By Brian Fonseca  |  Posted 2005-02-14 Print this article Print

-source Database Alternatives Open Up"> Working off a 3-D model designed by EON Reality Inc., of Irvine, Calif., Matrix had originally prototyped the product on Microsoft Corp.s Access to manage the database. However, the databases size forced Matrix to consider Microsofts SQL Server, but that move proved too costly.

That opened the door for open-source database alternatives such as MySQL ABs MySQL, said Margo Zenk, senior partner and technical director for Matrix.

"I was looking for an easy method to act as database from a Microsoft .Net platform, and I already had the experience of accessing MySQL using the ODBC interface to pull it into Microsoft [development] tools," said Zenk.

"We did look at PostgreSQL and some other open-source options, but it was the maturity of the [MySQL] technology. I was crunched for time, and I just knew it was going to work because Ive made it work doing similar things in the past. Were moving to open source for the price."

Zenk said she was able to get the Suzuki Sales PRO application up and running on MySQL in just under two weeks and had little difficulty getting the ODBC and MySQL interfaces operating smoothly.

Application developers are agreeable to using MySQL because of the technologys accessibility and simplified use within production environments, said Alex Roedling, senior product manager for MySQL, in Cupertino, Calif.

"We support close to 50 platforms, so if theyre trying to deploy on Windows, Solaris or Mac OS, the portability of the database makes it attractive," said Roedling. "We have drivers for JDBC [Java Database Connectivity] and ODBC, so you can use basically any developer environment you want with their existing tool sets to develop against MySQL."

Matrixs Zenk said Suzuki Sales PRO will be "100 percent" Linux-based by the end of the year. The application currently features an open-source database using Windows software to manage the visual 3-D model.

Despite suggestions that open source is a community-based technology lacking support, rising cost pressures are leading greater numbers of organizations and application developers toward the software-licensing flexibility that open source provides, analysts say.

"Do I buy more Oracle [Corp.] licenses and Sun [Microsystems Inc.] Solaris machines, or do I go with MySQL and commodity hardware? People are hesitant, but its becoming more and more clear that open source is something that needs to be looked at, especially if theyre using a big-iron database for their smaller applications—that tends to be overkill," said Roedling.

The patent-pending Suzuki Sales PRO kiosks are located in 540 U.S.-based dealerships, excluding Hawaii, with another 40 to 60 sold. Fifty percent of the dealerships bought the kiosk on its introduction. Matrix has bought licenses to build 900 kiosks, and plans are under way to expand the kiosks to Europe, with minor model changes and language issues to be overcome.

The kiosks basically consist of Dell Inc. 260, 270 or 289 workstations atop a specialized stand. Matrix performs remote synchronization to install nightly content updates to every kiosk Monday through Thursday. The kiosks are backed up daily.

The customizable Suzuki Sales PRO kiosks let customers choose different motorcycles and select and configure accessories. The application provides competitive comparisons on models and makes, as well as videos and third-party reviews of some vehicles.

During each selection by a consumer, a finance calculator keeps a running total of what the person is spending on the motorcycle. The idea, Zenk said, is to show buyers that $2,000 worth of accessories does not translate into $2,000 extra per month but rather a slight monthly payment increase. Labor costs are also accounted for.

For those not yet ready to purchase, the kiosk produces a color brochure that includes their choices and specifications, the salespersons name, and part numbers for checking inventory, said Zenk.

A reporting feature within the application lets dealers check on up-to-the-minute performance of sales staff, how many accessories are being added and who may require additional training.

Kiosk enhancements under development include additional reporting tools and an interface from the kiosk data repository to the dealership management systems for streamlining contract production. Direct marketing tools using e-mail and an upgradable sales text-based ZIP code feature are designed to help dealers compute financing more quickly.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest database news, reviews and analysis.

Brian Fonseca is a senior writer at eWEEK who covers database, data management and storage management software, as well as storage hardware. He works out of eWEEK's Woburn, Mass., office. Prior to joining eWEEK, Brian spent four years at InfoWorld as the publication's security reporter. He also covered services, and systems management. Before becoming an IT journalist, Brian worked as a beat reporter for The Herald News in Fall River, Mass., and cut his teeth in the news business as a sports and news producer for Channel 12-WPRI/Fox 64-WNAC in Providence, RI. Brian holds a B.A. in Communications from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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