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A Sybase Success Story: RS Information Systems

Using the right tools for the job

When faced with taking on a project that had been attempted multiple times, the new development team built a Sybase EAServerbased, three-tier architecture that succeeded. By employing Sybase EAServer, Sybase PowerBuilder, and Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) the team was able to rapidly deploy new functionality to fulfill the requirements of a large government training program.

The team built a suite of interrelated applications to address student tracking, recruitment, and placement services. Sybase EAServer now runs Sybase PowerBuilder business objects that service both PowerBuilder clients and Web applications. Sybase ASE replaced a problematic Informix database on the back end, cementing the success of the system.

Business Challenge

  • Tie together 122 training centers with 45,000 students.
  • Centralize student information so it can be shared between training centers and their support agencies.
  • Integrate a legacy payroll system and the functionality contained in current standalone applications.
  • New functionality must be rapidly developed and deployed.
  • Above all, succeed where multiple teams have failed in the past.
Solution
  • Sybase EAServer running Sybase PowerBuilder business objects communicating with a Sybase ASE database. The reusable business objects support both Sybase PowerBuilder and Web-based clients.
Results
  • Flexible three-tier architecture that supports 13,000 users and allows for future growth
  • Increased productivity for end users
  • Reduced development time
  • Application suite that seamlessly shares information
  • Reusable set of Sybase PowerBuilder objects maintain the business layer
  • Robust and scalable solution developed at minimal cost
Industry
  • Federal government training programs
Fixing a Struggling Project
Sometimes the success of a project hinges on selecting the right tool for the job. Karl Werner is a senior software architect for RS Information Systems, Inc., a systems integrator. In the spring of 1999 he began working on a large government training application project that should have been in the later stages of the development life cycle. Instead, the project had been through three iterations and, for a variety of reasons, was still floundering. It was a complex problem; the application needed to track 45,000 students distributed across 122 training centers and integrate several legacy applications. Werner and the new project team went back to basics, conducting a requirements gathering phase, analyzing the results, and designing the solution. The solution used Sybase EAServer running Sybase PowerBuilder components. After struggling with a mandated Informix database, the team eventually replaced Informix with Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) as the back-end database server. Between the efforts of the development team and the Sybase-centric solution, the project turned from failure to success.

Facing a Tough Audience
Walking in, Karl Werner knew the team was at a disadvantage because the earlier incarnations of the project had never gained traction. The target user community was jaded from the repeated attempts and there was intense pressure to turn the project around.

Werner and the development team were aware of the daunting challenge facing them when they took their shot at making the project succeed: "We were under a lot of undue pressure initially because of the prior failures. We already had that hanging over us. It was a broadly focused, large-scale system, with multiple modules to track many aspects of student information. The core of the project was to provide a way for 122 training centers throughout the nation to manage student information as they moved through the program. Students are between 16-24 years old and the majority live on site at the training facilities. The application had to track a student's location, the courses they were taking, classroom attendance, and any behavioral issues. Students also receive a subsidy while they are in the program and this needed to be tracked as well."

A Patchwork of Unrelated Applications
To further compound the complexity, this federal government training program had been in existence for several decades; consequently, several diverse and unrelated technology systems had evolved to address specific operational areas. Aside from the central system for managing student information, there was a separate application for recruiting new students and an independent system for post-training placement. The major requirement was to build an integrated suite of applications to encompass the student tracking, recruitment, and placement tasks. Instead of independent applications with limited information-sharing capabilities, the new solution needed a central repository of information each application could share, seed, and access. Additionally, the solution needed to integrate with the main payroll and reporting system, a transaction-based legacy application.

More Stories By Don Harrington

Don Harrington is a writer, trainer, and development consultant based in Spokane, Washington.

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