“The PCA crew is leagues above
the competition” - Pepsico
"a prior vendor failed to develop
the application, which (Practical) delivered." - Franklin Park
"the application (is) easier to use, with a
much simpler, more intuitive use interface" - Royal Administration Services
"Sometimes it's the things you don't ask for
that are important" - Royal Administration Services
"PCA turned our raw data and algorithms into easy to use
and understand features and reports." - CareScout
"The quality and professionalism ... has been
so outstanding that we want to send you a letter of thanks." - USALCO
"PCA people and applications stand out by
far exceeding our expectations." - USALCO
"The resulting application greatly increas(ed)...
our business effectiveness and efficiency." - The Advest Group
"PCA completes projects
efficiently and effectively" - Pepsico
Starent Networks (Nasdaq: STAR), located in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, is a global provider of network infrastructure solutions (hardware and software) that enable mobile operators to deliver multimedia services to their subscribers i.e. Internet access, e-mail, streaming video, voice-over-IP, mobile TV, etc. Starent Networks’ products are deployed by over 85 mobile operators in 35 countries.
Ongoing testing of Starent products is critical to ensure quality as new enhancements and new products work their way through the Starent R&D pipeline. After determining that no commercial software package was available to meet their needs, Starent Test Engineering developed an internal Microsoft Access database to capture, track and generate product test case data for a broad range of internal and external (customer) reporting needs.
Over a 3-year period, the functionality in the MS Access system expanded, the number of Test Engineers (the primary End Users) increased dramatically, and the amount of data in the system was rapidly approaching 1 Gigabyte. Limitations of MS Access were frequently evidenced, and Test Engineering was investing more and more of its time maintaining and supporting the MS Access application. In addition, part of Starent’s Test Engineering team is located in India, and remote access to the MS Access application via a secure VPN was placing additional stress on the system.
Starent was running a critical business function on a platform they were rapidly outgrowing, and business continuity was a primary concern. Starent needed a solution that had the performance, data store and remote, concurrent End User access and security required for testing of its market leading solutions. Equally important, they needed a solution that preserved their 3-year investment in the unique capabilities of its MS Access application design.
Starent turned to Practical Computer Applications (PCA) for a solution.
“By migrating to the Smart Client platform, Starent was able to retain our 3-year investment in the MS Access application design, overcome its deficiencies, and extend capabilities in a cost-effective manner. We are continually looking to deliver leading edge technology, and this requires leading edge testing capabilities. We have that.
The Smart Client solution designed by PCA is a big asset recognized both internally and externally by our customers. PCA did a great job!! Their team understood the business needs and had good ideas on how to convert requirements into application capabilities. PCA has been very productive in terms of fixing problems quickly and creating new features. Project management support has been effective, and really made a difference on this project.
Director of Test Engineering, Starent Networks
Starent approached PCA to evaluate their situation, and recommend a sustainable solution to meeting their current and future growth needs. Following a two week professional engineering audit of Starent’s existing systems, PCA proposed a 3-phase approach: stabilize the system, replace it, then maintain and extend the new system as needed.
Phase I: Recognizing that Starent was looking to improve a critical business function, PCA recommended to immediately replace its existing back-end data store with SQL Server. While this would not fully address Starent’s remote Internet access needs, it would improve performance, application reliability, and increase data storage capacity. This step would improve Starent’s testing operations, while providing a migration path to a new system.
Within six months of contacting PCA, the Starent Test database was re-engineered in SQL Server, re-connected to the original MS Access front-end application, and re-deployed into Starent’s production environment. Starent’s Test Engineering team in India was able to conduct product testing operations in an improved environment.
The next step was to replace the MS Access front-end with a native Internet application. After several weeks of weighing the strengths and drawbacks of a browser-based approach, Starent elected to proceed with a Smart Client solution for two primary reasons: Smart Clients provided superior functionality and ease-of-use, and Practical could deliver a Smart Client solution at 2-3x lower investment, and with fewer risks vs. a browser-based solution.
Phase II: Over a 3-month period, PCA redesigned the MS Access front-end application in .NET/Smart Client using a Rapid Prototype Design methodology — a process that provided both Starent and PCA with a simple, visual means to collaborate on and exploit opportunities to streamline the application, improve ease of use, and add new capabilities necessary to support more robust test engineering needs. Starent approved the fourth iteration of the new Prototype design, and PCA proceeded onto the project build-out phase.
Over the ensuing 9 months, PCA gathered the specifications necessary to drive development, built-out the application Prototype, and delivered an initial Beta application for Starent’s review and feedback. Weeks of intensive testing, feedback and refinements produced an application suitable for deployment into Starent’s rigorous test engineering production environment.
During this period, Starent’s testing staff in India continued to grow significantly, with additional users on different continents. In addition, Project Managers and Starent management located around the globe relied on the new system to support both internal and Starent customer-facing reporting needs. Starent elected to host the Smart Client solution internally, and a big advantage was the new system required little-to-no Starent I/T resources to support remote installations or updates to the new application — the traditional I/T burden associated with managing a globally-deployed business application was completely automated by the PCA Mobilizer™ Smart Client component.
Phase III: A principal element of the PCA plan was to support Starent’s ongoing needs to extend the new system over time — to add new capabilities necessary to support more rigorous test engineering methods, additional test cases necessary to support new multimedia product platforms, and more robust internal and external reporting needs.
Starent was bringing new multimedia platforms to market, and anticipated that extending the new system to support concurrent testing of multiple platforms represented a significant engineering effort. After consulting with PCA, Starent discovered that the new system was already designed for this capability, and with one very small change, Starent was able to support multiple platform testing.
However, as customers and test operations continued to grow, Starent’s internal and external reporting requirements began to diverge and get more specialized. Central to the ‘Support and Extend’ phase therefore was devising a way to support divergent reporting needs in a scalable, repeatable manner. Rather than designing and building new reports for Starent, PCA recommended to Starent they incorporate a highly-flexible Grid Reporting component within the Smart Client application. This approach would give users the ability to interactively slice-and-dice test case data any way they wished, and avoid the time and expense of building more and more specialized reports.
Starent approved PCA’s recommendation, and several months following initial deployment of the new system, PCA initiated the effort of replacing static views throughout the Smart Client application with dynamic grid controls. The result was a big win for Starent, with phone calls requesting one-off reporting needs dropping from ~20/week to nearly zero.
Starent Networks Test Database
The Starent Test Database allows over 200 Starent employees on 5 continents to test and validate product quality as new enhancements and new products work their way through the Starent R&D pipeline. This screen shows the standard Smart Client Install and Login process: simply email the URL to an authorized End User, and within two minutes the application is up and running.
For help with your business application, call us at 1-877-843-3405 or use our form to request more information.
Most Popular Pages
Recent Posts: Practical Blog
- Power View empowered practical Smart Client applications
- Tableau vs Qlikview and Tableau vs Spotfire
- Data, Story, View: Prototype and Update
- 2012 starts with Tableau 7.0
- SQL Server 2012 is good for Data Visualization
- Spotfire 4.0 is available
- Introduction of QlikView 11
- VisiCalc jubilee and history of Excel
- Data Visualization 2011: Omniscope 2.6
- Data Visualization 2011: Spotfire 3.3, Silver 2.0
- Data Visualization 2011: Tableau 6.1
- SQL Server 2012 is released for Preview