Red Hat Enterprise Linux powers 100% availability and impressive cost savings for SPARQ Solutions

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March 11, 2010

Customer: SPARQ Solutions, ENERGEX, Ergon Energy

Industry: Utilities
Geography: APAC
Country: Australia


Business Challenge:

To replace its end-of-life proprietary system with a stable and reliable platform that facilitates lower-cost hardware and ongoing savings on platform maintenance

Migration Path:

HP Alpha Tru64 UNIX servers to JBoss Enterprise Middleware and Red Hat Enterprise Linux on HP ProLiant servers

Solution:

Australian energy company reduced costs by more than $1 million by migrating systems to Red Hat Enterprise Linux and web applications to JBoss Enterprise Middleware

Software:

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.5, JBoss Enterprise Middleware, WebSCM web-based outage management application, Red Hat Training

Hardware:

50 Intel Xeon processor-based HP ProLiant DL380 servers

Benefits:

Reduced hardware costs by approximately $1 million, reduced licensing costs by approximately $300,000, and achieved 100 percent availability over 12 months

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Background:

SPARQ Solutions is the ITandamp;T service provider for two leading Australian energy companies, ENERGEX and Ergon Energy. ENERGEX supplies electricity to a population of approximately 2.8 million people in South East Queensland. ENERGEX relies on the SCADA Master Station, which is used to manage its power distribution network, as its control system. The SCADA Master Station is ENERGEXand#x2019;s most critical system, and its ongoing, smooth operation is essential. System failure could impact user safety and the National Electricity Market; and system failure could also damage valuable plant equipment.

Business Challenge:

Since 1997, SPARQ had been using Compaq/HP Alphas running on a Tru64 operating system. However in 2006, the servers had reached end-of-life and HP had ceased manufacturing of the hardware. At the same time, sourcing replacement hardware for any failures was becoming extremely difficult. The HP Tru64 operating system, the application software, and the database had also become outdated and vendor support was difficult to secure.

“SPARQ’s priority was to ensure that it could continue to improve the reliability of the system that it had been delivering to ENERGEX for more than a decade,” said Grant Woolston, control systems manager, SPARQ.

“Because of our demands for maximum availability and reliability, we needed to upgrade our outdated technology and install a new system that could reduce the risk of downtime and provide truly rock-solid system control.”

Solution:

In mid-2008, SPARQ embarked on a complete upgrade of the SCADA Master Station’s hardware. In the period leading up to this, the company developed a new software application named WebSCM, which is a web-based outage management application that runs on JBoss Enterprise Application Platform.

The developers of the Master Station first recommended that SPARQ investigate the benefits of deploying the new application on Red Hat Enterprise Linux using HP DL380 servers.

“The use of open source software for a mission-critical control system, such as the SCADA Master Station, was not a decision that could be made quickly, particularly because ENERGEX had limited experience using Linux for any of its corporate applications,” said Woolston. “However, a key decisive factor was the proven reliability of similar deployments of Red Hat Enterprise Linux within other organisations.”

Following the decision to deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.5, extensive testing took place at every stage of the project, including a replication of the target network and hardware at the vendor’s site in Montreal, Canada.

With proven results, the testing concluded in March 2008 and installation for the final solution, which was based on 50 DL380 servers that included multiple test and development environments, commenced immediately.

Benefits:

Since it was commissioned in June 2008, the new system has been running with 100 percent uptime for over 12 months. Apart from scheduled maintenance windows, control has been available for 100 percent of the time, exceeding all performance expectations for both the new and the previous systems.

“High system availability relied heavily on several components, including comprehensive testing, a well-structured project, and an operational technology support model that effectively embeds the support group in the control room,” said Woolston. “An integral part of the project’s success was the reliability of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform on which the software runs.”

The demonstrated reliability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux in a mission-critical environment and the successful use of JBoss Enterprise Application Platform on WebSCM have strengthened the status of open source software across both SPARQ and ENERGEX. Both organisations now understand the value of using open source software when it is backed by Red Hat’s enterprise-grade service and support.

Migrating to Red Hat Enterprise Linux enabled the organisation to benefit from $300,000 in licensing cost savings for its outage management system. Additionally, the organization saved $1 million because Red Hat Enterprise Linux enabled the organisation to select “bread and butter” Intel-based servers rather than the more costly proprietary Tru64 servers.
Throughout the migration process, SPARQ completed training provided by Red Hat Training, which it found of great benefit, high quality, and a good overall value.

“Everyone was very happy with the training they received, which really contributed to the overall, positive experience of moving from a proprietary model to open source,” said Woolston.

“We now have an implementation that complies with true open standards, rather than partially complying implementations that are really proprietary. We have benefited from the high reliability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and access to the source code has been helpful in solving minor, day-to-day issues.”

Based on the successful introduction of open source into the ENERGEX environment, SPARQ is now exploring the opportunity to use open source database software as an Oracle replacement for specific workloads and applications.

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