February 23, 2006

Blue Flame goes up in Linux

Author: Tina Gasperson

Blue Flame Data is a consumer preferences data aggregator and analysis firm based in New York City. The company provides a Web application that presents consumers with a game-like interface that collects information about their likes and dislikes on a variety of products and services. Blue Flame custom configures the interface and the resulting data for its corporate customers. Until recently, all of Blue Flame's database and Web servers were running on Solaris and Sun hardware. Now, with the help of Rackspace, the company is nearing the end of a companywide migration to Linux.

Blue Flame provides an online, real-time measurement of consumer market preferences. "[Our customers] can find out on a one-to-one basis what people want and then are able to integrate that into their solutions," says Joel Binn, CIO and executive vice president of technology and operations for Blue Flame Data. "If you're a CRM, you can find out what you need to satisfy a passenger who lost his luggage. If you're a health care provider, you can determine the best medication to provide to a patient."

Binn says the company collects data by asking people their preferences in a "fun, interactive environment. The client salesmen get access to this information so they can make the best offer to the prospective customer." Blue Flame also provides research and analysis tools and a Web interface that pulls all these elements together.

Blue Flame found itself in need of a technology upgrade. "Our application is four years old," Binn says. "We did a study of the market and found that open source software is far more available and stable, and far more realistic for what we needed to do." Blue Flame didn't need anything more than a bare-bones Web server, and didn't want to pay for extras like Exchange, Weblogic, or WebSphere.

Binn says the company's old Solaris environment worked fine, but Red Hat Enterprise Linux has opened doors for the company. "We found this was easier and cheaper for our use. We have a very tightly woven application, and because of the way we have to integrate with our large corporate customers, we wanted something that just provided the base infrastructure. Linux was open and cost effective.

"In moving to an open source environment, we found that JBoss, Apache, and MySQL were the way to go. We found that by lowering our cost per unit, we could have far more equipment at the same cost, with better upgrade paths and larger failover protection."

As the migration process nears an end, Binn says his IT staff of 25 has experienced minor challenges. "There are some software items that didn't port as nicely as we would have liked," he says. "We use MatLab, which is a multiplatform mathematical tool, and we found we were having some pretty odd issues between it and JBoss and Linux. It took us a little while to figure that out, but that was the biggest issue. Other things have required rewrites but we were rewriting anyway. It was not a stumbling block."

Category:

  • Migration
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