Calgary Co-op works with Unisys to harmonize apps

SAN FRANCISCO — An effort by Unisys to boost the performance of Oracle applications on Windows has paved the way for Calgary Co-Operative Association Ltd. to implement Oracle payroll

and HR applications.

At this year’s Oracle OpenWorld conference, Unisys is in the exhibit hall discussing a joint engineering program with Microsoft and Oracle to certify Oracle’s 10g database and many of its business applications on Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 platform. The results will mean fewer interoperability issues for Unisys ES7000 server customers running Oracle in a Windows environment, according to Unisys.

One of the program’s early participants was the Calgary Co-Op, which runs an ES7000 with 24 processors and an eight-way partition. A few years ago, the Co-Op was moving off its mainframe and into a client-server environment, with servers running on Unixware 7. Many of its applications, however, including its point-of-sale and its pharmacy system, were on Windows.

“We were having some crashes and some strange things happening — things that weren’t talking to each other,” said Debb McClaren, Calgary Co-Op’s manager of information services infrastructure, in a telephone interview. “We may have been one of the drivers (for the partnership) by pulling them all together.”

Unisys helped orchestrate an on-site meeting of both vendors, McClaren said, which lead to better integration of the Oracle applications on the Windows-based systems. This was in 2001, and the two camps were butting heads, she said.

“Oracle was still really not happy with anybody going on to Windows,” she said. “It was a mind-set change.”

Since then, McClaren said the system has been running much more smoothly, and the Co-Op, which retails grocery, pharmacy, petroleum, liquor and travel from twenty shopping locations, has been rolling out many Oracle E-Business Suite modules, including accounts payable, general ledger and cash management. The HR module is expected to take six to eight months, she said, now that the firm has successfully rolled out the payroll application.

“Oracle had to make quite a few changes – mostly around government regulations and the different ways they do things in the States,” she said. “I think we must have been one of the first Canadian organizations to do that. But because of that, that project took twice as long.”

Tom Manter, Unisys’s program director for enterprise database applications, said the company has been bridging the Oracle/Microsoft divide for years, but more recently has been working to make those mixed environments more scaleable. A number of its customers, he said, are moving off RISC-based systems and onto the Oracle platform.

“These are 64-bit computing environments, and Oracle just gives better performance on Itanium 2 (processors),” he said. “With 32-bit processing it was a different story, because Oracle tends to be a memory-hungry database.”

McClaren said the HR rollout will help automate what are largely manual files, allowing the Co-Op to archive changes related to its employees.

“We’d never really had great access to that before. With 3,800 active employees, it’s just really hard to manage manually,” she said.

Unisys is announcing a number of other customers who have benefited from the integration work, including Wetherill Associates and the Nevada Department of Public Safety. Manter said the company is not confining its efforts to its installed base, however. “At least 60 per cent of our deployments are with new users,” he said. “And 25 per cent of those are moving off RISC.”

Oracle and Unisys also plan to launch a global seminar series about migrating Oracle applications on to Intel-based systems. OpenWorld concluded on Thursday.

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