Case Study

Why We Embraced Open Source For Our Database Needs After A Decade Working With Proprietary Solutions


By Steve Sharpe, Application Architect, Teleplan

For our business, delivering after-market support and supply chain solutions in the electronics industry, it pays to be organized. The logistics of end-to-end after-market service management — accepting detailed intake calls where customers receive support and our technicians define repair needs, receiving shipped electronic devices, performing screening, testing and repairs, and returning the repaired devices to customers — requires a robust, fine-tuned, high-performance database solution.

Teleplan started developing e-TRAC back in 2001 and, for the last 15 years, we have mainly relied on proprietary database services to fulfill this need. However, more recently we discovered open source is not only absolutely up to our often-herculean database tasks, but is actually a better fit for our e-TRAC needs (not to mention our budget). e-TRAC is now our key tool for controlling services, helping to improve turnaround times, tracking end-to-end repair management and logistics, as well as interfacing with other internal and external systems, interacting with customers, tracking processes, all of which are measured.

Looking back into Teleplan and e-TRAC’s history to see how we arrived where we are today, our earlier operations made it clear just how dependent our business would ultimately need to be on making the right database decisions. Back in 2001, we were managing laptop and monitor repairs across Europe for a number of OEMs and we did not initially have a database solution implemented.

The manual nature of the process in those early days — taking calls and inputting data into spreadsheets — cried out for a more dynamic system. It was imperative we developed capability to easily share information over the internet with our customers and third party logistics providers (3PLs). We developed a solution incorporating Borland/Inprise InterBase, which served our purposes adequately for most of the 2000s and this is how e-TRAC was born.

Fast forward to 2009, when volumes had grown across our communications, computer, and consumer electronics customer base. The end of the decade saw a significant increase in the corresponding volumes of our e-TRAC service transactions, which in turn, meant we needed to improve our database technology to handle the higher stresses on our systems and avoid the crashes and failures we were experiencing at that time. We investigated options and chose Oracle to meet our database requirements. Enlisting Oracle’s proprietary solution was certainly a cost, but given our immediate need for reliability, the expense made sense at the time. We also had experience working with Oracle on some our other company systems.

The issue that precipitated a further renewed scrutiny of our database solution came a few years later when it became clear our e-TRAC business model was expanding so that, in the future, we would also be providing our IT solutions as a service to various third parties. From that point forward, it was clear a move to open source made sense from a business perspective, enabling us to share the use of e-TRAC with others without having to fund additional licensing.

In short, we were looking for greater flexibility and freedom. The only question was whether an open source solution could handle what we needed it to do in terms of the reliability and performance required. Fortunately, in the end we found going open source was not only commercially attractive and a superior technical fit for our e-TRAC needs, but also it’s simplicity to implement and optimize helped us to achieve performance increases as well.

After investigating our open source options and due diligence, we picked MariaDB as Teleplan’s new replacement e-TRAC database partner. With MariaDB, we realized significant performance improvements.

For example, whereas running one particular daily report would take up to 15 seconds to run on Oracle Enterprise, with MariaDB it was running in under a second. We did not have the in-house expertise to work on improving the Oracle performance and found this aspect much easier with MariaDB. We also received excellent support both in terms of value and responsiveness and that, coupled with a highly competitive cost, makes MariaDB a great overall package for our e-TRAC needs.

All told, going open source for e-TRAC has given us better responsiveness, simplicity, service support, and greater commercial freedom enabling us to more easily share our database with business partners as needed. Rather than paying fees for access to proprietary solutions, those dollars can now be invested in creating more value for our customers and enables Teleplan to be more agile in delivering our business objectives. It has turned out to be a decision that has not only succeeded in meeting our e-TRAC needs, but rather has genuinely exceeded them.

Steve Sharpe is an Application Architect at Teleplan, an after-market service and supply chain provider for electronics.