Sprint users get Web access to financial data

Data Warehousing - Honorable Mention
Sprint users get Web access to financial data
April 1999

COMPANY: Sprint PCS
PURPOSE: To implement a Web-based solution that could be centrally administered and managed.

APPLICATION: FINANCIAL Management Reporting (FMR) -- In 1996, telecommunications carrier Sprint launched a start-up company in digital wireless business for mobile phones. From the outset, Overland Park, Kan.-based Sprint PCS planned to implement a data warehousing project. "As part of the launch activity, it was determined we would invest in a data warehouse infrastructure and executive information system," said Cloene Goldsborough-Davis, vice president, information resource management in Sprint PCS's IT department.

The company wanted to implement a Web-based solution that could be centrally administered and managed. Expecting to grow from 200 to 2,000 users, Sprint PCS needed a Web-based solution that would enable financial data access, reporting and delivery. Because of the rapid growth expected, client/server solutions were rendered useless.

In September 1997, Sprint PCS began implementing its
Financial Management Reporting (FMR) project. The firm had planned to work with a consultant group to build its own Web-based solution, which was projected to take six months to complete. But after learning about San Mateo, Calif.-based Info-space Inc. (now called Viador Inc.), Sprint PCS decided to implement the firm's 100% Pure Java SpaceSQL to enable access and reporting capabilities in its own FMR system. In a matter of 90 days, FMR was complete.

The biggest obstacle Sprint PCS faced in implementing this solution was the very short timeframe to get to the initial environment. "We had about four and one-half months," said Goldsborough-Davis. Finding talented technical people who had real data warehouse experience proved to be another obstacle.

The existing security structure, which determined who was allowed to see what data and at what level of detail, was also a problem. To meet Sprint's needs in this area, Infospace extended its own security model. To prove that Infospace could scale to users' needs once the system was implemented, several instances of the Infospace server were installed on one machine. Hundreds of concurrent test users were then logged on to test in a continual round-robin fashion.

Infospace SpaceSQL is specifically designed for enterprise-wide, Web-based deployment and management. By using a multithreaded Java server and 100% Pure Java clients, Infospace translated the architectural benefits of traditional three-tier client/server solutions to the Web. The resulting end-to-end Java environment enables client-to-server persistence, allowing SpaceSQL to scale to thousands of users while providing full data analysis capabilities.

Users benefit from point-and-click ad hoc SQL query building; interactive two- and three-dimensional Java charts and pivot tables; dynamic parameterized reports; and the ability to sort, sub-select, rotate, drill down, and slice and dice. In order to complete the system architecture, Sprint PCS needed to install an application server (Windows NT), the Infospace servers and a new data tier (HP-UX 610).

The development team consisted of 22 people, each with two to three years' of experience. This was, however, the first enterprise-wide project for most. The overall skill level of the development team was relatively junior, but the implementation process was very straightforward.

The user base has already expanded from 600 to 1,200 users, and Sprint PCS expects it to continue to grow. If the company had this project to do again, it would most likely establish the production environment earlier in the project life cycle to enable general testing and stress testing sooner. In the end, the decision to go with Infospace not only saved the company money, but three months of development time. -- Lana Gates

TEAM

Directors, management and other IT staff, as well as occasional professional services staff

BENEFITS:
In addition to saving money, Sprint PCS reduced the workload of IT personnel, reduced the time needed to add a user to the system from one week to 15 minutes, and enabled IT to manage and upgrade the system from a central location.



TOOLS:

Infospace SpaceSQL and Microsoft Project


PLATFORMS:

Compaq ProLiant 6000 6/200 with four processors, 2Gb RAM, 34Gb disk space running Windows NT 4.0 and the Microsoft IIS Web server.

About the Author

Lana Gates is a freelance writer based in Mesa, Arizona. She can be reached via e-mail at freelancewriter@gates-works.com.

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