Revelation Software Helps LocalTel Take On the Big Guys

Telecom startup counts on ARev and OI for competitive edge

Back in 1985, Dimitri Mandelis and his partners set up shop in central Washington writing custom accounting software for local businesses. When they looked around for the ultimate application development tool, they decided there was really only one clear choice: Revelation Software.

Over the years, their business has evolved as dramatically as technology itself. They started a ComputerLand franchise and caught the first wave of the PC craze. Before long, the name changed to ComputerLand Network and Telephone, as they moved into sales and engineering of Novell and Microsoft networks along with business telephone systems. And they've continued to do a brisk business in custom accounting and inventory systems.

Through all these changes, one thing has remained the same: Revelation provided the tools they needed to succeed.

Out of the Frying Pan – and Into Telecom!
In 1999, they launched their most ambitious enterprise yet: LocalTel Communications. Going up against giants like Verizon and Quest, LocalTel is a full-service phone company offering a low cost alternative to consumers in three central Washington counties.

Now, as President of LocalTel, Mandelis says they're counting on enterprise solutions from Revelation Software to give them a competitive edge. "We have to offer service that's better, faster, and lower-priced than the big guys – and Revelation is a key component in our ability to do that."

Revelation's Cost/Flexibility Advantage
Mandelis explained that when they first established the infrastructure for LocalTel, they looked at the billing management systems available for the telecom industry. Prices for those systems started at $150,000 and quickly climbed to a few million dollars.
Once again, the choice was clear. They decided to write their own system for LocalTel using Revelation's OpenInsight. This not only saved a substantial amount of money, it also meant they could customize the application to their exact needs – and easily modify it as they go along.

"One of the great benefits of OI is that we can work on the fly," Mandelis said. "We can develop new fields, create new screens, write new reports, and add them to the system without having to get everybody out. It's a perfect environment to develop and add-in new features."

They also use Advanced Revelation (ARev) to build the operational applications that keep the phone lines humming. Mandelis said a great example is Caller ID. "Customers think Caller ID just happens magically, but it doesn't. We have to write the software that dumps files from our database to a third party location that puts all those Caller IDs and names together, allowing us to import and export data with other providers like Verizon and Quest. There's a ton of work to get those in the right format, with the right features, to the right people. And ARev let's us do it very quickly."

32-Bit OI – Fast Enough for Future Growth
Fortunately, OpenInsight's capabilities are growing as fast as LocalTel's. They created their phone billing system with 16-bit OI, and it worked great – taking complex records of thousands of calls and multiple features and presenting customers with an attractive, easy to understand bill.

But as LocalTel grew, they needed more speed and more capability. And that's just what they got with the new 32-bit OI upgrade.

Mandelis said the conversion to 32-bit was effortless, and they started seeing benefits immediately – such as a dramatic increase in speed. "Our 16-bit system was getting slower as our files kept getting bigger. For example, we have one customer who has a 150-page phone bill in one statement. It was taking about two and a half hours to actually produce our bills, and we run a cycle each week. We put the new OI32 in there, and the first time we ran that bill it took only a half hour!"

New OI Printer Interface Saves Money – and Trees
The 32-bit upgrade also enabled LocalTel to design a completely new system for archiving their bills. Originally, they'd do a print run of bills for mailing to customers – and then do a second run to generate a copy for archiving, producing a pile of paper three feet high. Next, they'd go through and file each customer's bill in a folder. That's a lot of paper, a lot of file storage, and a lot of labor. And if a customer ever wanted to review an old bill, the LocalTel customer service rep would have to get up and go over to the filing cabinet.

That's all fixed with 32-bit OI – because now they store each bill as a PDF, eliminating the paper files altogether. 32-bit OI comes with the new OpenInsight Printer Interface, which allows developers to create reports in PDF, RTF, or HTML formats. Eliminating paper files enables huge savings of money, time and resources. And now, the reps can bring up the PDF of an old bill and have it on their screen in a matter of seconds. Mandelis says they expect to see further savings as they convince customers to accept their LocalTel bill as a PDF via email.

Scalability – Revelation-style
When Mandelis and company began writing accounting software back in the '80s, they were using their application to sustain a self-contained business need. Now, thanks to Revelation's scalability, LocalTel can orchestrate communication across systems and technologies that didn't even exist then, moving data at volumes greater than ever imagined.

Scalability usually describes surviving order of magnitude changes in volume. However, Revelation targets high value-add applications notable for complex, volatile business rules – and we consider surviving order of magnitude changes in complexity as important as increases in volume. So do our customers.

Committed to OpenInsight
Looking ahead, Mandelis says they're sticking with Revelation. "With ARev and OI, we really have the best of both worlds. We've got a lot less money into this system, compared with buying a new one – and we can customize it around what we want to do. Over the next few years we'll move everything from ARev to OI, and then we'll go from there. So I'm real happy with the way we're going."