Tour company leverages legacy technology to launch new site

The days of Web sites serving as online brochures are over. Internet users have become insistent in demanding more interactivity and information, and those corporate sites that comply are seeing a marked competitive advantage and a significant return on investment, as did Banff, Alta.-based Brewster Transportation and Tours.

Like many companies, Brewster set up a basic Web site during the dot-com boom, but recently realized that by not enhancing the site, potential customers were clicking their way to other alternatives. The touring and sightseeing company’s original site contained information, but did not allow for online booking or invoicing.

According to Brewster’s manager of application development, Karen Karpa, the company’s traditional hands-on methodologies could not reach the customer base that they had hoped, and therefore chose to acquire an application server to establish an Internet framework and sustain ongoing site development. The company chose Sybase’s Enterprise Application Server 3.6.1 (EAServer).

The EAServer is an integrated set of tools and application servers consisting of the PowerDynamo dynamic page server, the Jaguar CTS component transaction server, Application Integrator for CICS, Application Integrator for Stored Procedures, the Sybase Adaptive Server Anywhere RDBMS and the PowerJ Java development environment.

“We had used Sybase products in-house for a number of years, including our reservation system which we developed six years ago. At that point, based on other products on the market, Sybase was the best opportunity for us,” Karpa said.

For this implementation, Karpa explained that other vendors were considered, but Brewster’s legacy with Sybase dictated that they would be the best choice.

“We did pursue other pieces on the market, but the changes that would have had to be made to our reservation system and other internal systems would have been substantial,” she said.

Omkar Bhongir, director of product management and product marketing for the eBusiness Division of Sybase in Dublin, Calif., agreed that the ability to build on legacy applications rather than start from scratch proved to be a large part in Brewster’s success.

“They were not only able to leverage investments in technology, but also in people resources – they had staff going on all cylinders with Sybase technology,” he said. “For companies like Brewster who have invested a lot of money in their people and their training with the technology, the product gets to the market at a much faster pace than if you have to do a lot of rewriting or building of new back-end systems.”

Stephen Ibaraki, an industry analyst for iGEN Knowledge Solutions Inc. in New Westminster, B.C., agreed that starting from scratch is rarely a good option for most companies in terms of cost and retraining. The reality for most enterprise environments is that legacy systems will have to interoperate with newer systems, he said, and going with a vendor that the company is comfortable with is cost effective in the long run.

“Staying with known and existing technologies doesn’t require learning new skill sets from the standpoint of end users, system administrators and in-house developers. For industries where IT changes are incremental, this would be the best route to go,” Ibaraki said. “In rapidly changing and dynamic industries, the adoption of new technology must be rapid and immediate.”

Brewster devised a two-phase plan which involved the establishment of an online read-only service for wholesalers to view accounts, itineraries and bookings, and eventually the deployment of an interactive Web site so that wholesalers, travel agents and individual customers could book online.

“Our site is a reflection of us, and by providing more of an understanding of our product and Brewster through the site, we’re multiple steps ahead of where we could even imagine being,” Karpa said. “Everything in our business is about relationships, and the easier we make it to deal with us, the more likely our customers will choose to deal with us in the future.”

According to Karpa, this implementation is simply a step in Brewster’s evolution.

“The next thing we want to do is incorproate an online system to mirror our reservation agents internally,” she said.

For information on Sybase’s EAServer go to