BACKGROUND: NWT Inc., (formerly Northwest Toxicology) of Salt Lake City, Utah, specializes in using advanced mass spectrometry to test pharmaceuticals in FDA-mandated laboratory trials. A second division of NWT is a high-volume, national workplace drug testing laboratory.

PLATFORMS: Installation of Sun Enterprise 450 Workgroup Server to an Oracle7.3 database. The Sun Solstice DiskSuite is running on Solaris OS on the Sun Enterprise 450 Workgroup Server.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We needed a powerful workgroup solution to process the results of bioanalytic research trials performed for pharmaceutical companies. Working in a highly regulated service industry, data integrity is our number one priority. Previously, we had been storing raw data on a NetWare file server while we reported results with spreadsheet programs on individual PCs. It was extremely difficult to integrate data to get global views ­ we needed a central data repository. We decided on a client/server solution with a laboratory information management system running on an Oracle database. In order to host the system, we needed a database server workhorse that would be reliable, scalable and easy to integrate on top of our existing infrastructure.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Adopting the Sun workgroup solution has standardized the way our project managers organize their work, and it still gives us room for client-specific data output and reporting.

STRENGTHS: The Sun Enterprise 450 workgroup server offered the best total package for our needs and, in the end, was competitive on cost. Our interest in Java technology components was another factor in our choosing a Sun server.

WEAKNESSES: We were warned by many about the complexity and cost of ownership with a UNIX server. However, with the help of Advanced Systems Group, our Sun/Oracle VAR, plus some basic self-study, we found it to be relatively straightforward.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We had been using Microsoft Windows NT as well as Novell NetWare servers, but we were hesitant to use either platform for the Oracle database. We wanted a reliable, truly scalable server that would lend itself to any of a number of growth strategies. We felt the Sun Enterprise 450 Workgroup server running the powerful Solaris operating environment fulfilled all our requirements. In addition, we felt reassured by Sun's long-standing relationship with Oracle. We were also interested in using Java tools for development projects.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We worked closely with Advanced Systems Group, a Sun value-added reseller in Salt Lake City. ASG provided the right level of support to make the integration of UNIX and the E450 painless.

DOCUMENTATION: Manuals and on-line help are available; however, we receive most of our support through Advanced Systems Group.

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