SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING NEWS
Have you ever logged on to MapQuest to calculate how many miles it will take to get from the office to a business meeting downtown? Or used Microsoft’s Streets and Trips to get detailed directions to your friend’s new apartment or to plan your next road trip? This type of information really takes advantage of today’s technology. But where does the information come from?
Geographic Data Technology, Inc. (GDT) is the premier developer of map databases that provide the foundation for location-based applications. With 20 years experience in data management and compilation, GDT excels at bringing together a myriad of data resources to create spatial products and services that help businesses and consumers manage, understand and analyze geographic relationships.
Data extracted from GDT’s core database is used for trip planning, routing, and/or market analysis by companies like MapQuest, Microsoft and Expedia, e-services solutions providers. Frequently, addresses are geocoded to latitudes and longitudes using this street data, allowing companies to determine where their customers are located. This is especially useful for insurance companies, utility providers, and emergency services like 911. The bottom line: geographic data helps people and businesses in countless ways.
To best provide customers with the technology they need, GDT has gone to great lengths to stay ahead of the curve where its IT is concerned. All along, Hewlett-Packard Company has been there to provide the roadmap.
Legacy environment reaches its Zenith
GDT’s core database, from which all of its products are derived, is the result of massive data compilation efforts that combine information from more than 22,000 mapping resources. The mapping information is constantly maintained with the addition of new streets, subdivisions and ZIP code information. GDT’s current database is the result of about 10 years of effort in compiling and maintaining this geographic information. When GDT started building its current database system, the company had about 100 employees, half of whom were Digital Mapping Technicians (DMTs).
DMTs were responsible for digitizing information from paper maps. This included drawing streets, subdivisions, lakes, landmarks, railroads, etc. At that point in time, GDT was utilizing the Microsoft DOS operating system with a 25 GB Informix database.
“Back then the problem was that DOS wasn’t very powerful and redraws using the then current technology were extremely slow,” said Wayne St. Jacques, Director of Information Technology. “We were updating a proprietary database utilizing a shared 10 megabit network. When the DMTs would draw a map on their Intel 286/386, it would take anywhere from three to fifteen minutes for the screen to refresh.”
He continued, “The corporate hurdles we faced were six-fold: performance, disaster recovery, reliability, scalability, interoperability and manageability. We’ve come a long way since our DOS-based editing environment and HP has been there every step of the way.”
Charting a course for improved IT
GDT made significant improvements as new IT technology was introduced. Initially, GDT migrated its legacy DOS operating system to HP-UX. The company then moved from an Informix database (25 GB) running on an HP 9000 755 to an Oracle database (40 GB) running on an HP 9000 K400/4 server. Soon realizing the gain in HP processing capabilities, GDT migrated the main Oracle database to a K370/6 server.
“With a faster server, GDT was able to meet our increased editing demands, giving our engineers a platform to utilize some online editing tools and our Data Processing group was able to increase it’s batch processing dramatically,” stated Greg Pierce, Unix Manager.
As IT improved and HP prices became more competitive, GDT chose to adopt more long-term corporate strategy. With HP evolving into the Storage Area Network (SAN) market, GDT chose to migrate their Oracle databases to an HP SureStore E Disk Array XP256. Realizing the performance possibilities, GDT integrated an HP 9000 V2600 Enterprise Server to provide a faster Oracle engine, while allowing existing servers to be migrated for improved production databases. As the size and the number of databases increased, an HP SureStore E Tape Library 20/700 was integrated into the SAN, to keep pace with the enterprise IT backup demands.
An HP 9000 N4000 Enterprise Server was set up as GDT’s network file server (NFS) to front-end the company’s SAN. It allows users to have their home directories and other critical non-database data to be centralized, increasing performance, decreasing IT administration of storage, and decreasing the need to load NFS onto each server/workstation individually.
“The N-Class server was a perfect choice due to the high level of hardware redundancy and faster throughput,” Pierce explained. “When we were looking to provide increased data availability and minimize the effect on our editors when a particular server/workstation became inaccessible, the SAN and N-Class server was a great fit.”
HP SureStore E Business Copy XP provided the tools to meet GDT’s increasing customer demands. A higher level of accuracy combined with a smaller turn-around window required that changes to the central database be reflected in the product in a shorter period of time. Moving from a processing environment that required freezing the core database and updating/correcting information over a 24-36 hour period down to an update window of only 2 hours was key to meeting GDT’s objectives.
“With the V2600 and HP 9000 K-Class servers, and an HP 9000 J5600, we can meet our editing demands and provide our Data Processing department with multiple mirrored Oracle databases at the beginning of our quarterly production schedule. Business copies are completed in 2 hours. When one database finishes processing products, we re-synchronize the database with the V2600 in minutes, while eliminating any efforts on the other product mirrors,” stated Pierce.
GDT is using its HP 9000 K-Class Enterprise Servers as product servers. This allows Data Processing to extract data from multiple versions of the database, and to re-sync to the active database to retrieve the latest changes using Business Copy XP.
Along with the HP-UX/Oracle solution, GDT implemented HP 9000 J5000 workstations, with several HP X Terminals connected to each workstation, for the DMTs. Each J5000 utilizes a GB network interface card, while X-terminals operate at 100 Mbps. On the Windows side, GDT uses primarily HP Netservers (NT servers and Novell Netware servers) and many Microsoft Windows nodes including workstations, notebooks, etc.
All the workstations and PCs are either Vectras, Kayaks or e-pcs. These changes have made a huge impact on DMT efficiency, increased uptime, and enhanced GDT’s editing model overall.
With Gigabit network technology, editors now are able to overlay aerial photography over GDT data with redraw times decreasing from 30-60 seconds to 1-3 seconds. These changes have made a huge impact on DMT efficiency, allowing additional editors to be working the same geographical region concurrently, producing an increased number of edits resulting in greater customer satisfaction.
Security to Scale
GDT uses HP SureStore E Business Copy XP, but not only for production purposes. With an increased interest in international street data, engineering has been required to enhance their code. Business Copy enables engineers to test their code on an international database before releasing to production. Mirrors of the data also are used to test database changes and RDBMS upgrades without impacting production.
The company utilizes HP OpenView Network Node Manager on both the HP 9000’s and MicrosoftWindows NT servers to monitor the network for any failures. Additionally, GDT uses HP OpenView GlancePlus to look at the utilization of the RAM, disk and network bottlenecks.
“A main determinant in our decision to create an exclusive HP environment was the reliability of HP’s equipment along with the features that are included for backup and support,” St. Jacques stated. “There is no vendor out there that can compare to HP’s support.”
He continued, “HP Consulting was invaluable in helping us configure the SAN. When we need them on site, they are here. While GDT uses multiple vendors for software/hardware solutions, we’ve continued our investment in HP, due to the successful relationship we’ve established over the years. We are banking on HP to continue to produce high-quality products, and continue to provide GDT with the high level of support and service we’ve come to expect. GDT couldn’t have made a better choice.”
All roads lead to customer Satisfaction
GDT has experienced many benefits since its upgrades and migrations. For example, the company’s redraw/editing performance has improved three-fold since the V2600 and the SAN were implemented. The time it takes to reload data back to the main database has more than doubled in performance. The extract process has greatly improved and the time taken to refresh the entire database is now ten times faster with HP SureStore E Business Copy XP and the XP256.
“HP plays a critical role in our company’s success,” St. Jacques said. “Without HP’s willingness to work with us, the quality of their support and of HP products, GDT wouldn’t be where it is today. HP has supported our growth and has allowed us to stay competitive, getting our product to market faster. Thanks to HP, our infrastructure is built to handle the changes we’ve made until now, and whatever awaits us tomorrow.”
For more information on how working with Hewlett-Packard can benefit you, contact your local HP service representative, or visit us through the Internet at our World Wide Web address: http://www.hp.com
HP 9000 V2600 Enterprise Server HP 9000 D350 Enterprise Server HP SureStore E Disk Array XP256 in SAN configuration HP 9000 K-Class Enterprise Servers HP 9000 N4000 Enterprise Server set up as GDT’s network file server (NFS) HP Surestore E Tape Library 20/700 Oracle Database Several HP 9000 J5000 workstations Many HP X Terminals per workstation HP Netservers – NT servers, Novell Netware servers (models LH Pro, LH3, LH4, LHr4, LC2, LC3, LC 2000, LH 3000) Many Windows nodes (Vectras, Kayaks, e-pcs) HP OpenView Network Node Manager HP OpenView GlancePlus HP Consulting
Geographic Data Technology is the largest developer of premier map databases that provide the foundation for applications such as routing, web mapping, emergency response, site selection, risk analysis, and facilities management.
Web site: http://www.hp.com
Web site: http://www.geographic.com