Many companies and other large organizations are staggering through the digital age, burdened by a motley collection of legacy databases that can't provide the kind of complex, cross-functional information that today's business climate demands. "Data can reside in some very ugly home-grown systems," says Christopher Cheek, marketing vice president. "In most companies, different databases have evolved in different departments like human resources, accounting, shipping, and so on. These databases have all sorts of extra stuff in them that nobody really needs, and they can't talk to one another -- they're islands unto themselves." Through its subsidiary Enterworks Inc.,Telos has introduced Virtual DB, a commercial, off-the-shelf, enterprise-integration (EI) product that allows users to pull together these different databases and view critical data as if they were looking at one database. Virtual DB can create a "metacatalog," or virtual database, from more than 70 different kinds of databases including relational, flat, text, image, and hierarchical sources. Unlike other EI products, Virtual DB can access and integrate all the data, cleanse them irrelevant material, transform the data into useful forms, and model them so that the user can pose key business questions. "With Virtual DB, a senior vice president could ask a question like, 'Which of our top customers aren't paying us on time?' and get the answer right away," Cheek says. "Questions like this used to take time. The IT professional would go away for a week and come back with the answer like it was the Holy Grail, but by then it might not be useful. Virtual DB makes the information available in real time." John Teresko, John Sheridan, Tim Stevens, Doug Bartholomew, Patricia Panchak, Tonya Vinas, Samuel Greengard, Kristin Ohlson, and Barbara Schmitz contributed to this article.