our site outperforms those of our competitors on a much smaller hardware platform. Freedom Intelligence accelerates the speed of queries by utilizing Freedom Intelligence QDS technology. Unlike traditional systems that need to selectively tune indexes and queries to improve performance, Freedom Intelligence systematically organizes 100 percent of the source data as it is being loaded. As a result, Freedom Intelligence achieves and maintains outstanding analytical query performance with absolutely no manual tuning. In the future, Freedom Intelligence technology will be critical to us as we develop third-generation (3G) location-based services for mobile PCs, such as instant mapping and interactive querying of local facilities (e.g., cinema listings and bookings). The advent of the 3G mobile phone licenses which enable 2MBps bandwidth and GPS facilities for a range of mobile devices means that 192.com has to scale its services to provide data access to whole new set of customers and devices. These services would not be practical without the instant responses that Freedom delivers for us.

STRENGTHS: Freedom Intelligence's real test in my eyes was how it could handle complex queries. For example, you can quickly perform a relationship search ­ "Find Joe Black and May White living at the same address." Similarly, by entering two forenames and one surname, it is possible to carry out a fast family search ­ "Find John and Mary Smith at the same address anywhere in the UK."

WEAKNESSES: Freedom Intelligence was unproven software when we purchased it. However, we have used the software for 18 months, and it has been significantly improved in Version 2 which was just released. The Freedom team was very responsive by including features that we had requested. During our initial look at the product, it was a drawback that it was limited to Windows- based operating systems.

SELECTION CRITERIA: None of the other products we tested gave us the ability to quickly perform high volumes of complex queries. We found that when we needed to scale the number of users, other vendors fell flat.

DELIVERABLES: Freedom answers SQL queries against multiple, unified data sources, typically delivering sub-second responses.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Freedom Intelligence was very helpful through the deployment of the site. They did a lot of prep work in their labs and gave us a working, load-tested version of the site. As issues arose, they were responsive to our needs.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is straightforward, though at certain points it explores, in great detail, features that I did not use such as tokenization. From reading the manual the first time, I was surprised at how easy Freedom Intelligence was to install and operate.

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