ROMAC EMPLOYS MIDDLEWARE TO GET THE JOB DONE

When Romac International (Tampa, Fla.), a specialty staffing services firm, was facedwith the challenge of integrating a wide variety of business applications on anumber of platforms and distributing that information from a centralized storageenvironment across the company's 91 offices, Ken Graham, Romac's CIO, took a long look atthe company's corporate organization. And it seemed to consist of three distinct pieces:"Those [activities] that went on at a corporate level; those that went on at a marketlevel; and those that went on at the individual or desktop level." That kind oforganization led Graham to focus on a three-tier, distributed architecture as his goal.

As he explains, "The corporate tier is distributed down to both UNIX and NTservers at the market level; and we have Windows NT [version?] on the desktop." Themiddleware solutions provide the interoperability necessary for Romac's PeopleSoftenterprise-wide office applications as well as the company's internally built, proprietarystaffing software.

Graham wanted collaboration, but because of the different Romac locations across theU.S., it wasn't easy. "We wanted the data centralized. And with the laptops, the PDAsand so forth that are available to us today and the desire for people who want to movearound, be at home, work in different places -- other than the office -- it's importantfor them to have access to all of the information and tools that they need to do theirjob. We're using most of the CORBA-compliant offerings that HP uses," Graham says ofhis current middleware deployment.

HP-UX also ships with two middleware products: Orbix from IONA Technologies (Dublin,Ireland) and Netscape's LDAP-compliant Netscape Directory Server.

"The C++ implementation allows us to port across UNIX and NT. We have smalleroffices using an NT solution and offices that have 100 or more where we use a UNIXsolution." With Internet, intranet and extranet applications already in place, Grahamenvisions a future using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). At that point, he says,"Middleware is going to be the glue. Without that, you just can't disseminate thisinformation quickly enough. Our approach is one of centralizing the data, but [also]distributing the [business] process. The market dynamics in San Francisco are a great dealdifferent than those in Boston or Dallas or Chicago. So, middleware gives us theindependence to deal with those market dynamics at the market level without changing -- ina monolithic way -- the entire enterprise application."

In business terms, Graham thinks, "Where I'd like to be as quickly as I can is tocreate the virtual office that's untethered." He envisions Romac employees accessinga system wherever in the world they work; or they could be mobile with a wirelesssolution. But Graham understands the challenges in getting to the untethered "virtualoffice." That's why he's counting on a middleware play. "Middleware is going tobe the vehicle whereby we're going to continue to scale and be able to provide that accessto more and more people."

Romac's enterprise environment includes two HP 9000 K420 servers running Informix (withPeopleSoft HR applications implementation in process), 22 HP NetServer LX Pro servers foroffice automation, 22 HP 9000 D250, D310 and D350 servers for homegrown Informixapplications, 500 HP Vectra clients, in addition to HP OpenView, Internet and disasterrecovery components.