December 20, 2001, 12:00 AM — When British Telecommunications PLC decided last year to upgrade to a
newer version of Oracle Applications, Oracle Corp.'s suite of back-end
business management software, the London-based communications company
faced an expensive "wither and die" migration process for its data,
says systems development accountant Chris Lacey.
That approach would create two diverging Oracle Applications
implementations: one with several instances of the old version
containing the historical data collected before the change, and another
running on the new software version that combined invoice and ordering
information from departments within the company's wireless division.
Then, at an Oracle user's conference last spring, Lacey came across
Crystallize Inc. in Ann Arbor, Mich. The start-up's software automates
the process of merging different implementations of Oracle
Applications, changing the underlying database fields and restructuring
What previously required custom scripts, a raft of consultants and a
brute-force approach can be done in-house within a few months, claims
Joshua Greenbaum, a principal at Enterprise Applications Consulting in
Daly City, Calif. "Crystallize is trying to solve an age-old problem
that has typically been solved the hard way," he says.
Using Crystallize's software, British Telecom was able to combine its
multiple instances of Oracle Applications before its planned upgrade.
The process took five months instead of the year or more that Lacey
predicted, and he estimates the company will save as much as 1 million
pounds because of the unified data stores. In addition, he says,
historical data can migrate into the new software, allowing the company
to provide better customer service because of that integrated database.
At the center of Crystallize's software is a patented rules engine
developed by CEO and former Oracle consultant Helene Abrams. The rules
describe patterns common to most implementations of Oracle
Applications, she says.
The engine focuses on many areas, including undocumented Oracle
processes, like the sequence of loading relational databases, and
general database-merging techniques, including more than 27 methods of
data mining. The software confirms each rule by examining live data,
she says, and constantly updates the repository with each customer
The basic capabilities of Crystallize's software, says Abrams, are
copying, changing, filtering and merging data. Those processes are
combined into more than 20 applications that focus on specific business
Users first describe their company's business logic, then use
Crystallize's software to search existing databases to uncover the
underlying database rules encoded in triggers and procedures. They then
combine those with the built-in rules in the repository and generate
the commands to perform the conversion.