REVIEWER: Keith Cooke, manager of nuclear IT services for Progress Energy.

BACKGROUND: Progress Energy is a Fortune 500 diversified holding company headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina. Progress Energy is one of the top 10 generators of electricity in the United States with more than 19,000 megawatts of capacity and $7 billion in annual revenues. The company's diverse portfolio includes two major electric utility companies, CP&L and Florida Power, as well as NCNG, SRS, Progress Telecom and an important new organization, Energy Ventures, which has been created to manage wholesale energy marketing and trading, merchant generation, fuel properties and as barge and rail subsidiaries. These companies serve 2.8 million customers throughout the Southeast, providing electricity, natural gas, energy services and broadband capacity.

PLATFORMS: All 3,000 desktops are running MERANT DataDirect Connect ODBC technology on Windows 98.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The Nuclear Generation division of Progress Energy has 3,000 desktops in four locations throughout the Southeast. All 3,000 desktops contain approximately 40 applications ­ from financial and accounting packages to home- grown operation and maintenance systems ­ which all need access to a variety of Oracle databases. With 90 percent of those applications being developed in house, you can imagine how busy our IT group stays. As a result, we wanted to simplify the setup, configuration and maintenance of applications on each desktop. We chose MERANT DataDirect Connect ODBC technology because it gives us a single middleware standard for accessing information across all of our applications, databases and desktops.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: MERANT DataDirect Connect ODBC drivers function as advertised. For example, they support the latest version of the ODBC spec, with support for all the Core, Level 1 and Level 2 functions. They provide a multithreaded implementation and thread-tuning options along with cursor, transaction, fetching and caching optimizations. Most importantly, the product provides outstanding performance and reliability.

STRENGTHS: The biggest strength of DataDirect Connect ODBC is the product's reliability. I can't remember ever having to contact MERANT support staff for reliability or operability issues.

WEAKNESSES: Connect ODBC requires minimal configuration. However, because we are installing it on thousands of desktops as opposed to a few application servers, we must configure the product on each desktop. It would be nice if the product had a remote configuration tool.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We selected MERANT DataDirect Connect ODBC technology based on MERANT DataDirect's reputation as a leading provider of data connectivity technology and because its product worked seamlessly during evaluations. The major advantage of DataDirect Connect ODBC is that it always conforms to the latest and greatest database versions and ODBC specifications. As we upgrade our databases and applications, MERANT's technology is right there with us providing support for the latest features and functionality. Additionally, the product is so reliable, you wouldn't even know it's installed.

DELIVERABLES: DataDirect Connect ODBC provides us with fast and reliable data connectivity to our Oracle databases. As a result, we can input and access information from a variety of applications. For example, we use Connect ODBC with BusinessObjects to access financial information in Oracle and run reports. We use Connect ODBC with our maintenance rule application to help us input and track information about daily failures associated with equipment such as pumps, valves, electrical motors, etc. We also use Connect ODBC with our scheduler application to manage and oversee all activities associated with the daily operations of the nuclear plant. In total, we use Connect ODBC to access information across 39 applications.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We have been using DataDirect Connect ODBC drivers since 1994, and MERANT has always provided top-notch support. The few times we have called their tech support team over the years, they have always responded instantly with intelligent answers to our questions.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation for Connect ODBC is so easy to follow that we didn't even have to call MERANT's support team to get the product up and running.

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