Customer case | Uniport Multipurpose Terminals | The Netherlands
If you operate in a busy port environment - like Uniport - you know very well that ships are expensive and always operate on a tight schedule. Ships must therefore never wait, as this typically means losing money and even customers. To make sure ships never have to wait, Uniport uses its “Cosmos” Terminal Operating System - which runs on an IBM Power i machine - to scan and track all containers whenever a ship calls. The Cosmos system is so to speak Uniport’s “heart” that may simply never stop beating.
This summer, however, due to a power outage immediately followed by a startup failure of an otherwise exceptionally reliable machine, the heartbeat almost stopped. In this case, Uniport would not have been able to scan and track any containers, resulting in waiting for ships, shipping-schedule disruptions and chaos.
Fortunately, QSL Northern Europe could come to the rescue because its High Availability (Quick-EDD/HA) software had been previously installed at Uniport.
Mr Peter Huijgen – IT manager at Uniport – explains what happened.
So what happened?
Peter Huijgen: "In March of this year, we were confronted with a sudden power outage. Even though we have not experienced a power outage in many years, our calamity plan accommodates such incidents. Typically, our Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) then kicks in so that our - at times - approximately 100 users can save their work before we briefly shut down our production machine, giving us some time to solve the problem. But this time a coincidence happened. Our UPS did not kick in, and after the power was restored, our otherwise exceptionally reliable production machine refused to start up. This incredible coincidence could easily have led to the loss of several hours of terminal operation – or as long as it takes to repair the production machine. But this could have been even worse. How? Well, we could have lost important data - including our customers’ container data and our import-export data for customs - if we had not previously installed the Quick-EDD/HA software. It would have been a big mess."
How did Quick-EDD/HA kick in?
Peter Huijgen: "We were using a commercial - and later even a homegrown - backup type of solution in the past, but these could not be considered as high-availability solutions.
Besides this, these were expensive or cumbersome to install or to maintain. Therefore, Extravar - our IBM Power i hardware supplier - advised us to install Quick-EDD/HA as a real high-availability solution while we were installing a larger machine anyway. Compared with other high-availability solutions on the market, Quick-EDD/HA would be easier and cheaper to install and maintain. Also, recovery to normal operations would be much quicker, and no data would be lost after a disaster."
Did all this turn out to be true?
Peter Huijgen: "Yes, it did. Quick-EDD/HA turned out to be the real high-availability solution we had in mind. Not only the software but also its helpdesk. The software continuously replicates or mirrors in the background the data in our production machine onto a second similar target machine - which for obvious reasons is located in another building. As soon as we had given the order, QSL Northern Europe’s helpdesk was able to remotely switch these two machines, enabling our users to continue with their work after a mere 30 minutes and without any loss of data whatsoever. I have never seen anything like this! This gives us ample time to repair the production machine and to switch back to the initial configuration."
Does this mean that you will continue to use Quick-EDD/HA?
Peter Huijgen: "Certainly. We even have a maintenance contract with QSL Northern Europe and we have included planned machine switches in our calamity plan so as to minimize risks in the future. On the day this all happened, I phoned my wife in the morning to tell her that it would be a very long day. In the end, I was home in time for dinner!"
About Uniport Multipurpose Terminals:
Uniport Multipurpose Terminals (UMT) is a container terminal operator strategically located at the heart of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Since its founding in 1971, the company has grown from handling 75,000 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent container Units) to 650,000 TEU per year, thus contributing to Rotterdam’s current position as by far the largest seaport of Europe as well as one of the busiest ports in the world. Uniport Multipurpose Terminals is directly accessible from the English Channel – one of the world’s busiest seaways – and connects directly to Europe’s road- and train networks as well as to Europe’s inland waterways. With approximately 210 employees, UMT provides services to shipping companies from all over the world on a 24/7 basis.