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August 25, 1988

DATABASE MACHINES: BRITTON LEE TRIES OUT NEW MARKETING APPROACH FIRST IN EUROPE

By CBR Staff Writer

As reported earlier this week (CI No 998), it has taken just one short year for back-end database builders Britton-Lee Inc to absorb a new management team, develop what it describes as a focused approach, and – more recently – make a return to modest profits. The Los Gatos-based firm is now determined to extend the appeal of its traditional data integrity and security strengths beyond the defence market, and has announced details of a new two-tiered marketing intiative, which will be targeted firmly at the commercial sector. At entry-level, Britton Lee hopes to address the needs of departmental networking environments – estate agents, retail chains, the petrochemical market et al – with a UKP37,350 package comprising its BL 300 shared database system, host software, the Freeform 4GL applications generator and the PC/SQL link. Meanwhile, at the top end of the market, the company will provide a similar BL 700 based offering, at UKP254,000, to be aimed at corporate network type environments within banks, large financial institutions and government departments. The targeting of key European customers, via a series of presentations, will start at the end of the month, with plans to move the process across the Atlantic by the end of the year. According to European chief Jan Nordhagen, it is the dedicated nature of the database machine which provides both packages with a unique selling point – a factor that Britton Lee, widely perceived to be caught between the likes of Oracle, Informix, Ingres and, at the other extreme, Teradata, clearly plans to play up. Young relational database software companies,claimed Nordhagen, warming to his theme, were unable to offer either the separate database concept or comparable load or performance capabilities, while Teradata was rapidly dismissed as a file sorter for IBM and Honeywell-Bull environments. The other side of the uniqueness coin, however, appears to be an unwilling-ness to provide any of the standard performance guides: the TP1 benchmark was, he concluded, insignificant, while data transfer rates were simply inapplicable to the kind of software programs Britton-Lee products were built to host. Response time for a typical 50-terminal BL 300 network, was, however, eventually placed in the one-and-a-half to two second region. Value-added resellers With proprietary matters still firmly on the agenda, Nordhagen was able to shed some light on the RISC models devlopment, announced last July (CI No 736). Rather than using industry standard RISC chips, he explained, the company was applying the reduced complexity concept to the arrangement of components within a range of dedicated machines, in a manner similar to the one adopted by IBM for management environ-ment on the RT 6150. The company’s processor is built of discrete ECL components with Zilog Z8002s to handle the peripherals. The difference between the 300 and the 700 is that the 300 has a single 300Mb disk from Control Data, whereas the 700 supports up to 16Gb of disk and includes a database accelerator. Re-packaged products and RISC aside, the company will also be concentrating its new-found energies on the launch of its Alliance programme, designed to encourage its network of European value-added resellers to exchange information between them without using the company as an intermediary. The intention is to combine the different products currently developed by individual resellers to produce an Alliance product portfolio – an idea which, if successful, will undoubtedly leave the company well-placed to benefit from the dismantling of European trade barriers in 1992.

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