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Yellow Book USA Achieves Bottom-Line Savings with Customer Contact Web Front-End Built on InterSystems' Caché Post-Relational Database

  • September 01 2004, 1:00am EDT

CATEGORY: Data administration, management, modeling and database performance.

REVIEWER: David Collison, associate vice president of Yellow Book USA.

BACKGROUND: Established in 1930, Yellow Book USA is the oldest and largest independent yellow pages publisher in the nation. Yellow Book now publishes more than 500 directories in 42 states and the District of Columbia with a distribution of more than 72 million.

PLATFORMS: The Yellow Book IT infrastructure includes approximately 2,500 desktop PCs and 500 laptops. Yellowbook is running an InterSystems Caché-based yellow pages publishing back office system on a Windows server platform with user access via a telnet session. The new Intelligent Customer Engine (ICE) provides real-time access to the information in the back-office system via Internet Explorer running on PCs, notebooks and wireless devices.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Yellow Book USA has grown significantly over the last few years, primarily through a series of key acquisitions. For years, the company has utilized a Caché-based yellow pages publishing system called DIAD from Polylogics Consulting, Inc., an InterSystems partner. The DIAD system requires viewing via a telnet application. Originally developed to provide access to mainframe applications, telnet enables character-based applications to run in a Windows environment. Many of the acquired organizations were also using DIAD systems. As a result, users were accessing multiple DIAD databases for multiple sales regions and, in some cases, had to open multiple telnet sessions in order to view multiple accounts or to view diverse information tied to the same account. To cut telnet costs and provide users with easy, convenient Web information access, the Yellow Book USA IT staff developed the ICE front end. The view-only ICE application enables users in customer service, telephone sales and premise sales to review customer information across all active databases while presenting the information as a single entity.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Caché is a post-relational database that offers three integrated data access options: a robust object database, high-performance SQL and multidimensional access. The fusion of object and relational capabilities makes it easy to access much of the existing business data using standard SQL while also supporting rapid development of the high-performance ICE Web application. Since implementing ICE, we have saved more than $250,000 by eliminating the telnet client for view-only users.

STRENGTHS: The high-performance and Web development capabilities of Caché were especially key to the success of the ICE project. In effect, we added 1,000 additional users through a Web interface utilizing connection pooling without impacting the performance of production systems. Caché Web technology also proved to be a critical success factor. For example, Caché Server Pages boost performance and scalability by offloading business logic processing to the Caché data server. Centralized application logic also supports fast, easy application changes.

WEAKNESSES: We identified some issues with Caché documentation in the area related to Java functionality. ICE is written using Java, Jboss and Struts, and Java-related documentation is important to our developers. InterSystems has successfully addressed the majority of these issues and expects to roll out the remainder of the changes by the end of Q3 2004.

SELECTION CRITERIA: The back-end DIAD system is built on Caché. By layering the ICE application on top of the same database, we eliminated the need to replicate data and purchase telnet clients. Criteria for ICE development included advanced Web development capabilities and the ability to support reuse of code in the existing DIAD system. Caché successfully fulfilled these criteria and enabled rapid development and deployment of the ICE application.

DELIVERABLES: ICE presents multiple databases as one entity to the viewer and enables users to view all data associated with a single account, including back-office and graphics management information. ICE provides a secure mechanism by which our premise team can view account information from home computers, and the Web interface allows users to access the account data with minimal training.

VENDOR SUPPORT: InterSystems support staff communicated very proactively with the ICE development team. They listened to our concerns and responded with product changes that were critical to the success of ICE and enhanced the Caché platform. It has been a very positive working partnership.

DOCUMENTATION: Caché provides comprehensive documentation, which our staff finds easy to use.

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