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Ontario Technoblog

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Location: Ontario, California, United States

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Oracle Database 10g and Starwood Hotels and Resorts

From ORACLE Magazine:

In addition to lowering costs, leading companies today are trying to obtain flexibility and higher quality of service. For example, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide is undergoing an IT transformation designed to meet these goals using Oracle Database 10g Release 2 for a key foundational element: the operational data store at the heart of their online transaction environment....

One of the largest hotel and leisure companies in the world, Starwood owns, leases, franchises, or manages 750 hotels in 80 countries, providing more than a quarter of a million rooms worldwide. To deliver the flexibility and availability required in a highly competitive business environment, Starwood is currently in the midst of a multiyear, multifaceted series of IT projects that includes retiring a mainframe, explains Tom Conophy, Starwood executive vice president and chief technology officer.

Starwood's application portfolio includes mainframe-based reservation and customer-loyalty (Starwood Preferred Guest) systems, as well as distribution systems, Web sites, call centers, content management, and marketing systems that run on Oracle. Conophy says Starwood is moving all of its mainframe-based applications to "an enterprisewide architecture that includes Web-centric end-user interfaces; service-oriented architecture [SOA] for business-logic exposure; and an operational data store as a foundational piece, with Oracle Database 10g at the heart of that."

Starwood's operational data store is currently running Oracle Database 10g and will be upgraded to Oracle Database 10g Release 2 on a three-node cluster with Oracle RAC. Oracle Database 10g Release 2 includes some important new performance and availability features, such as runtime connection load balancing integrated with the load balancing advisory across all nodes in the cluster, that will help ensure that Starwood meets its operational-service-level goals. "The overriding benefit we're seeking from Oracle Database 10g is high availability of our system," says Bill Camp, Starwood's vice president of enterprise system information. "We intend to take advantage of Oracle Database 10g Release 2 to reduce both planned and unplanned outages. We're looking for a very high-availability environment." Conophy adds that Starwood is targeting 99.999 percent availability for its Oracle-based operational data store. "We're building out this platform powered by Oracle Database 10g to drive the online engine that more and more of our guests are shifting to," says Conophy. "No matter how they get to the system—from our branded Web site, call center, travel agent, or third-party Web site—the system must be available."

Starwood is making a "significant investment in transforming its technology platform to support the enormous growth that we expect over the next few years, given hotel growth and the massive shift to online booking," says Conophy, noting that close to 10 percent of Starwood's revenue comes from its branded Web sites. He adds that Starwood is "building out a series of scalable engines that encompass core components that can be leveraged for existing and new systems—shopping engines, inventory engines, booking engines, loyalty engines."

The mainframe migration is just one of Starwood's IT projects involving Oracle. The company has several deployments of Oracle Database 10g that will be upgraded to Oracle Database 10g Release 2, including the content management system that feeds its external Web sites. One of the key reasons to upgrade that particular system to Oracle Database 10g Release 2 is to take advantage of the XQuery support in the new release—the first commercial database management system to support the W3C's XQuery language. The benefit? Greater flexibility for developers.

"XQuery support will be great for our content management system, since the content is stored in XML format," says Arup Nanda, Starwood's director of database engineering and operations. Support for XQuery in the database gives developers more choices. "The flexibility simply increases tremendously for the developer community," says Nanda. This native support for XQuery means that developers can query XML, relational, object-relational, and repository data using the industry-standard query language for querying XML.


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