APPLICATION: PowerTrip -- Corporate
travel planning can be a simple task, or it can become a headache. XTRA On-Line, Dallas, has taken a significant
step to help make planning easier with its flagship product, PowerTrip.
The PowerTrip system enables XTRA On-Line to sell Internet-based travel
reservation and management services over the Internet. The company charges
corporate customers a fee for making the travel reservation and management
processes more efficient and cost-effective.
"By being able to set up preferred vendors and negotiated contracts, you can control the flow of your traffic
-- which airlines you're going on, which hotel vendors are being used, what cars are being selected," said
Steven Gardner, director of architecture/chief architect at XTRA On-Line. "The system is not looked at as
a policeman, as much as a coach. It helps corporations save money by buying better and buying smarter, rather than
by policing the employee."
PowerTrip lets travelers or travel arrangers with an Internet-connected PC make or change reservations and view
updated travel information 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Users can also view real-time fare and scheduling
options, and plan or change a complete itinerary all in a matter of seconds. The software's step-by-step Travel
wizards walk users through the entire process.
"Business travel is not fun as it is," Gardner said. "[PowerTrip] allows the traveler to do a
much better job in planning their trips and controlling their own destiny. You know what your options are now.
You know what's available, how to get what you want."
PowerTrip comprises four modules: Trip Planner, a travel planning tool; Policy Manager, which lets travel managers
modify and enforce corporate travel policies; Expense Tracker, which incorporates the Quicken ExpensAble expense
management system that automatically pre-populates travel expense information into the appropriate report; and
a Decision Reporter that provides instant access to detailed travel information from a single or multiple data
When it came to building the appli-cation, one of the biggest challenges
developers faced was finding a way to move existing travel information in and out of the firm's Oracle 8 databases.
Because C++ was being used to develop the PowerTrip business objects, developers needed an efficient way to move
objects. While XTRA On-Line thought about developing and maintaining its own middleware mapping technology, developers
decided that this would be "both non-strategic and expensive." Instead, the decision was made to use
an off-the-shelf product -- Secant Extreme Persistant Object Service for C++ -- to perform this task.
Legacy code included existing business logic developed for earlier products, as well as integration with industry-standard
computer reservation systems such as Sabre. Because much of this legacy code could not be used, developers reverse-engineered
large sections into a design model and then forward-engineered it to be part of the new C++ implementation.
To perform administrative tasks, such as adding, updating and deleting travel profile information, Oracle Application
Server was chosen because of its integration with Oracle 8. In the next generation of PowerTrip, which Gardner
said will roll out this July, XTRA On-Line will move from Oracle to Secant Extreme Server.
Iona Orbix was the object request broker of choice due to the development
team's extensive experience with Orbix, while Microsoft IIS was chosen
as the Web server. The Microsoft Visual C++ and Borland C++ de-velopment
environments, as well as the Objectspace class libraries, were already
in place. While the software currently runs on Windows NT, the next generation
of the application will also run on Solaris.
Work on PowerTrip began in December 1997 and was completed in August 1998, with an average of 18 developers
working on the project. Despite the size of the project, it went live only five weeks later than expected.
So far, Gardner said, "the feedback has been very good." And in less than a year, PowerTrip has built
up about 25 clients. "It's a definite start," he said. "We're starting to build up a nice clientele."
Ease of use and convenience have been key factors, Gardner said. While administrators are usually trained to
use the system, other users can just "pick up and use it. If we're not easier than picking up the phone, then
we've failed," he added.
XTRA On-Line's goal is to become "the best planning tool on the market," Gardner said. "For example,
you're going to a meeting somewhere. When you enter that meeting into your calendar, why shouldn't a trip be booked?
And why shouldn't it go out and do everything? The first thing that happens when you go to a new city is that you're
trying to find out 'Where do I need to stay? What hotels are available? Do I need a car?' We want to develop a
system that answers those questions for you."
-- Jennifer Lancione
the short-term benefit was to establish XTRA On-Line as a leader in the Internet-enabled, managed corporate travel
business. Long term, PowerTrip will allow the company to bring to market a broad set of innovative travel management
Rational Rose, PC Lint and Purify (productivity tools)
Oracle 8, Secant Extreme Persistent Object Service, Oracle Application Server, Iona Orbix, Microsoft IIS, Microsoft
Visual C++, Borland C++, Objectspace class libraries, HomeSite and PhotoShop (software tools)
Windows NT, next generation of project will be on Solaris
XTRA On-Line is well on its way to becoming the premier online provider of travel management services, thanks
to the success of PowerTrip. PowerTrip is an Internet-based, comprehensive travel reservation and management system
that epitomizes a value-added, business-driven, technology-savvy solution for numerous reasons.
Comprising four modules - Policy Manager, Trip Planner, Expense Tracker and Decision Reporter - PowerTrip has made
travel reservation, planning, reporting and management, as well as expense tracking and management, a smooth, integrated,
efficient, secure and easy-to-use process for corporate customers.
PowerTrip offers a Web interface to an object-oriented application integrated with existing relational databases
and legacy code; the legacy code consisting of internal systems, as well as industry standard computer reservation
The PowerTrip development effort embraced a strong project management discipline, utilized the CORBA standard and
applied a formal object-oriented development methodology. It utilized several productivity tools and adhered to
formalized coding guidelines.
Team Members: Detra Sarris,
Noreen Monzet and