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Kroll Factual stabilizes mortgage portal with Oracle RAC

It moved away from SQL Server because of availability, scalability issues

By Eric Lai
November 27, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The latest version of Microsoft Corp.'s SQL Server may be proving itself adept at handling databases that are tens or hundreds of terabytes in size. But for at least one fast-growing business information services provider, SQL Server wasn't up to the task because of availability and scalability issues.

So after several successful rollouts of Oracle Corp.'s 10g database with Real Application Clusters (RAC) technology, Kroll Factual Data Inc. decided to move its entire 10TB of relational data off of Microsoft SQL Server for Oracle databases, according to Russ Donnan, CIO at Loveland, Colo.-based Kroll, which provides data to mortgage brokers and real estate investors.

That's despite Kroll's near-total loyalty to other parts of the Windows platform.

"We're an e-business that needs to be available all of the time to customers," Donnan said. "We are also an acquisitive company, growing very quickly. We need a scalable infrastructure. With SQL Server 2000, every time we needed to add performance, we had to migrate to a new server, which was a fairly painful process, to say the least."

Microsoft offers clustering in SQL Server 2005 using a different technology than Oracle's, and the vendor is promising to improve that feature in future versions of its database.

But that's not soon enough for Kroll.

"In order to get SQL Server [2000] to a level where it was reasonably available, we had to use third-party tools, which works OK, though it is not a really good solution because of the support issues," Donnan said. "Oracle [High Availability] works exceptionally well in 10g.

"And with RAC, we are able to have asymmetrical hardware all in the same grid, which is very nice," he added. "Now, if we have a long-running query, we can push it off to a slower box, one with less processors or less memory. It's a better use of horsepower."

Kroll first began using Oracle RAC in 2003, after deploying the vendor's E-Business Suite. That database "gets hit really, really hard, about 150,000 transactions a day," Donnan said, adding that he hasn't experienced any of the "lock-up issues" Microsoft executives claim still exist with Oracle RAC.

Kroll followed that up in the fall 2005 by taking an acquired flood zone map database and converting the tens of thousands of MapInfo formatted files into a single Oracle 10g database cluster. Now, mortgage brokers who type in an address at Kroll's Web site can find out within seconds whether the property lies in a flood-prone area 93% of the time. The remaining queries are almost all processed within four hours, Donnan said, or offered for free.

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