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Who Uses Firebird?

Deployment Samplings

Because Firebird is free, there are no licences to count, no beans to count. It is known, from reputable enterprise surveys, that Firebird is chugging away on hundreds of thousands of production sites around the world. The following is a selection of companies and organisations that are publicly known to be using Firebird:

Deployment Samplings

Distributel, Telco Services Provider

Location: Canada

Contact: Dalton Calford (CTO)

Distributel is a long-distance telephone services provider with three corporate offices spanning three cities and two provinces. It uses Firebird as the back-end to corporate information systems, servicing an average staffing level of around 500 users. However, in-house information systems is not the area where we use Firebird most heavily.

The real stress test comes from our customer load. We provide a wide variety of services, servicing hundreds of thousands of customers, who process 2 million transactions a day. The whole shebang is handled by one database, effectively.

We have three unmanned network Points of Presence (“PoPs”), each in a different city, plus a development PoP in our testing lab. Each PoP has a dual telco switch system that performs load balancing and acts as failover support in case one fails.

That equipment is very specific to our needs, but we control it all using Firebird. Each switch is connected to two signal control processors (SCPs), which are slimline computers running Firebird. That means that each PoP has four SCPs. Each SCP hosts two independent databases, meaning we have 32 separate databases, all containing identical metadata and data.

If we lose a PoP, the other PoPs can take over the call, according to the “call state”. Of a possible 96 call states, only four are not recoverable. Each city keeps redundant dialogs with the SCPs from other cities and the response dialogs are live-audited in real time.

For an indication of how fast the response has to be, when you pick up the phone, a signal goes back to a telco switch, which then asks a SCP what to do. The general response is 'play dial tone and wait for digits'. Dial tone is not automatic—it is the response of a query into the Firebird database that checks line IDs, customer status, service notices (such as call answer) as well as governmental warrant and privacy needs.

By law, we are only allowed one failure in 99,999 phone calls, the so-called “five nines” that is said to define “enterprise-capable availability”.

Our customer service reps are also involved in updating the databases. Those databases report real-time call information to the reps, as well as to the billing system, a Firebird database. Besides storing and generating our Accounts Receivable, as one would expect, the database is also concurrently queried by our interactive voice response units, the service personnel whom customers call to inquire about their account status and their call history.

Prague Municipal Library

Location: Czech Republic

Contact: Ondrej Cerny, IT department manager

Prague Municipal Library oversees about 3,000,000 publications and has about 120,000 regular (registered) users. The central library has many branches all over the city, of which about 20 are currently connected to the IT center at the central library. Deployment is ongoing, with two or three more branches going on-line each month, each adding about 5-10 new users using 10-50 new attachments.

The library runs about 20 applications over a single Firebird database. Five are considered as core applications used by most users, handling normal library operations, public-access terminals (in libraries) and public Internet access to book collections. These applications are used by 300-350 concurrent users during working hours, using between 400 and 600 connections to the single database, which is currently about 30GB in size. Firebird handles 3-5 million transactions each day. Other applications are specialised or daemon-like watchdog applications (sending out e-mails about requested books etc.).

They run Linux Classic Firebird 1.5.2 on Red Hat 9 with a kernel tailored to handle 400-600 classic instances. Hardware is a 4-CPU Xeon machine with 16Gb RAM and a 120Gb RAID 10 storage array. They also have an 8-CPU Xeon with 20Gb RAM and a 500Gb RAID 10 to handle future needs—recall that this is an ongoing deployment, so scale is rising steadily all the time. The library does not operate 24/7. They have a maintenance window from midnight to 5 a.m. each day, but the system must run without outages the rest of the time. Outages are not life-threatening so they have a failover plan in place to restore operations in less than two hours in case the primary system suffers a fatal failure.

Although they are very satisfied with Firebird, they do have problems with old applications still in use that use the Borland Database Engine (BDE), an obsolete data access layer designed for use with desktop databases such as Access, that never scaled well on networks and is particularly dumb about transaction-driven data management. The biggest problem is blocked garbage collection that forces them to do a backup/restore every night and to throw a lot of hardware into it to compensate for the performance degradation as garbage accumulates throughout the day.

Despite the current not-so-healthy state of the application architecture, the 4x Xeon machine is about 50 per cent utilised. Those old BDE apps are due for replacement this year with a new application set that uses three-tier architecture and connection pooling, using a direct data access interface in the Delphi middleware. They expect that when this is sorted out, they will get a substantial amount of hardware reserve with current equipment, enough to handle all their growing needs for the next five years.

OneDomain, niche business intelligence systems

Location: Birmingham, Al, U.S.A.

Contact: Ed Salgardo Snr

OneDomain is a rapidly growing Birmingham, Alabama-based software company that develops and markets media planning, research, and business intelligence software to television stations across the United States. The primary product, called ClearView, allows broadcast salespeople to analyze TV ratings and target their approaches to selling time slots to advertisers. Following incorporation in October 2001, our first two years were spent in product development. Only 24 months after our first major software release in November 2003, OneDomain earned a 20% market share and it is more like 30% now.

Conceptually, our application architecture is really client/server but we use Citrix [Metaframe Terminal Server] to make it kind of “thin” for the clients by running the application in a chunk of memory at the server and not at the client.

We have a server with the Firebird 1.5.2 database and several (upwards of six) Citrix servers hitting it. We use a thick Win32 client, written in Delphi, that runs on the regular Citrix servers and provides the users with an application that acesses the database hosted in the Citrix server machine, a four-processor machine, using hyperthreading to look like eight processors, and with some 3.5Gb of RAM available.

We started with Firebird running as SuperServer but quickly changed to Classic for several reasons, including the memory usage limitations that seriously downgraded performance when things started getting hot.

With some 800-900 theoretical users, of whom fewer than 300 are likely to be simultaneously logged in, we have been able to handle the load so far. The good thing about this set up is you can scale easily if you need to, just by adding more servers.

Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange Bank

Location: Russia

Contact: Sergey Korotkikh

Despite its name, MICEX is the largest stock, foreign currency and derivatives exchange in Russia. Average daily turnover exceeds $6 billion. As a fully electronic exchange, MICEX has been using InterBase and, latterly, Firebird, databases since 1994 as the main storage for market data, orders and trades.

The MICEX Trading System serves more than 2000 users located throughout the whole territory of Russia in eight time zones. It trades in real time with an average payload of more than a quarter of a million orders per day, with more than 180,000 concluded trades daily.

In addition, more than 300 electronic broker systems connect to the Trading System via a special bridge providing a connectivity API. The Trading System itself is “semi-detached” from the database backend, effectively providing a very fat middleware layer to the database, from and to which it retrieves and maintains all necessary market and trading information.

Apart from its trading functions, the Firebird database is heavily used by our clearing activities and reporting. We generate daily trading and clearing reports for all of our almost 1000 members and send them via e-mail.

Being a key Russian financial exchange, MICEX is obliged to maintain a high level of reliability. According to the results of an audit done by the Gartner Group, we maintain an availability level of 99.999 per cent.

Star Airlines, France

Location: France

Contact: Fabien Campos

Star Airlines is is a French airline company. Dedicated to tourist traffic, Star operates scheduled flights mainly to long-haul destinations in Africa and the Middle East, and charter flights to medium-haul destinations in the Mediterranean.

Firebird is the back-end for the ERP and manages our budget, planes and crew planning, operational logistics and regulation, invoicing and control.

The Firebird database on a Windows 2000 server is used by 125 concurrent users, five of whom operate 24/7. About 300 mobile users attach regularly to consult their planning and messages through a web application.

Two 24/7 services perform regular automatic imports of data from external sources.

Daily and monthly extractions are performed to the payroll and accounting system.

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