ZIFFPAGE TITLEIroning Out the Code

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2006-05-10 Print this article Print

Find out why First American Title CIO Larry Godec hasn't put his company's most critical database on Microsoft's SQL Server 2005 yet.

Subsequently, First American Title and Microsoft collaborated to get the code up to snuff. "We worked with the entire SQL Server development team for several weeks," Godec says.

By November, according to a joint press release from the companies, "Microsoft was able to rigorously validate SQL Server 2005 and improve system capabilities, ensuring that the new release of SQL Server will be 'FAST Certified' at the product launch."

But "certified"—meaning that the software functions as it's intended to, without crashing—isn't the same as optimized; that is, the certification provided no guarantee the software could handle high loads on a daily basis. Godec believes the last round of testing will ensure that FAST running on SQL Server 2005 is ready to run the business.

First American Title has stretched its Windows-based servers to their limits in the past. In fact, in 2002, halfway through the initial rollout of FAST to 1,300 offices (the company now has 1,500), the eight-processor Unisys system that previously ran the database "really choked," Godec says—it couldn't keep up with the volume of transactions because it was out of processing capacity.

"I went to the president and said, 'We're out of hardware,'" he says. Godec explained that the software could be rewritten for Java to run on an Oracle database on a Unix platform, but that the rollout wouldn't be completed by the end of the year.

That was unacceptable: Wall Street had already been told the consolidated FAST database would be deployed by the end of 2002. Fortunately, Godec says, HP had just released a 32-processor system, which was able to handle the FAST's processing demands.

Historically, companies have run such large-scale data processing applications on mainframes or Unix systems, which have proven more adept at handling very high transaction loads compared with Windows systems but are also comparatively expensive. Does Godec ever consider moving off a Microsoft-based system? "I wouldn't say every day," he says. "But every couple months we have very serious thoughts about that."

That said, First American Title currently has no plans to migrate from Microsoft Windows and SQL Server to another platform, according to Godec. For one thing, he's anticipating performance gains from new dual-core Itanium processors, which HP expects to incorporate into Superdome later this year.

A dual-core processor provides two independent microprocessors in the same hardware package, providing greater processing power than a traditional single-core processor. "In 12 to 18 months, implementing these changes will keep us ahead of the curve on capacity for what we need," he says.

Another reason Godec isn't entertaining a shift away from Microsoft anytime soon: First American Title has more than 100 software development projects in the works, which are enhancements or extensions to FAST. "To stop and convert those to Java, and convert the database from SQL Server to something else, would put the brakes on those projects for at least six months," he says.


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