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Stone-cold performance

Why Norwegian farmers keep their servers in a former submarine hangar

A leftover from German occupation in World War II, Trondheim’s Dora 1 Building was originally built as a massive submarine hangar. Its chilly three-meter thick walls made of reinforced concrete have proven themselves durable over time. Today, the facility is used for more peaceful purposes.
 
IT supplier Matiq chose this location to house one of its data centers. As result, the entire data system of Nortura—one of Norway’s largest suppliers of meat and eggs—is run from this climate controlled, solid facility.
 
Since 2003, Atea has been responsible for delivering these systems to Matiq.
 
Stable infrastructure is crucial

Arne Sødal is deeply familiar with Dora 1’s architecture.
Image: TU Story Labs
 
Each production facility has its own server room, ensuring that the overall system runs properly. Many components here are based on IBM Power solutions, controlling the storage area, orders and dispatching in and out of each individual production site. Matiq credits the consistently top performance to this choice of infrastructure. As Matiq Field Manager Arne Sødal explains: “I almost feel a bit sorry for others in other professional or technological areas, who don’t experience this sort of system stability. When those systems suddenly stop, they are force to drop whatever they’re doing and struggle to get the systems up and running again. That doesn’t happen here.”
 
No downtime

The Power infrastructure offers very few challenges for the IT manager. Image: TU Story Labs
 
The hardware ensures the stability, Sødal points out. The combination of AIX, Power hardware and Power visualization is rock-solid stable, according to Sødal, an experienced Unix expert who has worked at Matiq for twelve years. “We have never experienced downtime. Not even once. Of course, an end user who experiences a halt in services because of a WAN failure, for example, will perceive it as downtime, but we on the inside know that we have full control of our areas or responsibility.”
 
The key to success is to keep the Unix environment simple, according to Sødal, who emphasizes the low degree of complexity, the recycling of knowledge and routines and the uniformity of design, regardless of size.
 
At the same time, the two systems are shared between two data centers in Trondheim, and the same double solution is also used at the smaller, local data centers around the country. This means that there is always a Disaster Recovery solution in place, if anything goes wrong.
 
One of the centers is placed at Matiq, while the other, as mentioned, is located in the Dora building. If the servers and storage units in the primary room fail, data is secured in a secondary room: reducing data loss time to practically zero seconds. The entire system can be restarted in less than five minutes. Says Sødal: “The fact that our visualization platform is so stable means that we can expand or decrease CPU and memory resources between the virtual servers without stopping them, and nothing beats the Power architecture in this regard.”
 
Essential for operations and production

One of Matiq’s two data rooms in Trondheim is protected by Dora 1’s three-meter thick walls.
Image: TU Story Labs
 
The two Trondheim data rooms are crucial to Nortura’s operations. They handle all metadata entering the system, operate the ERP systems, and handle accounting and other essential functions. “If our centers were to malfunction, says Sødal, “Nortura would still be able to continue production locally, but no metadata would be received.”
 
He points out that investments in infrastructure are a contributing factor to keeping the total costs over time (TCO) significantly lower than otherwise. Not all companies take this into consideration, as it is easy to simply focus on purchase prices. “It’s easy to forget cost elements stretching over the long term,” says Sødal, “which are the really significant costs, including costs in connection with uncontrolled downtime, expansions and management.”
 
Cascading benefits from lower total cost of ownership
TCO is a more meaningful measure. Sødal points to the fact that the two largest Power servers in Trondheim—which handle the largest number of transactions for Nortura—have run uninterrupted since 2011 and 2012. That means lower costs associated with database licenses and labor. And the advantages don’t end there. Sødal’s colleague Vidar Krogh Albertsen point to the Steinkjer abattoir as an example of how TCO savings benefit local-level producers on behalf of Nortura. Noting that this local abattoir processes some 800 pigs daily, the AIX process means that dispatching, orders from the main system, order collection from the warehouse all can be handled with a bar code. Furthermore, if any part of the process comes to a halt, that has an immediate effect on the entire supply chain, including animal slaughter, transportation and production.
 
For every day of IT system downtime, Nortura risks a loss of some NOK 18 million. Thanks to the system in place that’s managed by Atea, Sødal and his team can work with confidence knowing there’s zero downtime. “This is a stable technology, one we can trust.”

 

Adapted from original post on Atea.no

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