Award Winners Tap Technology for Greater Good

Ten organizations receive honors for their use of IT in projects that break new ground

WASHINGTON -- The 2006 Computerworld Honors Program awards ceremony focused attention last week on some of the world's most cutting-edge IT projects, including a grid computing initiative managed by David Milne, director of database technologies at Chicago Stock Exchange Inc.

However, some of the technologies being used as part of the grid project are anything but cutting-edge. The stock exchange did recently upgrade to the latest 10g versions of Oracle Corp.'s database, clustering tools and application server software. But Milne said it is running the Oracle software on four servers based on Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Alpha processor, which HP no longer develops and will stop selling in systems this October.

Some of the HP AlphaServer systems were even bought secondhand, Milne said. Nonetheless, they are delivering high service levels and sparing the exchange from having to buy a single large system to accommodate the clustered database, according to Milne. He added that when he needs more computing power, he can go out and buy "what was at one point Cadillac technology at a commodity price, and still do better [on performance] than what the high-end commodity products are doing today."

The Chicago Stock Exchange received a 21st Century Achievement Award for its grid project in the finance, insurance and real estate category at last week's ceremony. The award illustrates a key aspect of some of this year's winning projects: Having the latest or greatest technology isn't always as important as how systems are assembled to reduce costs and deliver new services to end users.

Another award winner whose project fits a similar mold is Cambridge, Mass.-based Zipcar Inc., which operates a car-sharing service in more than 30 U.S. cities.

Zipcar's self-service system lets customers make reservations over the Internet or by telephone and then use smart cards embedded with radio frequency identification tags to gain access to rental vehicles parked in designated on-street spaces. The company, which was honored in the transportation category, uses Cingular Wireless LLC's data network to track its cars and send information about reservations to specialized black-box devices that are in each vehicle.

Two individuals - one a user, the other a vendor - also won awards last week:

THE EMC INFORMATION LEADERSHIP AWARD: Linda Dillman, former CIO at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and now executive vice president of risk management and benefits administration at the retailer.THE MORGAN STANLEY LEADERSHIP AWARD FOR GLOBAL COMMERCE: Hector Ruiz, chairman and CEO of Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Hector Ruiz, chairman and CEO of Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Image Credit: Asa Mathat

Roy Russell, vice president of technology at Zipcar, said that the wireless car-sharing system was made possible by "a lot of [technology] pieces that are really geared to self-service." Unable to buy what it needed to make the system work, the company built everything itself -- from the reservations system to the in-vehicle devices. It even created a proprietary data-transmission protocol in order to avoid the overhead created by TCP/IP.

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