IMAGE bumps SQL Server ISP app
Internet Service Provider market opens up for new 3000
The database that drives the HP 3000 will be opening
up more efficient lanes in the Internets traffic patterns soon.
An MPE application built by an Internet service provider is running
another ISPs business administration and its
displacing a Windows app and the SQL Server database underneath it.
Even as HP is making plans to stop the sale of HP 3000s,
Matt Perdue at Hill-Country.Net (210.532.6503,
email@example.com) is putting the finishing touches on a
new MPE-based application for managing the business of Internet
Providers. The Amisys consultant and HP 3000 programmer also operates
Hill-Country Net, and designed software he plans to market to a
customer base of more than 7,000 ISPs in the US.
Perdues EZ-Bill/3000 is in service today at
Thumb Internet, a Michigan-based ISP serving small communities in the
thumb region of the eastern part of that state.
Administrator Tracy Creguer said the application outperforms the best
PC-based application he could find.
SQL Server-based Interbiller, running on Windows,
really did stink, Creguer said. It wasnt
user-friendly, and there wasnt actual research done under live
use to design it. Early this year Creguer met Perdue through a
common upstream bandwidth provider which their ISPs share. Creguer
learned of the MPE application that Perdue was building for
He told us he could build this program,
Creguer said. Hes made the program so flexible, so we can
change and edit it, and do anything with our users we need.
Thumb Internet provides live service 24 hours a day, so every
scenario has been hit here. Its basic and simple, but with all
the luxuries of a high-end application.
Small to midsize ISPs like Thumb Internet number
between 2,500 and 3,000 in the US. They offer Internet connectivity
to areas where major providers like AOL are only available through a
toll phone call, or they undercut costs on connections with rates
like $7 a month for unlimited time. We lose our customers to
the big-wigs, but then they come back, Creguer said.
But this kind of smaller provider has to be much more
cost-conscious to offer service in rural areas and at lower rates.
Applications under $1,000 to manage small ISP billing and access
chores fall short of the functionality of EZ-Bill/3000, according to
Creguer. The system e-mails bills automatically to the 1,000 users in
Thumb Internets customer base, and even cuts off access with an
automated script if a bill goes unpaid too long. Radius logs are
pulled from the radius logging servers to monitor metered accounts,
to control access on arrangements like 40 hours monthly.
This thing has unlimited database
capabilities, Creguer said, so we can keep all the
passwords and user names in it, along with a database on problems
with customers. The other application didnt hold half as much
stuff. We have 10 times the features. And theres no lag in
loading the files, like Windows had.
Creguer uses EZ-Bill without owning a 3000. He
accesses the application through the Internet, and had his SQL Server
database converted to IMAGE format. The data resides on a server in
San Antonio where Purdue is located, and he manages backups and
maintains the database for Thumb Internet. The ASP model gives Purdue
an easy way to let the thousands of prospective customers try the
application at no risk or cost.
The plan is to offer ISPs a trial-run of the
system before they spend any money, Perdue said. The
interested ISP can get an account signup and use the system for 30-60
days. If they do not want to spend the money to purchase a 3000 and
our software, we will run the app in an ASP model for a monthly fee.
If the ISP wants to purchase a 3000 and our software under license,
thats fine too.
EZ-Bill costs an ISP $400 a month for up to 2,000
using the ASP model, and $100 extra for each additional 1,000
accounts. Small to midsize ISPs host between 500 and 10,000 accounts.
Of course, the system will handle more than 10,000 accounts,
because the underlying database is TurboIMAGE, Perdue added.
Given the scalability of IMAGE, It would be possible to manage
easily two to five million accounts, he said, all
depending on the size of the 3000 box you run.
The software will also be available for use on HP
3000s, and Perdue isnt at all daunted about mounting a new
application in the waning years of HPs participation with MPE.
The budding emulator projects, which will host MPE applications on
Intel-based 3000 clones, will help create a viable business model for
Id like to be able to market the system
with a $5,000 emulator/MPE license fee, and $5,000 for the
software, Purdue said. If it has to run on HPs
[Intel-based] hardware, okay although that restriction should
be able to be removed in the future, in case HP discontinues selling
hardware on which the emulator will run.
ISPs like Thumb Internet can use an application
powered by MPE to simplify administration. The most important feature
isnt the platform, but the applications reliability.
Its been astonishing how much easier
this has made our life, Creguer said. Our billing
overhead got cut in half with this. Were your average Internet
provider out there needing simplification in their life. Im
game for any platform that doesnt crash, die, or cause
While Perdue adds the latest set of features to the
application, hes confident that MPE hosted on lower-cost
hardware will provide a good opportunity for him. Hey, I can
wait a year for an emulator, he said. How much can that
HP 3000 laptop cost?