Computer Corp. of America: Built to Last

By Mel Duvall  |  Posted 2002-10-10 Print this article Print

Dossier: CCA may not be fashionable, but its data-management system for IBM mainframes continues to engage big customers.

By all accounts, a company like Computer Corporation of America (CCA) should be out of business today.

The 37-year-old company provides a powerful database-management system for IBM mainframe computers. As such, its trademark Model 204 platform has been used by a wide range of Fortune 500 companies over the years, and particularly by government agencies with monstrous databases.

While CCA has lost some of its smaller customers to newer server-farm-based database systems from vendors like Oracle and IBM, its largest customers remain stubbornly faithful.

In the mid-1990s, the National Security Agency (NSA) decided to switch from Model 204 to an Oracle database. About two years into the project, and many millions of dollars later, the NSA abandoned the migration. "It did not go well," says Ray Murray, an NSA database administrator. "It was much more cost-effective to stick with what we had, and the bottom line was the 204 still did the job—and did it well."

Attributes that have made the Model 204 popular are its sheer power, reliability and ease of programming, say users. An Australian government agency has a long-term commitment to the Model 204, using it for pension, unemployment and other social service payments. The agency, Centrelink, has used the Model 204 for more than 20 years, and recently looked into switching to a newer system. Steve Crisp, national manager of application architecture, says there was no point in changing.

"We gave the problem to Oracle, we gave it to IBM, and they came back with estimates that were a lot more than what we're looking at today," he says. In addition, Crisp has been pleased with CCA's ongoing support, and with the add-on applications provided by business partner Sirius Software.

Another reason Crisp stuck with the 204: Big organizations like Roadway and the NSA had made it their core platform.

CCA also has been winning new clients on the health-care front, primarily through another business partner, Eclipsys Technologies Corp. Still, the clout of Oracle, IBM and, to some extent, Microsoft, is wearing away at the edges.

Pomona College, a CCA customer since 1980, is in the process of moving off the Model 204. The move is part of a program to integrate Pomona College's computer systems with its sister colleges in California's Claremont region.

Brenda Barham Hill, chief executive of the Claremont University Consortium, says the group looked at consolidating on the 204, but opted instead for a client/server-based system from Janzabar Inc. "It had nothing to do with the performance of the 204," she says. However, she says consortium members were concerned that the Model 204 might be headed for extinction.

Computer Corporation of America
500 Old Connecticut Path, Framingham, MA 01701
(508) 270-6666 www.cca-int.com

Richard Ryan
Chairman, CEO
Joined CCA in 1989; named CEO in 1998. Held positions at IBM, Epsilon Data, Price Waterhouse.

Russell Lavoie
Chief Financial Officer
Started at company in 1992 as director of finance. Also served in senior financial positions at Polaroid and Raytheon.

Chris Ramsdale
Director, Strategic Product Planning
Responsible for strategic product directions for the Model 204. Joined CCA in 1987.

Model 204 database management system for IBM System 390 and z/OS Series computers. Offers product to port Model 204 applications to Internet.

Reference Checks

Bruce Amey
Director, Central New York Regional Information Center
(315) 433-8301
Project: Agency uses Model 204 and a CCA analysis package to store and analyze more than 30 million student records.

Steve Crisp
National Manager, Application Architecture
(61) 2-6244-7240
Project: Australia's social security department uses the Model 204 as the repository for data related to unemployment payments, pensions, and other payments.

Brenda Barham Hill
Chief Executive
(909) 621-8000
Project: Pomona College, a member of the university consortium, used the Model 204 for 20 years, but now is dropping it.

Don Essick
Model 204 Guru
(202) 305-8500
Project: Has used Model 204 since early 1980s. It has looked at moving to an Oracle database system, but will be sticking with CCA.

Christopher Orlowski
Senior Programmer
(507) 266-7890
Project: Uses health care-related applications from Eclipsys Technologies, which are based on Model 204 platform.

Tom Egan
Executive Director, Business Technology Center
(610) 436-3337
Project: Used Model 204 since the 1980s as a repository for student records, but is switching to PeopleSoft-based architecture.

The executives listed here have been or are CCA customers. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

Contributing Editor
Mel Duvall is a veteran business and technology journalist, having written for a variety of daily newspapers and magazines for 17 years. Most recently he was the Business Commerce Editor for Interactive Week, and previously served as a senior business writer for The Financial Post.


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