Case Study: RDB Consulting delivers reliability and uptime to Sappi’s operations

11 May 2009

South African paper giant Sappi’s South Africa Fine Paper division and database specialist, RDB Consulting have over the last decade enjoyed a successful partnership, which in turn has seen Sappi’s operations benefit from reliable and continuous database uptime and minimum infrastructure disruption.

Highlighting the partnership’s success, Sappi has not experienced one operational stop as a result of its manufacturing system database falling over in the last 10 years.

The challenge

In 1999, Sappi’s operational units in Springs, Gauteng; Port-Elizabeth; and Stanger, north of Durban, running on Oracle and featuring in-house developed manufacturing system applications, were experiencing database reliability issues. These units were (and are still today) responsible for the company’s manufacturing and feature manufacturing systems that control the flow of the production of its products.

The control and flow of products include an oxygen bleaching process, coupled with ‘Elemental chlorine free’-bleaching (ECF), to produce bleached chemical pulp for own consumption. The mill also produces coated and uncoated fine graphic and business paper.

The solution

As a result, Sappi called on RDB Consulting, which worked long hours to stabilise the systems in the various regions. In Springs, RDB Consulting made the fairly controversial recommendation that the database be moved to a Windows NT Operating System (OS) from an Open VMS platform. This solved the stability issues and subsequently saw Port Elizabeth moving from HP UX to Windows NT and Stanger from VAX to NT OS.

“We received a phone call from Sappi’s Enstra mill in Springs in 1999 and at that stage it was clear their system was experiencing major stability challenges. Almost 2 000 people were affected by the system’s occasional downtime events. We had to work fast to find a solution, which is why we proposed to move them over to Windows NT that was a more stable platform for their Oracle database. The results were immediate,” comments Jaroslav Cerny, Managing Director of RDB Consulting.

Adds David Wood, IT Manager at Sappi: “Our move to Windows NT made a considerable difference, solving our reliability issues while at the same time allowing us to standardise our infrastructure footprint on Windows NT.

A standardised infrastructure meant we could approach our support and development processes in a cohesive manner, which in turn simplified the maintenance of the IT environments in the various regions. “

The benefits

Due to the success of the migration to the NT environment and the stabilisation of the Oracle database, Sappi and RDB Consulting decided to form a more permanent relationship in 2000.

This agreement included all support and maintenance of the division’s Oracle databases as well as continued consultation on future upgrades and improvements to its environments.

It was also in 2000 that RDB Consulting proposed an Oracle standby Dataguard solution (Disaster Recovery) at the three regions, which were implemented offline with no disruption to the operations and improved redundancy.

“We felt it was extremely important to implement a secondary active Oracle standby database of their primary Oracle database, which would enable them to continue with normal operations despite the main database experiencing downtime. Our mutual objective was to minimise database downtime which would translate to Sappi factories operating at near 24 x 7 capacity. The converse would be downtime and the associated operating losses,” comments Cerny.

“We were also running Oracle version 7.4.3, which from 2001 Oracle no longer support. However, RDB Consulting continued to support it up to 2006 when the decision was taken to migrate to Oracle 9 version 2,” adds Wood. The company will be migrating to Oracle 10 in the foreseeable future.

RDB Consulting has over the last decade provided critical 24×7 standby support to Sappi’s Paper South Africa division. The company also ensures that Sappi receives the best possible consulting and solutions tailor-made to its specific database needs and environment. RDB’s in-house developed proactive monitoring/alerting tools played a significant role in achieving the objectives.

“They have over the last 10 years taken good care of us. Their service-delivery contract, which also includes remote monitoring and backup, has been invaluable and has ensured that we continue to run reliable operations,” concludes Wood.

Sappi’s partnership with RDB Consulting has ultimately seen the company benefit from an outsourcing model that provides it with entrenched technical skills, multi-vendor, multi-OS knowledge, a pre-defined SLA, access to specialist in-house tools, and the implementation of Industry Standards and Best Practices.

About RDB Consulting

Established in 1995, RDB Consulting is a Database and Operating System outsourcing and consulting company that also offers project management, solutions architecture and more. Our services are designed to provide businesses access to expert technical resources whether full time, part time, co-managed or via remote administration.

We worry about your database systems so that you can focus on your core business.
For further information contact:

Mark Robinson
Service Delivery Manager
RDB Consulting
Tel: 011- 807 7663
Cell: 082 893 0925

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