Because of the complexity of installing the complete system with populated product databases, I started my review on-site at A2i’s headquarters in Los Angeles. Paul Weinberg, the president of A2i, showed me the product in use with actual databases culled from real manufacturers that A2i has worked with. I was able to see xCat in use with an actual database of over 500,000 records, and saw split-second responses with queries that narrowed the half-million records to a few thousand (and this was on a 200MHz PC). This was impressive, as were the catalog creation tools.
After the demo, I set up the system in my lab, using a couple of product databases that A2i gave me to populate the catalog. I installed xCat Server, Client, Import Manager, and Image Manager on Windows 2000 Server running on a PIII/600 system with 512MB RAM. The xCat software also runs on Windows 2003 Server, Linux, and Unix. In the case of the test system, the SQL server was Microsoft SQL Server 2000, also installed on the same system.
I also installed some product databases provided to me by A2i. After that, I used the client to create subsets of large catalogs, format them, and create online and print versions. Performance was superb, considering the relatively old system that made up my test bed and the size of the databases involved -- one was 489,000-plus records and another was 119,000 records, with multiple images, text, and other documents associated with each record.
-- Logan G. Harbaugh