Customer Success :: Eastern Data
EASTERN DATA's Mobile Solutions Get a Competitive Boost with db4o
Eastern Data Group, Ltd.
is one of the UK's leading suppliers of mobile computing systems. Data from hand-held
devices is collected and collated by Eastern Data's tailored software, which can
be linked to accounting, stock control or management information systems according
to customers' business needs.
The company's successful "LoanMaster" software designed for the home credit industry,
and "Mobilise Van" route accounting distribution management system were recently
redeveloped using db4o to store objects - making them more powerful and more competitive.
Eastern Data also wanted to expand into new markets, which called for a modular
development environment to facilitate code sharing between systems.
"Our volume was growing quickly, but not the product capabilities, so we realized
that we needed to be more visionary. Working with db4o has allowed us to upgrade
our products from a pre-graphical OS to Windows and Windows CE, while keeping the
price down - for a major competitive advantage," said David Angier, Group Technology
Director at Eastern Data Group, Ltd. in London.
Assessing Value and Power
Previous products were based on an older, pre-graphical interface, and the hardware
was becoming increasingly difficult to find and support. Also, new prospects in
particular tended to expect the applications to have a more "modern" look and feel,
so there was pressure to redevelop with Windows, Angier says.
Meanwhile, the company had its eye on expanding into new markets such as debt collection
and field service. In order to leverage existing product lines, Eastern Data's IT
team realized it would require an extremely flexible, modular environment in which
it could configure almost every aspect of each target application.
Before settling on db4o, Eastern Data had actually evaluated six different SQL databases.
But db4o offered several major advantages: it allowed objects to be directly stored
in a database without requiring a translation layer to store and retrieve those
objects, and the performance outstripped all SQL databases the company had tried.
"We actually found db4o via a Web search, looked at it, ran benchmarks, and were
impressed," says Eastern Data CEO Andy French. "db4o proved faster and significantly
easier to use. We were up and running with it in seconds."
What impressed the team of 14 developers most was that db4o offered competitive
performance without the need for object-relational wrappers, tables, mapping, or
other "bridging" tools. Other database engines that used flat files also proved
to be too complicated for Eastern Data's needs. "Complex queries would have been
a nightmare," French says.
The company began implementing db4o in April 2004, using the "extreme programming"
approach espoused by developer industry icon Kent Beck.
"The resultant environment is tightly coupled, so field misspellings, etc., are
no longer an issue. Also, schema changes are fully automatic, no longer requiring
maintenance scripts. And there is no embedded string chopping to make up queries,
as is the case in SQL," Angier says.
The Redevelopment Challenge
The biggest challenge for the team was switching from C++ to C#, i.e. teaching development
staff object-orientated programming paradigms and design patterns. They had to learn
to deal with various issues using a rich development environment, a departure from
the "bare metal" development environments they were used to.
Still, once the team became more familiar with object-oriented development rules,
it found the changes in work method actually made things easier. Above all, db4o
eliminates the difficult and time-consuming layer between the OO technology and
existing SQL databases, so that wiriting persistence code became nearly effortless
and seamless. Also, db4o offers typesafe coding with the IDE, which is a major productivity
boost over runtime SQL-statement checking, according to Angier.
"db4o offers a small footprint database for our mobile computer solutions, with
greater functionality than mere flat file structure, yet at a competitive price
compared to other mobile database license fees," Angier says.
Results and Impact
With db4o, Eastern Data was essentially able to recreate its products for modern
handheld devices, with a carry over of enhanced functionality that was originally
developed on tablet PCs.
The main achievement in the Mobilise product range, for example, was producing a
"totally pluggable architecture," in which every aspect of the software is implemented
as a plugin - from the database interface and communications to on-screen view elements
such as tabs and whole page layouts.
These changes translate into clear, tangible benefits for Eastern Data's customers.
The Mobilise suite of products, for instance, now features:
- Faster collection and data entry
- Improved accuracy
- Instant management reporting
- Reduction in clerical time
- Instant debtors reporting
- More professional image
db4o proved to be the most economical and most powerful platform for achieving these
"With db4o, we now have the ability to offer greater functionality and expandability
to our customers - where db4o meets the needs of size, performance, and price,"
says David Angier, CTO at Eastern Data.
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