Provident Personal Credit has successfully implemented client-server technology to do mission-critical tasks that have traditionally been entrusted to more costly mainframe computers.

The British firm, which issues personal loans to one million customers throughout England and Ireland, joined forces with Sybase Inc., an Emeryville, Calf.-based software developer to build what may be the largest corporate data base using an open system.

The system, which has been on-line since the beginning of the year, is used to process three million weekly payment transactions in a 10-hour period, a number-crunching feat typically accomplished by mainframes.

Built from Scratch

"We have proven you can create a large-batch data base in Unix, and it works," said David Han, director of development at Provident. "I have to pay tribute to my project team and, of course, Sybase because they have all achieved from scratch something the industry has never done before."

This development is a triumph for advocates of client-server technology, who have said that the personal computer technology can be a more efficient and economical alternative to mainframe computers for processing transactions and providing access to information just as quickly as in the mainframe environment.

According to Cynthia Betty, senior manager, customer marketing, more banks are running mission-critical applications in that environment. Sybase continues to prove itself for use in applications requiring a large database and a large transaction volume, she said.

When, Provident set out to build a corporate data base containing details on customers and transactions, including six years of sales history and two years of weekly payment history, the choice was between a traditional but costly mainframe system or a more cost-effective but risky Unix-based solution.

The Leeds, England-based company decided to take the risk and installed Sybase's SAL Server data base software and Unix operating system running on Hewlett-Packard hap 9000 workstations.

Benchmark Tests

Provident chose Sybase after contacting several other vendors and performing benchmark tests using Sybase equipment. Once the decision was made, the entire implementation project took nine months from start to finish.

The system improves access to information, when compared to the company's previous mainframe environment, said Provident officials.

Provident's 208 field officers are able to feed in customer and loan information each week from their personal computers, so that information on loan transactions and creditworthiness of customers are continually updated.

This gives the company the ability to analyze the data, identify market opportunities, and be more sophisticated in areas such as credit scoring and risk analysis, said company officials. Eventually, the company plans to run all its applications on the new system.

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