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5/28/2009
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Terracotta Helping Hotelier Build Individualized Services

InterContinental Hotels is using in-memory data-sharing systems to better anticipate what amenities customers will want during their stays.

Booking your next hotel room may be a very personalized experience indeed.

InterContinental Hotels Group, parent company to the chain that includes Holiday Inns, Crowne Plazas, and InterContinental hotels, this week said it has implemented Terracotta's application scaling system to speed up its room reservation system.

Terracotta enables U.K.-based InterContinental to process room reservations more efficiently at its three data centers in Alpharetta, Ga., Beltsville, Md., and San Jose, Calif. But it's not so much what Terracotta is doing for the hotel group after its first eight months of operation that counts, says Bill Peer, chief enterprise architect for the group.

"We want to synchronize our Java Virtual Machines [running the same application] in a distributed way. There's where Terracotta comes in. ... We could create new services based on transient data," he said in a recent interview.

Terracotta is a system for managing the software objects and any related data needed by a Java application outside the database. Terracotta takes advantage of Java language's own memory management capabilities to generate a shared pool of random access memory across a group of servers on a network. It manages both the memory pool and the application's Java VMs so that data can be called out of the database once and used by many Java VMs.

That approach lets the open source Terracotta system function as middleware between the database and the application, allowing the application to run in different locations but share the needed data across all instances. It helps enterprises avoid installing additional database systems to supply data to distributed systems, Peer said.

InterContinental Hotels considered Oracle's Coherence, a memory management system for a server cluster, but opted for Terracotta instead. IBM, Gemstone Systems, and Gigaspaces also offer in-memory data-sharing systems.

"With Terracotta, the application developer can be naive about where the data is located or how it's going to be synchronized," said Peer. The Terracotta system combined with the Java VMs will keep the data synchronized across all instances of the running application.

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