- 29 Apr 2013
The Evolution Of Ra-X – A Conversation With Andy Thomas
Ra-X is a data exchange, retail communications and polling solution from Retail Assist, and supports a number of our major retail clients. Ra-X is scalable and able to support growing businesses with rising volumes of retail data to exchange between multiple sites.
Product Co-ordinator, Andy Thomas, has worked with Ra-X since the beginning, and has watched it evolve into the solution it is today. We asked him a few questions regarding his role, the evolution of Ra-X and future updates:
Charlotte: How long have you worked at Retail Assist? And can you tell us a bit about your role?
Andy: I’ve worked at Retail Assist for 13 years now. I joined the company as part of the Technical Services team supporting the networks and store systems of our clients. As time went on and the company expanded, the Technical Services team was split and I migrated into the newly formed Store System Team. I have a development background and that led to the shifting of my role from being purely support to having an increasing focus on software development. I am currently responsible for the continuing development of Ra-X.
Can you tell us a bit about the Ra-X service?
The Ra-X service is a middleware solution for managing the flow of data between systems. It provides a complete environment for the management of data polling. The solution provides full monitoring of every interface allowing for the creation of a system dashboard that indicates the complete health of all interfaces.
The solution enables data to be converted and formatted to fit the file type of the ingoing/outgoing data format through its extensible command language. This can also be used for installation on remote systems allowing for distant execution.
Our clients predominantly use Ra-X to manage the Sales and Product Look Up (PLU) interfaces between their businesses and concession partners such as Debenhams and House of Fraser, but they also use it to manage other data flows such as payroll, software updates, store polling for example.
How has Ra-X changed since you first started working with it?
Ra-X originated back in 2003 with a project to implement the Nectar card Scheme into Adams Childrenswear. We required a simple polling application to poll offers and awards between Head Office and the stores, and therefore developed our own solution. From there it evolved to manage the sales and product feeds for a New Look pilot in Debenhams and the polling of Principles and Warehouse stores for Rubicon Retail. In 2007 the application was re-written to improve its scalability and monitoring providing us with application that is very stable and capable of running 1000’s of interfaces a day. Having been involved with Ra-X right from the very start it’s been great to see the application mature over the years.
Are there any Ra-X updates in store, and if so how will this benefit users?
The Ra-X development process has become a full time job with new interfaces being added all the time. Where multiple clients partner with the same concessions partners benefits become apparent as the interfaces only need to be written once and are thus available for all. I think the most exciting development is the increasing integration between Ra-X and Merret. Effectively all the concession interfaces on Ra-X will become available to Merret clients along with all the interfaces monitoring and other benefits that the Ra-X services provides.