Dubai Customs—a pivotal government entity in the United Arab Emirates—needed a more scalable high performance, and highly available data environment for its mission-critical e-commerce solution. Microsoft recommended migration to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software. As a result, Dubai Customs has cut costs while increasing efficiency and stability.
The Dubai Customs e-commerce platform Mirsal allows the trading community to process customs clearing documents and payments 365 days a year, which requires a highly available system. Its central functions—collecting revenue and administering trade measures—have been available online since 1997.
The quality and availability of data management within Mirsal is of critical importance to the Government of Dubai in maintaining its pro-business, free-enterprise policies. But by 2009 its Microsoft SQL Server 2000 data management software needed to be updated to accommodate the increasing number of transactions on Mirsal—a result of the growth of trade in Dubai.
It was important that the existing database remained functional during this upgrade, so Dubai Customs faced a difficult decision—either completely rewrite the database code, or re-design the system and upgrade the data management software.
Younis Mohammed Othman, IT Director, Dubai Customs, says: “We were reluctant to re-write or change applications and wanted to limit the impact of any change on our business and partners. A re-architecture and migration to a newer version of the existing Microsoft database software seemed a more logical and cost-effective solution.”
Supported by Microsoft Services engineers, the Dubai Customs IT department managed the migration from SQL Server 2000 32-bit to SQL Server 2008 64-bit running on Windows Server 2008. A total of 44 databases—containing 1.5 terabytes of customs transactional data—were migrated smoothly to the new environment.
The migration from deployment to functionality and performance testing involved approximately 30 applications and interfaces. Throughout the process seamless migration preserved the previous business processes. More than 500 stored procedure scripts were modified to be compatible with the new environment and the SQL American National Standards Institute benchmark.
Othman says: “It took just three months through a clear-cut develop-test-transition exercise. The available migration tools and support from the Microsoft team made the whole process run smoothly.” The ease of interoperability with existing applications at Dubai Customs was another positive experience.
“The existing applications include, among others, Microsoft ASP .NET and Microsoft Visual Basic. The development approach focused on minimising the changes to the application tiers outside the database,” says Othman.
Microsoft was recognised and honoured by Juma Al Ghaith, Executive Director of the Customs Development Division, Dubai Customs, during a ceremony held at the end of the project. Othman says: “Microsoft Dubai offered us excellent support and was at our side throughout.” Having completed the upgrade of Mirsal, Dubai Customs is evaluating the potential of using other out-of-the-box features of SQL Server 2008 in a second phase of the project.
The upgrade to SQL Server 2008 has helped improve online customer service by making clearance requests to Dubai Customs more efficient. The technology upgrade has ensured that Dubai Customs has caught up with the level of economic growth in Dubai in the past nine years. With SQL Server 2008, the organisation reduced hardware and maintenance costs, while delivering better performance and stability. It has also reduced administration costs.
- Generates reports faster. Previously, some of the large monthly reports would take up to 45 minutes to generate. With SQL Server 2008 it now takes only 10 minutes.
- Relieves pressure on central processing units. Before the upgrade, data transfer consumed 70 per cent of the capacity of Dubai Customs central processing units. This figure has dropped to 30 per cent following the migration, making the operation more efficient.
- Improves transaction reliability and processing time. With a more reliable and stable data management environment, Customs transactions are being handled more efficiently with no database deadlocks in the system. Basil Salah Abdul Fattah, Project Manager, IT Design and Development Department, Dubai Customs, says: “Dubai Customs has resolved its data management performance issues. Instead of 200 to 300 locking issues a day, we now experience none at all. Migration to SQL Server 2008 was the most cost-effective option to resolve this challenge.”
- Confirms Dubai Customs leadership role in e-commerce. By improving the performance and reliability of Mirsal, Dubai Customs is fulfilling its leadership role in the development of paperless trading and electronic capabilities.
- Streamlines the movement of goods to and from Dubai. Not only has the improved Mirsal system reduced costs to importers, exporters, and the freight community, but it is also further enhancing the reputation of Dubai as an efficient trading hub for the region.
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This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY. Document published March 2010