Renishaw makes database continuously available with Stratus

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Renishaw plc is one of the worlds leading metrology companies, developing and supplying manufacturing companies with the systems they require to manufacture better products.

Since 1973, the companys probing systems have been used to ensure accurate and reliable testing of manufactured components across the production environment, and Renishaw has expanded into other market sectors such as laser calibration systems, precision encoders, Raman spectroscopy systems, dentistry and bio-medical applications.

Metrology is defined as the science of measurement, and it is critical to the success of companies where the standards of measurement used are critical to their products. With manufacturing customers involved in everything from cars and aeroplanes to tools and jewellery, precision and repeatability is key to Renishaws customers - and to Renishaw itself. With quality and tolerances having to be so high, there is no room for error in any product that Renishaw itself produces.

Delivering more

To meet the growing demand for its products, Renishaw had to implement a new manufacturing system. As Group IT Development Manager Brian Lyall is responsible for the Groups  IT infrastructure. The Manufacturing Steering Group that managed the overall project had decided to replace the existing HP3000 application running the manufacturing process with Infors SyteLine 7. As demand for our products has increased across the manufacturing industry, the quality has also had to be maintained, said Lyall. Keeping our production lines running is key to the continued success of the company, and Renishaws reputation is built on the precision with which we design and manufacture our products. Supporting this growth going forward was the reason for implementing the new IT systems.

At the heart of this project is a database containing all the required information to drive the manufacturing supply lines and the physical assembly processes. Accessing this database are six application servers, which host the other modules that make up Infor SyteLine, including enterprise resource planning and management of assets, performance and the supply chain. This database was therefore a single point of failure within the infrastructure, and if the physical server hosting this application was unavailable then the entire manufacturing process would grind to a halt. To solve this problem, Lyall , the implementation team and Infor decided that Renishaw would need to implement a robust, high availability platform for this database.

Choosing a platform for continuous availability

Infor initially recommended a cluster-based solution for the database server. Using two linked servers, any issue with the primary server would mean that service could be shifted to the secondary server and the database would be protected against a machine failure. However, Lyall was not happy with the levels of ongoing maintenance a cluster would require: each machine would have to be kept at the same operating system version and patch level, and every update would require extensive testing to ensure that the system was working effectively. This in turn would result in downtime for the production lines, as the database server would be unavailable during this testing procedure.

Cluster-based high availability solutions also require multiple software licenses for the operating systems and applications, which meant that the price of the overall system was beyond what Renishaw could justify. There was also the issue of fail-over times: when a cluster shifts from the primary server to the secondary, there is a short period during which live data is lost. This could lead to issues in the manufacturing process. Lyall was convinced that there had to be an easier way to achieve the desired levels of availability for the database server, and started looking for alternatives.

After reading a magazine article on continuous availability, Lyall came across Stratus and its fault-tolerant servers. Stratus approach appealed to him as all the necessary protection against server failure cam from within the one physical machine. By replicating all the internal components of a standard server - CPU, memory, storage, I/O - Stratus protects the application against any hardware failure. Each instruction goes through the same process on both sides of the machine, and it is checked throughout the entire lifecycle of the instruction. In the event of any issue affecting a component the Stratus ftServer can detect the problem and order a replacement unit to be delivered, without any intervention by the customer.

The Stratus ftServer also appears as a single machine to the application: only one operating system image is presented to the outside world, and so the software license costs are much lower than for a cluster-based system. Coupled with the lower maintenance costs, this made a Stratus server a very appealing choice for Renishaw. Lyall began testing with an ftServer 4600 to confirm that it appeared as a single server to the network and the SyteLine application, and very quickly moved over into production.

We required protection against failure, but the cluster-based approach required far too much housekeeping to be cost-effective in the long run, said Lyall. Implementing a Stratus ftServer was far simpler, and the costs involved were far more justifiable. Because its sits at the very centre of all our operations, we had to have a bullet-proof platform to support our database because it is so critical to the rest of our IT, and this is what Stratus provides.

Renishaw also signed up to Stratus Assured Availability Plus Service to guarantee the levels of support that it would get to any issue that came up. This includes around-the-clock systems monitoring and same-day emergency service response. In the event of any problem, Stratus will work with its customers to determine the root cause of the issue and rapidly get back to working order. We have had no downtime due to server problems since implementing Stratus, and the level of support we have received has always been prompt and professional. We are confident that Renishaw will continue to grow its business and guarantee the quality of its products with Stratus.

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