In-Depth

MCI/SHL Systemhouse

The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission (MLCC) based in Winnipeg is one of the largest purchasers of alcohol in the world and distributes liquor to all retail outlets in the Canadian province of Manitoba. Now the company is specializing in Java, too.

With an initial system built in 1987, 46 Liquor Control stores, mainly located in urban areas, were linked directly into a central Hewlett-Packard HP3000 minicomputer via a point-of-sale and stock management system. This allowed these stores to automatically order new supplies and track sales. However, rural locations -- mainly pharmacies and mom and pop retail stores -- had to reorder and track supplies the with phone calls, faxes, pencil and paper.

As the Internet began to explode, the Liquor Commission looked for other ways to connect the majority of its stores and customers directly to its central system. Enter MCI/SHL Systemhouse’s Winnipeg office, which came up with a solution (after winning two separate request-for-proposal bids) based on the existing Internet infrastructure and Java thin-clients, explained Al Crocker, senior technical analyst at MCI/SHL Systemhouse.

"Initially, [the MLCC] was looking for a dial-in system to place orders, but we figured it was better done with a Internet solution because the network’s already there," Crocker said. "The Java part of the solution eliminated the need for distribution. With the MLCC’s large geographic range [it] would have been a nightmare."

A team of four SHL consultants used Symantec’s Café Pro for the Java development, with Rational Rose for Java as the modeling tool to build the initial system. Microsoft’s SQL Server is used as the database and Internet Information Server, with JConnect from XDB for JDBC connectivity. The initial system was built in six months and handed off to the MLCC in May of 1997. Currently, the MLCC is in the process of slowly rolling out the system, with about 60 customers currently placing orders via the Net. The MLCC is hoping to have around 400 users up and running on the new system by the year 2000, said Bill Bodner, MLCC’s manager of Information Technology.

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