Building a gas pipeline connecting Britain and the continent proved to be an enormous task, but it’s proved to be a project built on information as well as steel
The project was first started in the mid 1980s by the Department of Trade and Industry which felt that there was a large European market for British gas. The Interconnector Pipeline is the first pipeline to connect both British and continental gas transmission systems and the first bi-directional pipeline.
One of the company's biggest responsibilities is the operation of the 24-hour Interconnector Shipper's Information System, through which the import and export of gas is arranged as well as the business and information needs of the Interconnector project itself. Terry Stevens, IT specialist for commercial operations at Interconnector, explains the importance of high availability of the ISIS system. "ISIS is a business-critical system. We're accounting for gas on an hourly basis. The gas industry is a utility industry. It's a non-stop industry. People want gas all the time to supply power stations and for domestic use. We needed to make sure the system was reliable and of high availability, so we were looking for leading edge technology for our IT infrastructure."
Compaq was commissioned by ISIS designers, EDS, to supply 14 ProLiant servers to process this information. ISIS runs across several nodes to provide a large database of information for shippers. Interconnector established their main data centre in Mitcheldean, Gloucestershire, and an additional disaster recovery centre at their London office. The system supplies and receives information from 15 Interconnector shippers via a Wide Area Network. This information includes estimates, forecasts, allocation and inventory. Currently, the ISIS architecture is built around three tiers: an application server layer that is accessed by users, an authentication layer and a database layer.
In order to ensure maximum availability of ISIS, the system was based around three ProLiant 6500 servers clustered together using Oracle Parallel server technology and 10 ProLiant 1600s running Windows NT. Clustering powerful servers in this way ensures that ISIS is online, at all times, even if an individual server fails. Project manager Sally Coghill says: "The Interconnector shippers can now use the latest web technology to access ISIS. We chose to work with Compaq as its ProLiant servers are the ideal foundation for Oracle's Parallel Server Clusters, a solution targeted specifically at customers who need high database availability and scalability."
Another major factor in choosing this configuration of servers was the ability to expand the system without replacing it entirely. Stevens explains that "Because it's a modular approach, it gives us the opportunity to add servers within each tier of the architecture. If we had additional users hitting the system, we could add application servers. If we had an increase on the database, we could add extra nodes to the cluster. It is the modular approach that gives us this scalability."
Compaq were also able to help with designing the system and implementing operating procedures. "Compaq allowed us the use of its labs in Munich to set systems and procedures up," explains Stevens. "We were able to send system documentation out early and train engineers centrally before sending out parts of the system to their eventual destinations."
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