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April 19, 2005

Using MySQL for 600+ Machine Kiosk Network at Suzuki

At MySQL 2005, listening to Margo Zenk from Matrix Consulting talk about how they built a system to keep 600 machines in Suzuki dealership kiosks in sync. Matrix Consultants was chosen to build the tools because they were good with open source tools.

A little bit of background. Motorcycle buyers (especially ones who race for a hobby or processionally) do a lot of research before they buy a motorcycle. They don't go to a store to get a sales pitch. They read magazines, look everywhere on the net, owner opinions, tech specs etc. Uncovered every flaw with the rider experience with every model and brand and then go to the store. The buyer expect sales folks to have the same level of expertise, which is very challenging. Sales are seasonal, which makes it even harder because the sales force only works with the bikes during the spring and summer.

It used to be that information was sent out for sales guides, printed but were out of date. CDs were tried but the information got out of date quickly as well.

Needed a tool that had to up-to-date information (with alerts on new information), scripts for inexperiences sales folks. The solution also needed to monitor sales process and provide reports. For the customer, the sytem needed to allow customers to play with building their own bikes using 3-D models, and then be able to order the bike.

They created a kiosk with all this functionality, which is now in 60% of the dealerships. Those who opted to buy and install the kiosk from Suzuki found their bike sales went up as much as 35% since they got the kiosk. Won the kiosk of the year award.

The project couldn't rely on the internet because the 3-D models are ~800 Mb and many dealerships don't have dedicated broadband.

Application is in VB .NET, but SQL Server was to expensive so looked to MySQL. Why? Had experiences MySQL staff, easy to use with ODBC, was inexpensive and reliable.

They run one master database with many clients. Each night new content is fed to the clients using rsync. They send a dump of the recent changes to the database (binlog), PDF files, 3d-images in one packed up file via rsync. 15% are on dialup, and some of those have to be upgraded by CD only. Try to keep downloads to at most 150 Mb.

If a site is offline for a long time, which can be months) it simply starts pulling updates from the last time it was online and works forward to the latest version.

Posted by mike at April 19, 2005 2:25 PM