Emerging Technology

By Amy Helen Johnson, CIO |  Hardware

WHEN ERIC KENT built a laptop-based sales-force automation system in December
1996 for Simon & Schuster, he needed to fit the software -- applications,
presentation tools, databases, files -- on a machine with a 1.2GB hard disk and 32MB of
RAM. Kent, now director of IS for English book publisher Pearson PLC's technology
division in Orangeburg, N.Y., wanted to give the salespeople enough information to take
on the road and make a presentation about an upcoming title to bookstore buyers in
their territory. (Pearson acquired most all of Simon & Schuster in 1998; both
companies still use the SFA system.) Kent knew he couldn't put all the data in the
company's database on the laptops, but salespeople needed information about the
bookstore's account (order status, historical sales, and special handling and discounts
for which it was eligible) as well as marketing information about new books, such as
sales forecasts, cover art and promotion plans.

The key piece of technology that made the laptop project possible? A small-
footprint database, one whose selective replication features allowed Kent to put just
the data relevant to each salesperson onto their laptops and to collect the orders once
the sales call was over.

More and more enterprises like Pearson are interested in small-footprint databases,
says Brian Kalita, a senior analyst with Boston-based technology advisers Aberdeen
Group, because they need to put certain types of data in the field where the workers
are. What's appealing about small-footprint databases, according to Kalita, is that
they offer "more information, more readily available, in a form that's accessible." And
where once laptops were the only portable machines capable of running a database,
technical advancements in the guise of more powerful CPUs and smaller, cheaper memory
chips are enabling handheld devices and smart phones to run some form of a SQL database
and synchronize that mobile database with a central database server back at
headquarters.

The most common way to define a small-footprint database is by the minimum memory
necessary to hold the kernel, a fuzzy line that rests at around 2MB for laptop versions
and at 50KB for a handheld database. In many cases, the vendors have broken their
databases into pieces, so users can add additional database functionality by loading
another module onto their machine. What they have to weigh is footprint versus power:
The smaller the footprint, the fewer the features that will work efficiently.

Join us:
Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Tumblr

LinkedIn

Google+

Answers - Powered by ITworld

Join us:
Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Tumblr

LinkedIn

Google+

Ask a Question