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Posted 29 Sep 2005


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Airclaims uses SQL Toolkit applet to save money, open new revenue streams

29 Sep 20054 min read
Using SQL Toolkit to remotely update customers' databases on the fly.

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The word "applet" evokes software code that handles some small, seemingly trivial task.

But not all applets are created equally. At Airclaims, an applet is a key tool for improving customer service, enabling faster, cheaper and more accurate data migration, and even opening up new revenue streams.

Airclaims is a leading international provider of information and consultancy services for the aviation industry. At the center of Airclaims' services is CASE (Client Aviation System Enquiry), which the company says is the most comprehensive database of commercial aircraft, covering histories of more than 90,000 commercial jets, turboprops and business jets. Approximately 310 Airclaims customers worldwide rely on information from CASE.

CASE runs on SQL Server 2000. Until recently, it was updated once a month through a full snapshot replication. The database was reorganized and defragmented, and an offline copy was made and built into an InstallShield package. It took approximately three hours to build the master CD.

After testing, the master CD was duplicated hundreds of times and shipped to customers by express or regular mail, depending on service terms. It took about four hours to burn the CDs, with added time for packaging and shipping.

Big savings, new services

In the summer of 2004, Airclaims began work to bring its database updates online. Since the company already had a limited Internet version of CASE, some of the framework and methodology for the migration was in place. The first challenge was finding the key software tool to automate database comparisons.

"We did an evaluation of Red Gate's SQL Toolkit and, using one of the sample databases, quickly established that it was the product to do the job," says Paul Buxton, Airclaims' lead developer and DBA for CASE.

SQL Toolkit provides access to the APIs and command-line utilities used within Red Gate's SQL database comparison and synchronization tools. It enables users to build their own specialized programs for automating installation, replication and verification.

Airclaims created a .NET applet that used SQL Toolkit to automate database comparisons. This was augmented by a web service to validate end users, and an import application to scan, download and apply updates on the customers' machines. It took only three months for a single developer to put all the tools in place.

Updates now begin with the .NET applet, which compares the master database maintained by Airclaims to the copy of the database for the end user. The update generates a small file - approximately 300K on average. The file is then applied to the destination database in-house. If it is applied correctly, the file is automatically zipped and uploaded to a web server.

To receive their updates, customers run the small web service applet that provides authentication and determines how many updates are required. The individual daily files are then downloaded and applied via SQL-DMO to bring the end user's database up to date.

"Our biggest savings are in distribution," says Buxton. "We no longer need to ship 350 CDs every month. I believe our savings over a year could be £15,000 to £20,000 after all of our customers migrate to the new Internet CASE."

Buxton says that Airclaims' customers reap three major benefits from the new service: smaller file sizes for updates, faster implementation of changes, and no shutdown of the CASE system while updating.

"The ability to receive frequent data updates from a secure web site has been a major factor in influencing our decision to become a new customer for CASE," says Sean Lee of Singapore Aircraft and Leasing Enterprise.

A natural offshoot of the new process is that it enables more price flexibility and service options. Customers can select daily, weekly, fortnightly and monthly updates without Airclaims having to change anything in its process but the subscription web service.

"We now have the flexibility to add to the choice of schedules," says Buxton. "If we want to introduce quarterly update schedules, we don't need to change anything in the update creation. The more regular the update schedule, the higher the premium for that service."

Download your copy of SQL Toolkit from Red Gate Software to see how well it will work for you.


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About the Author

Redgate Software
Red Gate Software Ltd.
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Redgate makes ingeniously simple software used by 804,745 IT professionals and counting, and is the leading Microsoft SQL Server tools vendor. Our philosophy is to design highly usable, reliable tools which elegantly solve the problems developers and DBAs face every day, and help them adopt database DevOps. As a result, more than 100,000 companies use products in the Redgate SQL Toolbelt, including 91% of those in the Fortune 100.
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