Case Study Montague DR

Montague Cold Storage is a division of the Montague Group, a company that was established in 1948. 10 years after the company was created, the first Cold Storage centre was built in Narre Warren North in Victoria. While this is the spiritual home of the Montague Group, there are another five sites the company has acquired over the years.

When Paperless Warehousing was implemented as the company’s new warehouse management system (WMS) over 10 years ago, Montague Cold Storage has proved to be an innovative and forward thinking company. This has been shown best by the advanced disaster recovery system that has been implemented by the company, ensuring the Paperless Warehousing WMS at Montague Cold Storage system has an uptime of 99.9% for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

In June 2007, Patrick Leckning, at that time the Business Systems Manager, approached senior management at the Montague Group with a “conceptual solution to promote a decentralised ‘total’ Disaster Recovery environment for 3rd Party Logistics provider Montague Cold Storage”.

“Many months followed which involved extensive planning and justification to gain approval for this investment to manage a mission critical Paperless Warehousing WMS for the company’s seven active sites operating on an around the clock basis,” Leckning said. “At first, the investment was met with a fair degree of scepticism and negativity internally since it was perceived as being similar to an insurance policy and unnecessary cost impost. This mindset had to be changed and the Board had to be convinced otherwise.”

In December 2008, Leckning and Montague Cold Storage deployed seven IBM AIX P520 file servers over a six month period, replacing Windows 2003 servers that had been physically located at each site. The Windows system previously offered no redundancy while requiring regular maintenance of anti-virus, Windows updates and constant rebooting of the system. With the new servers placed in three major sites in separate locations spaced around 200 metres apart, it has allowed the Montague Group to set up a replication system that will offer an innovative disaster recovery option.

The primary file server at each location replicates to the secondary file server in real-time with millisecond delay. The company has also installed an additional larger file replication server on an independent centralised site to provide a second tier of replication, receiving a real-time replication of all site’s production database using a separate ISP network. Alongside other built-in server hardware redundancy items such as Uninterruptible Power Supplies, hot-swappable RAID drives and tape backups, the environment is in place in the event of a production server failure at the site level. It will allow the system to failover by swapping to site based disaster recovery file servers simply by changing the Ethernet Adapter IP address using a predefined static address. Overall, this is a manual procedure for the Montagues Cold Storage warehouses. This is due to management wanting to be involved if and when a disaster recovery failover is needed. This ensures that the Paperless Warehousing WMS, among other things, is always operational in Montagues Cold Storage Warehouses.

“This DR environment has worked exceptionally well and Montague Cold Storage has therefore enjoyed the fruits of a cast-iron hardware platform and operating system over the past five odd years,” Leckning said. “Site management no longer need to worry about system issues or unplanned shutdowns due to unforeseen events such as locked files, failed print queues or computer viruses. The UNIX environment is much more robust and steadfast. As an aside, the IBM AIX hardware is actually so reliable that subject to extended warranty and available spare parts, the system can operate reliably for a number of years.”

In the event of a total site disaster, the independent centralised server is to be used during the disaster recovery process. It is a business continuity measure to allow enough time to retrieve records and to continue operating via remote access. The replication software also produces email alerts in the events that the replication process is interrupted or stalls. The system is also monitored by Paperless Warehousing support staff and Montague IT staff as part of routine housekeeping, which will ensure that any weaknesses in the servers is identified quickly and will hopefully avoid unnecessary downtime by ensuring the health of the system overall.

Paperless Warehousing’s General Manager Scott Symons said that it was an honour to be a part of the development of such an advanced system that offers so much in terms of disaster recovery. He said the Montagues system would rival or better anything at a billion dollar company or a large government department and Paperless Warehousing was proud of its involvement in the project.

“Patrick and his team at Montague have done an incredible job with this innovative disaster recovery system,” Symons said. “It’s a lot like insurance for the company; it’s something you hope you’re never going to need to use but it’s great to have if something does go wrong. This level of IT infrastructure is incredible and reveals Montague Cold Storage as a truly forward-thinking company. It allows them to ensure that they can constantly serve their clients and gives anyone who works with Montagues peace of mind.”