A subsidiary of Western Digital, WD wanted to improve the mission-critical system it used to monitor manufacturing processes for hard drives and solid-state drives. To ensure continuous operations, the company is implementing a high-availability
solution with the Microsoft SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn feature. As a result, the company expects to improve uptime and gain better oversight of manufacturing operations. Benefits include lower costs, easier maintenance, and better support for future growth.
WD manufactures internal and external storage drives for a broad range of devices and industries, including consumer goods, manufacturing, and healthcare. Based in Irvine, California, the company produces more than 650,000 drives each day. To keep production
running smoothly, WD wanted to improve the availability of the system used to test and monitor product quality.
||With SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn technology, we gained an off-the-shelf solution that improves data replication and availability and reduces the workload on our production servers.
| Richard Chng
Senior Database Administrator
The company’s production lines were connected to its monitoring system, which it used to collect data and perform real-time analysis of manufacturing operations. The system was essential to product quality, and if it failed, production would immediately shut
down. So to ensure availability, the monitoring system ran on a two-server failover cluster with data copied from the active to the passive node.
WD suffered minimal downtime, but even a single delay was costly. Manual failover could take up to 15 minutes, but that was only the start of the problem. To ensure product quality, the company would resume manufacturing with test data that had been collected
previously and verified for completeness. As a result, WD could lose more than two hours of production time.
Data integrity was another priority. The company had built its own high-availability application to synchronize data between the primary and secondary servers. However, with production running around the clock and continuously loading data into the system,
missing or incomplete information was an ever-present risk. “If we’re missing data, we have to scrap the drive,” says Richard Chng, Senior Database Administrator at WD. “And for every drive we scrap, we lose on average $60. If we create half a million drives
every day and discard even 0.1 percent, it’s a lot of money.”
Database administrators performed hourly checks to verify that the data was complete and synchronized between the two servers. To reduce the need for such management involvement and to ensure data integrity and availability, WD started the search for a new
WD decided to become an early adopter of Microsoft SQL Server 2012 software. With help from Microsoft Services, the company began implementing a proof of concept with SQL Server 2012 running on the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system.
The new solution includes a SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn availability group with two synchronous database servers used for redundancy and one asynchronous server used for reporting purposes. The cluster is set to fail over automatically. Because the availability
group configuration supports up to three synchronous replicas of the primary server, the company can add another secondary server for even better redundancy. By using the asynchronous replica for reporting, WD is also reducing the workload on the primary server.
In addition, WD is taking advantage of an increased number of table partitions, which expanded from 1,000 to 15,000 in SQL Server 2012. As a result, the company can store information in its production databases longer without slowing performance. And with
more historical data available to analyze, WD expects to gain better insight into manufacturing processes.
After going into production with the new high-availability cluster, WD plans to add a fourth, asynchronous server in a remote location for disaster recovery. The company is also growing rapidly and plans to increase scalability with Hyper-V virtualization
technology. WD looks forward to taking advantage of data compression technology available in SQL Server 2012 too. The company currently maintains 6 terabytes of data and expects the volume to grow by 30 percent each year.
By improving performance and scalability, WD can keep its mission-critical monitoring system online and cut production costs. Management is easier, and the company looks forward to building its future on a Microsoft platform.
Improves Availability and Performance
WD is using the built-in capabilities of SQL Server 2012 to improve the performance and availability of its mission-critical monitoring system. “With SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn technology, we gained an off-the-shelf solution that improves data replication
and availability and reduces the workload on our production servers,” says Chng. “And with better I/0, we’ve cut some transactions from 10 seconds to less than a second, which also improves the accuracy and completeness of data.”
Reduces Production Costs
With better performance and availability, the company can monitor production in real time, which also helps cut costs and improve product quality. “With our system running on SQL Server 2012, we can monitor our manufacturing process as we go along, and stop
the machines from producing a defective drive,” says Chng. “That actually saves a lot of money in itself.”
Cuts Administration Time 30 Percent
With a more reliable solution, administrators will also have more time available for projects besides managing data. “SQL Server 2012 will save us a significant amount of time,” says Chng. “Previously, two administrators spent 30 percent of each day tracking
missing data. Now, they can spend that time on implementing features that enhance the system.”
Supports Future Growth
WD looks forward to supporting its expanding business with a Microsoft platform. “We’ve seen tremendous improvement since we first migrated from Oracle to SQL Server 2000, and we’ve upgraded to every new version since then,” says Chng. “We chose the solution
because it offered the best technology roadmap and because Microsoft is always responsive when we ask for new features. So our system just keeps getting better and more stable.”
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