Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

Location: Hamburg plus further offices worldwide.

Business sector: Press agency.



DPA is the largest German Press Agency and employs a staff of some 700 on a regular basis. Our journalists report from all over the world on breaking news and events. This means that many are travelling and must be able to write, store and transmit news copy rapidly to our headquarters in Hamburg.

Usage of Firebird

The editing system we have developed stores the messages sent by the journalists in Firebird and for this reason we have installed Firebird in the three main DPA locations:- Hamburg, Berlin and Frankfurt. Each of the three main servers is used by the journalists in that specific region, in the main some 120 to 150 users per server. Our overseas colleagues use a server set up specially for them and connect over the Internet via VPN.

Many of our journalists have laptops on which Firebird has also been installed for their local database. These local users can also connect via modem, mobile telephone or VPN to any of the main servers and exchange documents. Switching between local and global databases is fully automatic. On each of the four main servers (Hamburg, Frankfurt and Berlin plus the foreign correspondents server) some 7,000 documents are stored daily, i.e. at times three to five documents per second. Each change in the database is transmitted as a event to each client machine, which then takes appropriate action such as refreshing the overview with newly stored messages.

Our main problem at present is the lack of possibility to index texts (blobs), which would in turn allow a rapid and effective full text search.

Why we use Firebird

Firebird is simple to install and is a highly effective database. We can install the database just as simply on major servers, as on laptops, without any difference in functionality. Administration is almost superfluous. Support, either via usergroups or – as in our case – via IBPhoenix, is excellent and we would like to thank Paul Reeves, who works at IBPhoenix for the help he provides. I will not deny that we occasionally have problems. Sometimes Firebird jams up and this is not noticed by the Guardian. For this reason we have developed our own Guardian, which restarts Firebird in such cases. As our clients automatically reconnect to the database in the background, a loss of communication goes largely unnoticed by the users in general. Enhancements that we would like to see in the future are indexing of text fields (full text search) and multiprocessing support (not via the classic server).