Customized Database System
C. David Shaffer, mentor
The goal of my project is to provide a solution to the data management needs of emerging
broadband wireless i
nternet service providers (WISP
s). Efficient management of large scale
networks can be a difficult task without the ability to store, retrieve, and perhaps most importantly, analyze
all company data pertaining to employees, customers, manufacturers, network status, and other pertinent
information. Although there ar
e a variety of approaches that I could take to accomplish my goal, I will be
using Microsoft Access to construct the database, as well as the front
end graphical user interface (GUI) of
the system. The majority of code for my project will be written in Vi
sual Basic, an event
will allow for
various forms and controls of the GUI
to the database itself. Appropriate
ring techniques will be applied throughout all phases of the project, as I will first construct
appropriate data models before entering the developmental phase of the project. A substantial amount of
communication will take
place between myself and several
people in the field of broadband wireless
work for a company that I ha
ve experience with as an intern, to ensure that the
completed system will be useful for
s. I expect my finished product to be well designed,
efficient, and field
worthy, and I envision it being
solution to the data managing
Wireless technology has impacted the lives of many people across the country and around the
world. Beepers, cell phones, GPS systems, electric fences, and keyless entry systems are just a few
examples of dev
ices utilizing wireless technology that make our daily lives easier. Wireless technology has
long been widely used by many different government agencies. Missile guidance systems rely on accuracy
and precision, and can take out targets many miles away by
communicating with in
flight missiles that are
route to their targets via wireless link. NASA uses its deep space network (DSN) to communicate with
Voyager 1 at
the edges of the solar system 
While the combination of frequency and amplitude of ra
waves that carry information between wireless devices may vary, wireless technology is based on line
sight. There is always a noise level that is associated with every transmission. Noise level is a term used
by many wireless techs that translates
interference level. Although wireless networks
are already being used in homes and offices, wireless technology provides the best choice for many
consumers for high speed internet access.
Many broadband WISP
s have begun to emerge acro
ss the country.
These companies compete for
customers with other companies who provide high
speed internet via cable
direct satellite linkup
who relishes the ability to retrieve information at the click of a mouse
would rather have
any type of high speed internet access by any means verses internet access via 56k modem.
advantages and disadvantages
. Cable is fast and
reliable, but for various reasons, is not offered
erywhere. DSL is
eas that cable ca
nnot reach, but, on average, is
Wireless internet shares a similar advantage over cable, however, both DSL and wireless both
share similar deficiencies as well, in that they may work very well in some areas, bu
t not in others.
cases, a person may be able to get reliable service, but his neighbor may not. However, wireless ISPs
have the advantage over DSL in that they can improve their potential customer base sim
ply by putting up
their coverage in a certain area.
There are a considerable amount of similarities between broadband wireless internet networks
(WIN) and cellular networks. A WIN, much like a cellular network, consists of a series of tower sites that
ervice to a given area. Once a request to transmit or receive information is made, the information
travels from a wireless communication device, which is a cell phone in the case of a cellular network, to the
appropriate tower and then routed to another t
ower or hard line to reach its destination.
Data is typically sent in groups referred to as packets. In the case of a WIN, groupings of
information are called data packets rather than voice packets as with a cellular network. Perhaps the
ce between the two networks is that a mobile phone can transmit and receive information
from almost anywhere, whereas a wireless communication device for a WIN must stay in a fixed location.
As a result, wireless internet is often referred to as fixed, or
point wireless communication. A
WIN also consists of an access point, or location
ultimately connecting the
entire network to the internet.
Because of this, the data paths
of information traveling on the networks
are typically much different as
information transmitted from a wireless communication device
in a WIN
ds up going to the
access point, and all information received ultimately comes from the same access point. Although this may
seem somewhat limiting in comparison to a
cellular network, it is rather useful for supplying broadband
internet to homes and offices. Perhaps one day, broadband internet will be available in any location for use
on a laptop or other computing device, much in the same way
a cell phone is pro
that day is not yet here.
growing trend in the business world
seems to be
store information using a
database management system (DBMS).
There are two approaches to building
a DBMS, the object oriented
h and the relational approach, each with different advantages and disadvantages
important thing that o
ne must consider
the purpose of building the system. Depending upon the
situation, one approa
make design and implementation of a DBMS easier than the other.
oriented approach seems to allow more accurate data models of the real world.
The inherent relationship
between data and applications allow for schema to be built more easily in
an OODBMS. Also, this type of
database supports long
duration transactions, where the relational model tends to maintain database
consistency. Perhaps the best advantage of an OODBMS is shared by the object oriented languages
themselves that are used to
build the systems, encapsulation. OODBMS allow for new data types to be
built from existing ones. This type of approach is also useful for advanced database applications. And, the
the OODBMS has
better performance compared with the re
lational DBMS (RDBMS).
The previous statement is based upon a performance test done in 1989 and 1990. OODBMSs such as
GemStone, ObjectStore, Objectivity/DB, and Ontos were pitted against RDBMSs Sybase and INGRES
Unfortunately, the OODBMS
. The OODBMS lacks a universal
data model, and a general lack of standards, including no standard query language. Also, query
optimization often compromises encapsulation. Also, in general, the OODBMS is more complex.
leads to products that are more expensive and also more difficult to use
and to build
typical OOBDMS do
es not provide a view mechanism
, and often do
not provide sufficient security
mechanisms. All mentioned disadvantages contribute to the greatest
disadvantage of the OODBMS. The
use of OODBMSs is relatively limited because of
a rather large user preference for the RDBMS
an object oriented approach for my project would certainly be i
nteresting and challenging, however the
roach seems to be the better option
for my purposes
that one must
consider with any database developer suite is the costs associated with it
Not only is the initial cost important, but one must also consider the maintenance costs invo
system. Because every database seems to deteriorate and become unstable over time
very day use, it is important to have a database administrator on hand
to keep the database
e building tools and so
project. Interbase Firebird and Supra are among a few examples
. As one may infer, these packages are
relatively brittle, and
can be difficult to use. These tools would perhaps be more
f one were to build
a simple, single user database system. However, if I were to use free tools for my project, such restrictions
associated with them will make it very difficult for me to accomplish my goal in developing a stable
so consider that it takes resources to maintain
would cost a business
about $500 a year to pay an employee $10 an hour for about a year to maintain the system, assuming that it
requires an hour of maintenance a week on average.
The next optio
n to consider is
developer tools that have
costs associated with
them. Maintenance costs would be larger for systems created using such tools
in comparison to free
database building tools
, especially if they were used
to build a
FileMaker Pro and Sybase are
among those products that enable a developer to build a
ively stable, multi
. These products cost under $400 up front, and provide a
effective solution to managi
A multi user DBMS would possibly
require at least 8 hours of
maintenance a week on average, a
nd a person responsible for maintaining the system
would probably earn
at least $20 an hour, so a company would spend approximately $8000 a year
ain the system.
And finally, one must
expensive developer suites
such as Oracle, MS SQL Server,
DB2 among others
. Because of budget restrictions, I will not be using such tools to build my DBMS.
While initial costs are usually upwards of
$10,000 dollars, this fee is rather small compared to the cost one
would spend to maintain a database built using these products. Not only would one have to employ a
database specialist, earning
a six figure salary
, depending upon the size and c
omplexity of the
, to maintain the database full
e, there may be contracts that must
to the manufacturers of
a product for its licensed usage. A business may
be obliged to pay upwards of $100,000 dollars
their database system
for one yea
r. Although such a price seems rather daunting, the payoff for
the use of
such a system is very high. These product manufacturers pride themselves on quality and usability
For a large corporation enterprise, there simply is no
easonable solution to managing large amounts
of data in a large scale multi
user corporate environment.
developer suites provide
tools to build f
end applications to. Otherwise, a developer
must acquire GUI building tools separately
use MS SQL Server and MS Access integrate
seamlessly, MS SQL Server relies on tools provide
d with Access to build the GUI, whereas various Oracle
developer suites have a specialized set of front
end developer tools called J
is a popular standard for accessing information from various databases from different
Because the relational model has a standard query language (SQL), there are many front
developer tools that are O
. Applications written us
ing the ODBC drivers are guaranteed to work with
various databases like PostgreSQL, Oracle, Sybase, Informix
Oracle has a separate set of front
end developer tools called J
Developer. MS SQL Server relies on MS Access to supply the tool
The goal of the developer is to find the best possible combination of tools that
will allow him to produce a system that will satisfy the needs of the customer.
Problem Description and Background
All companies and organizat
ions need some method of
Companies in the fixed
wireless industry are no different. However, the needs of WISPs are very specific as in the methods that
must be used to monitor and manage certain information. There are four key areas of o
perations that need
some type of system to manage information. A typical WISP needs an inventory tracking system, a
customer profiling and tracking system, a personnel and employee tracking system, as any other business
for payroll purposes, and finally,
a system to track important network information. The problem is finding
a specific solution
, software or otherwise,
that is inexpensive and complete enough to empower a WISP to
better manage their business
, such as radio equipment, is
cally quite expensive
. This certainly makes
tracking inventory especially important to WISPs
The task of keeping track of inventory can become
very complex rather quickly, as most WISPs are usually preoccupied with achieving a firm customer base
Also, most WISP business operations usually involve frequent transfer and deployment of
inventory. Some WISPs keep track of inventory with spreadsheets, word processors or pencil and paper.
Although this can work, it is very labor intensive, and
provides a larger probability of human error .
Software can be a very useful tool in keeping track of inventory.
s have only recently begun
to emerge, specialized DBMS
s for such businesses are not readily available.
There are some co
packages available, and they can provide a viable solution, as
some commercial software offer
inventory management .
Unfortunately, these packages can be quite expensive and not tailored to the
needs of a WISP.
Some WISPs who develo
p their own inventory tracking systems try to resell their
systems to other similar companies. However, each WISP is different, from its range of operations to
infrastructure, to customer base. The Final Mile claims to have extensive experience as a func
WISP, and they offer their consulting services to other WISPs to help them set up their own system of
inventory management. The Final Mile also provide consulting services in other areas.
Customer satisfaction is certainly important with any servi
ce oriented business. Fine Point
concentrate on customer satisfaction,
offering the ability of WISPs and other types of ISPs to
empower their customers. The goal is to simplify and enhance the user’s internet experience. Fine Point
gies offer a specific packaged solution for this type of endeavor to WISPs called cyberTRUCK.
Although this type of thing may be useful, it is not an essential tool for any ISP to have, and is not
especially useful for keeping track of customer informatio
n. Information that should be stored within a
DBMS about an ISPs customers would include their installation setup, their signal strength, IP address, Wi
Fi card, and other pertinent information that can be obtained without a package such as cyberTRUCK. I
short, such technologies are nice bonuses, but not essential tools for WISPs to have.
suite does provide some capability for subscriber management, and this component of the software suite
could prove to be useful to WISPs. The problem ag
ain presented is the inability to process information
across different domains.
A tool that has become widely used by many organizations to track network information is a
software solution called Nagios. Tivoli is Nagios’ competitor, but does not seem to
have as wide of a user
base, with lesser user satisfaction
. Nagios is an open source host, service and network monitoring
program. This software offers a useful solution to network information management. A user can receive
when there is a problem, as well as inspect many parts and components of the
network. Nagios comes with capabilities to interface with an external database through event handlers.
Given a certain condition, Nagios will export valuable information to the
external source. Nagios is written
in C, and is open source. It should be somewhat difficult, but very possible to interface an Access DBMS
with Nagios, which will provide the ability for network tracking information to cross domains.
The Chief Technica
l Officer (CTO) of YYireless1
that “there is no 100% solution
available.” A complete solution would be one that stores and retrieves information, with the ability to
integrate information from different aspects of business operations.
that claims to offer a
complete solution to WISPs is Wireless Network Operations Center (WNOC). The goal of the company is
to provide a total solution to allow WISP personnel to spend less time in the office and more time getting
new customers. A subscri
ber is instructed to place a WNOC box at their internet gateway, and WNOC will
remotely configure it and manage it. They offer several types of services that can be packaged according to
the needs of a specific WISP.
While some of these services seem to
be useful, they involve surrendering
control of some portion of operations to WNOC, services that most successful WISPs have already been
doing for themselves in order to become successful. Services offered by WNOC include network
monitoring, trouble tick
eting, billing management, and bandwidth shaping and control. The service that
seems most useful to any WISP would be inventory management
, given its importance and absence of such
. WNOC contends that inve
ntory will be tracked using GPS
Although these services
may be useful, WNOC seems to provide a service to WISPs, rath
er than arming them with
their own business operations.
It seems that their solution targets a business
that wishes to relinquish
control of some portio
n of operations. Essentially, a WNOC becomes the “middle man” between a
company and its customers and its network.
Many WISPs choose to build their own DBMSs .
Sufficient planning can result in a valuable piece of software .
The goal of my project is to provide a
solution to the data managing needs of WISP’s.
software is usually developed for the large scale corporation, employing several hundred people, possibly
operating out of several locations. Other software
is free, and certainly useful for small businesses, but is
ually brittle and not customizable
. As it turns out, there are three solutions for WISPs to manage data.
They may chose simplicity, and use spreadsheets to keep track of valuable information.
works well for the start
up business, where there are a small number of employees and customers being
The larger WISP
might choose Oracle or MS SQL server to keep track of information in a large,
sized WISP seems to be left without a complete solution to
their needs. In a growing environment, managing data without some type of DBMS will soon grow very
tedious and time consuming, however a middle
sized business may not be able to afford
software, and even if they could, they may be paying for features that they don’t need. The most effective
solution left for these types of WISPs is to build their own system.
I chose this type of small business to t
arget because there are many
businesses emerging in the
that are in need of such a system. My experience as an intern with YYireless1, a WISP, will assist me
in my endeavor.
The finished system
will be flexible, as
one should be able to add functionality to the
system even aft
mentioned earlier, communication and feedback with
my former co
workers from YYireless1
a great deal of information about
construct appropriate data
models, which will ultimately assist me in implementing the syst
em in Access. As I am the developer of
the system, YYireless1 will be treated as my customer for all intents and purposes.
I expect my finished
project to be well designed, efficient, and field
worthy. I envision my database system being used by
s ISPs for their data management needs.
I chose Microsoft Access
to build the
several reasons. I
t is not
expensive to purchase, and maintenance expenses for a DBMS created using
ccess are relatively low.
Access is also a progr
am that is easily obtained, as it is offered in several additions of Microsoft Office,
which comes standard with nearly all releases of Windows operating systems.
Many people have at least a
general knowledge of Access, and in any case, t
is not especially steep.
understanding of databases, one can implement
a new system
or make changes to an existing
with relatively little training
And, the best advantage to using Access is that it comes as a complete
Tools for building a
end application are included along with necessary tools for
building the database itself. These tools integrate seamlessly, eliminating any compatibility issues.
Customer communication is critical to the success of my p
roject. What information should the
system handle? How should this information be organized within the system? Who will have access to
what information? What relevant questions should a user of the system be able to answer relatively easily?
ing these questions, and others, I will accomplish my goal of building a DBMS that could one
day become an int
egral part of any emerging WISP
s business operations. Prototyping is a software
engineering technique that ensures the quality of a finished prod
uct, and I will therefore use it to assist me
accomplishing my goal.
I intend for the system to support inventory
by keeping track of equipment at
customer sites, as well as equipment in company vehicles and in storage areas. The DBMS will a
customer profiles and information about particular installations to assist customer service operations.
also keep information about the network status, including informati
on about tower sites,
customers, and bandwidth allocation.
Employee information will also be stored in the system, perhaps for
payroll purposes, but more importantly, for the relationship between employees and installations. By
taking a relational approach to building the system, users should be able to answer
important and relevant
questions about their business without difficulty.
The most important feature is the integration of
information, the ability to answer reasonable questions about business operations that will make my
solution very useful.
will support a degree of multi
By storing the DBMS in a remote
location, many users can access the system at the same time over a local area network
. Portions of
the database will be locked during transactions to help maintain d
ata integrity. It would be a bonus for the
database to allow secure user access from nearly any location.
I would like users to be able to access the
system remotely via internet. This will certainly
efficiency of operations. However, internet
access will only be a part of the system if time permits.
Research various database building tools.
Decide upon the best approach to building the system.
Begin conceptual design of the DBMS.
Continue developing conc
work on the
ER and EER diagrams
Finalize schema of
Work on Inventory Tracking module.
Communicate with former co
workers from my internship
Work on Cus
tomer and Employee tracking module
Continue writing VB code
Communicate with former co
workers as others as needed.
Begin supporting required functionality
Continue gathering more experience in the field
Work on Network Information
Continue writing VB code
Communicate with former co
workers as others as needed.
changes to desired functionality
Show prototype to YYireless1 and respond to feedback appropriately
end prototype to the Database, supporting desired functionality
Finalize Queries and Reports
Make any final changes
to the system
Support online access (time permitting)
Final Presentation of project
1. Connolly, Th
omas and Begg, Carolyn. “Database Systems: A Practical Approach to Design,
Implementation, and Management.” 2002.
2. Bradley, Julia Case and Millspaugh, Anita C. “Programming in Visual Basic version 6.0 Update
Hill Companies, Inc. Ne
w York, NY, 10020. 2002
. Oracle. “
Globalization. Simplification. Standardization. Automation. Innovation.
” Online. Internet.
Microsoft. “Microsoft SQL Server.” Online. Internet.
A listing of
databases or connections to databases or frameworks for connecting to databases
. Debian: GNU, Linux. “Database Packages.” Online. Internet. http://olympus.het
. Olympus. “Database Packages.” Online. Internet.
8. Harsany, Jennifer. “Out of This World.” PC Magazine. January, 2004
Sanders, Tim. “WISP Inventory Management.”
Sanders, Tim. “To Each Their Own Database.” Online. Internet.
11. Stanford, Jan. “
The Wrong Choice: Two true tales of misspent energy,
.” Online. Internet.