Car rental firm tells Oracle to take a hike

A major international car rental broker has switched from Oracle to Progress Software for its centralized reservation and back-office systems, saying Progress is handling the project more quickly, professionally, and at lower cost.

The U.K.-based Holiday Autos International Ltd., which books leisure car rentals in 4,000 locations worldwide, was looking for a way to consolidate its different national reservation systems into one global system, said Alan Herbage, group IT director.

The privately held broker was pleased with Progress' work helping to develop a new Web reservation system, which since its implementation in late 1999 has grown to handle nearly a third of the company's bookings, or more than 3 million pounds (US$4.3 million) a month, he said.

The Web application, based on Progress's OpenEdge e-commerce platform, took about seven weeks to develop and cost about 275,000 pounds, including hardware, software and consulting fees, "whereas we've been talking to people who've been spending millions," said Herbage.

Building on that success, Holiday Autos now wants to create a single system for its booking agents, and a browser-based, thin-client architecture, giving employees worldwide access to back-office systems such as accounting, document distribution, and management statistics.

After a German software house -- which Herbage declined to name -- ran into major delays with the project, the car broker decided to abandon the Windows-based Oracle architecture it was using for its internal systems.

"We saw the opportunity to make everything browser based. It's much more flexible, much more open, and I think it's becoming much more intuitive for the user," said Herbage.

Holiday Autos staff are developing the new system internally, with the help of Progress, and will probably drop their legacy Oracle client-server architecture by April of next year.

The company was swayed in part by what it called unprofessional behavior on the part of the Oracle vendor.

"The Oracle vendor's response was just to really question the integrity of Progress, and I don't think that was the right way to do it. They tried to come up with a lot of technical parts of their applications that they suggested Progress didn't have," said Herbage. "They really tried to pull the wool over our chairman's eyes, and he gave Progress the first chance to react, which they did really professionally."

A spokeswoman for Oracle said the company was still preparing a response to the Holiday Autos switch, but had no immediate comment.

Herbage said in the next development phase of its Web site, Holiday Autos plans to expand on its use of the XML (Extensible Markup Language) standard to share information with other travel companies.

"We have a link to Go Airlines (Go Fly Ltd.). You book your flight with Go, (and the airline's Web site) picks out the incoming airport and sends that automatically via XML to our site; we then display which cars are available at that site," he said. "That's proved extremely successful for both of us."

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