An international shipping company has plenty of trouble if it can’t get its Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system to replicate accurately under its high availability (HA) system.
This was the scenario faced in October 2015 by Averitt Express, a provider of freight transportation and supply chain management services based in Cookeville, Tennessee. Averitt offers customized shipping solutions, serves customers in more than 100 countries, and services more than 300 international destinations. Averitt also provides its customers a full suite of web-based shipping tools, EDI services, and transportation and operations management systems. Among other online services Averitt offers its customers are such conveniences as a Bill of Lading creation utility, a transit-time calculator, less-than-truckload service maps based on ZIP code, and downloadable certificates, permits, customs forms, and other documents on demand.
The problem Averitt faced was that its existing HA system was failing to accurately replicate EDI information entered by its customers, leading to lockups of some production environments whenever it became necessary to change between its IBM i 8205 production system and its 8204 HA backup server. The workarounds it was forced to use were time-consuming and unacceptable, particularly considering that the company's system was handling up to 2,500 users on any given day.
Finding a Better Way
Michele Wilborn, director of information services at Averitt, was tasked with looking for a better solution when the company's old HA software's maintenance agreement came up for renewal.
"We were looking for HA software that could reliably replicate all the necessary objects on our system," Wilborn recalls. Wilborn contacted one of Maxava’s partners who provided an assessment of Averitt's situation by going over Averitt's performance data. Wilborn was recommended either an upgraded HA hardware system, which wasn't economically feasible for Averitt at the time, or a software upgrade to Maxava's Enterprise+, an HA/DR system tailored to IBM i servers.
Enterprise+ provides real-time data replication, unlimited concurrent apply processes that eliminate change backlogs and enable recovery in minutes instead of hours, remote control of role-swapping processes between servers via the maxView Manager function (that runs via browsers of mobile devices), and replication of all data and objects across IBM's QDLS document library services file system, MQ Series, and the Integrated File System (IFS). Other product features include enhanced auditing, autonomics, spooled-file replication, a command scripting function, and customer choice of licensing via cloud, Software-as-a-Service, software subscription, or traditional licensing.
A proof-of-concept (POC) test installation quickly demonstrated how Enterprise+ could meet Averitt's requirements.
"We were particularly impressed by the Simulated Role Swap (SRS) capability of Enterprise+," Wilborn notes. "The POC demonstration and role swap capabilities sealed the deal." Role swap is a feature of Enterprise+ that lets users test their DR/HA system without requiring any downtime. SRS lets users temporarily turn their backup system into a simulated primary system for testing while the actual primary system continues to operate live and unaffected.
Maxava High Availability (HA) Suite has proven itself to be extremely fast, easy to implement, and simple to run. In today’s digital environment, maintenance of critical data and continuous operation is not only a competitive advantage but also a business imperative. Risks in not employing a robust disaster recovery solution can have financial and reputation implications through loss of data, time and cost to restore, and lost production time. Maxava is dedicated to delivering high service levels to Power Systems customers, including those running IBM i (previously known as AS/400, iSeries, and/or System i) around the globe and across all major industries.
"Another great selling point is the simplicity of the GUI," Wilborn points out, although Enterprise+ runs equally well from a green-screen interface or via remote web-ready devices such as a PC or smartphone. "All the tech teams need to see is if there is a green or red dot at the bottom of the screen to know how the system is doing. It doesn't get any easier than that." Enterprise+ actually offers two different GUIs, an HTML version and a client-based version. Averitt mostly uses the client-based version.
A Swift Implementation
Once Averitt made the decision to go with Enterprise+, implementation began in February 2016. Maxava’s partner handled the training in the new system for Averitt users, training seven key Averitt personnel. This ensured that Averitt users were able to have access without leaving their offices.
"I didn't have a lot of HA background in the beginning, but Maxava made this complex technology very simple to understand and manage," reports David Glenn, an Averitt software support associate who received the training. "We now have no fear when it comes to working with the Maxava product."
Reaping the Benefits
Averitt is pleased with the efficiency of the new system and the relative ease with which they can accomplish data replication and other HA functions.
"Maxava's Enterprise+ exceeded our expectations," Wilborn reveals. "With the new system, it takes us half the man hours in comparison to our previous product—if not even less. Every product should be like that. Although our company hasn’t done an official cost-analysis of the benefits, there has been a definite savings on the production system as CPU resource use has dropped for role swaps."
Wilborn's only regret is that Averitt's eagerness for a solution caused them some small difficulties at the beginning because they tried to implement the system too fast. "We weren’t aware of the amount of data to be replicated, and I opened the system up too fast so experienced some issues from that. Enterprise+ was doing its job the whole time, but I learned through training there was a much easier and more efficient way to accomplish what I needed than the way I was trying to do things at first."
"If you have problems with your HA/DR system, a free assessment of Maxava's Enterprise+ may well be worth your while," Wilborn concludes.
Maxava is a worldwide provider of innovative monitoring, high availability, and disaster recovery solutions and an IBM Premier Business Partner. Maxava's software and services are available from a global network of partners and are integral to the cloud offerings of leading Managed Service Providers and Cloud Service Providers.
Customers have been using Maxava software and services for more than 16 years to ensure business continuity, reduce risk, and meet regulatory requirements. Maxava’s implementations span a diverse set of industries, including banking, telecommunications, government, manufacturing and healthcare, providing critical business solutions to customers around the globe.
Many of the world’s most trusted consumer brands are supported by IT environments strengthened by the use of Maxava software. Maxava’s software ensures business resilience for a cross-section of the world’s most demanding Power Systems users. Today, Maxava serves more than 500 customers in over 40 countries, providing 24x7x365 support directly through regional offices located in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.
About the Author: John Ghrist