PLATFORMS: NCR six-node WorldMark 5100M MPP servers run an Oracle database, using NCR's robust TOP END distributed enterprise middleware. Also installed are NCR Teradata RDBMS (Relational Database Management System) and the NCR Teradata Multimedia Server, as well as nodes seven and eight for development and testing purposes.

BACKGROUND: The Netherlands' largest tour operator and travel agency, Travel Unie, was the first in its country to use computers to track reservations, and later the first to install an MPP (massively parallel processing) computer. Today, Travel Unie provides travel package services to more than 1,400 independent travel agents, including 320 owned branch offices.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Travel Unie needed to provide "on-demand" services to each branch office and travel agent or risk losing business to competitors. The agencies needed to be able to capture and use customer data to more easily tailor tour packages to meet customer needs. To accomplish these goals, Travel Unie created an open, highly available enterprise system capable of supporting 300 concurrent users for online transaction processing and enhanced decision support.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: WorldMark 5100M Servers, combined with an Oracle database, enable a large number of users running applications to access a single data source. Mission-critical travel reservations and financial applications are run under TOP END, which gives Travel Unie a flexible on-line transaction processing system, including application management services, a single graphical view of the enterprise, high availability and scalability.

STRENGTHS: Travel Unie reservationists have immediate access to current detail data from all their transportation, hotel and tour data sources, so they can easily offer real choices and alternatives if the customer's first choice isn't available. Response time when a travel agent queries the reservation system is less than one second. Travel Unie marketers are now able to query the database for specific trend information, which allows them to perform detailed customer profiling. Travel agents can now quickly evaluate tour packages and promotions and customize or alter them to better fit localized markets or trends.

WEAKNESSES: Owners of accommodations and/or carriers can offer arrangements directly to the consumer via the Internet, avoiding the travel agent.

SELECTION CRITERIA: NCR has been there for us in the past--for more than 24 years--and we will continue to rely on them as we implement new technologies that will help us maintain our leadership position in the Dutch travel industry. NCR TOP END middleware, the scalable WorldMark Servers and Teradata data warehouse engine ensure unlimited growth possibilities for our company with the ability to maintain an excellent price/performance balance.

DELIVERABLES: NCR is enabling us to provide deeper analytical and reporting capabilities for travel marketers and travel agency managers. From a booking standpoint, in the near future we can take customers on a virtual tour of an intended destination, giving us the ability to search for locations based on almost any customer request. TOP END provides that crucial cross-database link-up ability required in order to provide the level of on-demand service we promise customers. In particular, TOP END is extremely versatile, operating on NT and UNIX systems to create a "single virtual computer" that makes all applications appear as if they were running on a local computer.

VENDOR SUPPORT: In addition to its state-of-the-art products, NCR provided a variety of professional services, including data warehouse design, implementation and integration, database engineering, network computing, system support and training.

DOCUMENTATION: Print, video and on-line materials are available from NCR.

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