PLATFORMS: Amdahl mainframes, MVS Version 5, DB2 Version 4, CICS Version 4.

BACKGROUND: Inland Steel is the nation's sixth largest steel maker with revenue in excess of $4.6 billion. Headquartered in Chicago, Inland Steel has an IS budget of $75 million and employs 466 information technology professionals.

PROBLEM SOLVED: NEON Systems' Shadow Direct mainframe-to-PC middleware enabled Inland Steel IS to support both production applications and the data warehouse from one centralized database (DB2 on the mainframe) with excellent response times and at minimal cost. It provides high-performance access to Inland Steel's Order Fulfillment System (OFS) from many ODBC-based client-side systems. In addition, Inland Steel re-architects nightly its "performance tuned" production data files into a "user friendly" version that populates the company's data warehouse. Shadow Direct provides the ODBC interface required to access the warehouse from ad hoc query tools such as Microsoft Access.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Shadow Direct currently provides high-performance ODBC-based client-side access to DB2 from both production and data warehouse environments. In the future, Inland Steel may elect to also support browser-based client access by exploiting Shadow Direct's mainframe-to-Web connectivity as well.


  • Performance--Shadow Direct's architecture removes all of the typical gateway layers and bottlenecks of "first generation" middleware products. Additional performance benefits come from automatic dynamic-to-static SQL support, data stream compression and optimized catalog use.
  • An optimized ODBC interface--Shadow Direct's ODBC interface ensures complete application portability across multiple platforms.

WEAKNESSES: Shadow Direct supports the connectivity of client-side systems to mainframe DBMS (DB2, IMS, VSAM, ADABAS) which may lag the functionality of other RDMSs (i.e., Oracle's "triggers").

  • Performance--needed guaranteed response times for the production environment.
  • Reduced complexity--required a solution that allowed the data to be in one place. This requirement reduces complexity by orders of magnitude vs. managing a data replication environment.
  • Conserve resources and cost--being in a cost-conscious industry requires innovative solutions that get more done for less time, resources and money.

VENDOR SUPPORT: NEON has one of the best development and technical support staffs that Inland Steel personnel work with. Requests are professionally managed by competent staff who are eager to work issues through to a successful resolution.
DOCUMENTATION: Shadow Direct documentation is complete and sufficient to meet the needs of its users.

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