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Motorcycle icon Yamaha updates dealer site with fast database drivers

Jack Vaughan

Moving application elements to open source software has its benefits, but it can require special attention by data developers. For example, when famed motorcycle producer Yamaha's European group swapped application servers, it experienced issues with the speed at which pages loaded on its dealer website. Ultimately, problems were traced to database drivers.

The Yamaha site links 1,500 European dealers with Yamaha distributors in several countries. The site lets them order parts, process claims and register warranties. Speed is an acute issue for users of this Web e-commerce application, said Kees Trommel, division manager for Information Systems at Yamaha Motor Europe in Schiphol-Rijk, The Netherlands.

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We ran stress tests and pinpointed the problem to the drivers.

Ronald Haring,
senior developer, Yamaha

When Trommel and his team decided to switch from IBM WebSphere application servers to Apache TomCat application servers, tests uncovered significant performance issues in connecting the application server to a Microsoft SQL Server database. Page loads that formerly took five seconds were suddenly taking 40 seconds.

"We ran stress tests and pinpointed the problem to the drivers," said Ronald Haring, senior developer at Yamaha Motor Europe, who admitted that data drivers sometimes can be something of an afterthought in system development. But, after eliminating suspects such as network connections, the culprit became apparent.

"We didn’t think about it when it was working perfectly. The original drivers were from WebSphere [connecting to the Microsoft database]. When we migrated to Tomcat and had to use other drivers, the performance went downhill."

Haring said his team turned to DataDirect SQL Server for Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) driver software from Bedford, Mass.-based Progress Software Corp., a company with a long lineage in producing high-performance Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) and JDBC drivers.

After implementing the software, page load times were reduced to between four and five seconds. Moreover, a side-benefit of the move to JDBC software was its support of both UTF8 and Unicode characters. This proved helpful as the Yamaha site software had to support 12 languages in 12 countries. The drivers perform encoding and decoding of strings of UTF8.

Data drivers: Safe at any speed?

Driver software technology like that implemented by Yamaha has played an important role in the evolution of data integration. Although often overlooked, stalwart JDBC and its brethren ODBC connectivity standards continue to help move enterprise software forward, said Jesse Davis, senior director for DataDirect R&D at Progress.

Davis pointed to advanced data analytics dashboards such as those from Tableau Software and others as examples of where "ODBC is the main drop down" menu choice when it comes time for users to serve themselves up some big data.

He reminded us that, before ODBC, every database had its own interface. "It was really difficult to write and maintain a piece of software where every interface to every data store was different," he said. ODBC met the needs of the community at the time, and has continued. In fact, ODBC had its twentieth birthday last year. JDBC has carried the ODBC notion of interconnectivity forward into the age of Java, he said.

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