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Posted: 10/17/2012
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Choice Hotels International Hospitality Firm Improves Business Insight and Availability with Database Solution

Choice Hotels International, a leading hospitality company, wanted to ensure the availability of its online property management system and give employees better business intelligence (BI) tools. To improve insight and uptime, the company is implementing Microsoft SQL Server 2012 with the AlwaysOn feature and new BI capabilities. As a result, Choice Hotels will cut failover time from minutes to seconds, improve customer service and business insight, and gain an enhanced platform for business growth.

Business Needs

Choice Hotels International is a leading franchise lodging company with multiple branded hotel chains. Based in Silver Spring, Maryland, Choice Hotels has operations in 30 countries and approximately 1,400 employees. The company relies on a web-based property management system that enables hoteliers to manage their hotel operations. To enhance service, Choice Hotels wanted to improve the availability of the mission-critical system.

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* The SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn feature will be very beneficial for our global operations. We can ensure continuous availability and cut our failover time from several minutes to less than 15 seconds.  *

Narasimhan Sampath
Database Engineer
Choice Hotels International

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The solution, which is centrally managed, operates continuously to serve customers across multiple time zones. The system handles up to 7,000 concurrent users and 75,000 transactions per second during peak periods, and even a short delay could result in lost customers and revenue. “The sheer number of hotels we manage through this system is phenomenal, and all of that information is stored in a single database,” says Narasimhan Sampath, Database Engineer at Choice Hotels International. ”It’s always business time in some part of the world, so ensuring a high level of availability is our biggest challenge.”

Choice Hotels managed the database in a failover cluster, and switching from active to passive servers for maintenance could take several minutes. “There is never a good time for a pause or lag in performance,” affirms Rob Crossley, Senior Director, Enterprise Information Management, Choice Hotels International. “Every time you roll a cluster, someone is trying to check in or check out or charge a card. So a delay of a couple of minutes isn’t trivial when somebody is standing in a checkout line.”

Choice Hotels wanted to improve business operations with real-time data analysis and better reporting capabilities. Users of the property management system worked with a variety of business BI tools, including Microsoft Excel spreadsheet software and a legacy reporting system. “We just had standardized, operational-type reports,” says Crossley. “Pulling together information for deeper analysis was time-consuming. And at the pace of our industry, that kind of delay is not ideal.”

Solution

Choice Hotels decided to upgrade from Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Enterprise software to SQL Server 2012 Enterprise. The solution runs on the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system. The company had built its solution on a Microsoft platform and looked forward to each new release. Crossley says, “Microsoft has continued to innovate their database technology, and we’ve never had a reason to change.”

In May 2012, the company began using Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services to build multidimensional cubes for analytics. It is also taking advantage of the new xVelocity in-memory technologies in SQL Server 2012 to speed query performance.

Next, the company began replacing its legacy solution with Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services and BI features like SQL Server 2012 Power View, a self-service data exploration and visualization tool. Choice Hotels plans to launch the new BI capabilities by the first quarter of 2013.

In the same timeframe, the company will also implement the SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn availability group feature, which will include two synchronous replicas of the primary database server and an asynchronous replica used for reporting. With automatic failover, the solution will ensure continuous availability. And by offloading reporting functions to a secondary server, the company expects to reduce the workload on its production server. In addition, the company plans to install another secondary replica at a remote disaster-recovery site.

Looking ahead, Choice Hotels will also be able to support business growth better with features such as data compression technology that improve scalability and performance.

Benefits

By improving availability and insight with a Microsoft solution, Choice Hotels expects to improve customer sales and service and gain better support for business growth.

Cuts Failover Time from Minutes to Seconds

Choice Hotels expects to improve service worldwide with its new solution. “The SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn feature will be very beneficial for our global operations,” says Sampath. “Tests show that we can ensure continuous availability and cut our failover time from several minutes to less than 15 seconds.”

With a property management system based on SQL Server 2012, customers can find and book rooms faster and spend less time waiting at a hotel’s front desk. The company reports that the average response time for queries is less than 200 milliseconds for the end user.

“Performance is critical,” Crossley adds. “Any kind of delay affects service, and with SQL Server 2012 we can provide customers with the best possible experience.”

Improves Sales and Business Insight

Choice Hotels anticipates that the new high-availability solution will contribute to better business intelligence as well. “In the past, we hesitated to build sophisticated reports because we didn’t want to slow performance on the production system,” says Crossley. “That problem will go away with SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn because we can run reports with real-time data on a secondary server.”

Supports Business Growth

Choice Hotels is confident that Microsoft technology is the best choice for its growing business. “We operate in a high-volume, fast-paced industry,” says Crossley. “We’ve put together a three-year roadmap, and we’re already looking at some of the new products and enhancements that Microsoft will be offering. So I see this as a symbiotic relationship—as Microsoft expands its capabilities, we plan to grow with them.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 1600 employees

Organization Profile

Based in Silver Spring, Maryland, Choice Hotels International is a worldwide leader in the hospitality industry, with more than 6,000 franchised hotels in 30 countries.


Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services

Vertical Industries
Travel

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
Business Intelligence and Reporting

Languages
English

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