Transportation company overhauls its database system

Customer service representatives in charge of transportation arrangement requests at TransCanada PipeLines were working around the clock to keep up with increased demand, according to Jim Nicholas.

That, he said, created an extremely demanding workload.

“We really needed a solution that would let us conduct our business in a normal fashion,” he explained. “Our computer system could not keep up with the workload.”

Nicholas added that he went to TransCanada’s IT partners and said, “This is broken; we need it fixed.”

The company was running an IBM DB2 database system. Nicholas said they had the option of replacing the system with an upgraded one, or looking for a completely different alternative.

“It was determined that (upgrading the same product) was not a very good return on investment. So, our IT team had looked at products and liked Sybase,” Nicholas said.

TransCanada PipeLines chose Sybase’s Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) – an enterprise database product. At the same time they also switched to a Sun E10,000 server system.

Doug Churchill, consulting business manager for Sybase in Calgary, said TransCanada had already been using many Sybase database products.

“For them, DB2 was no longer a strategic product. I think this was one of the last examples of their use of DB2,” Churchill stated.

When TransCanada had settled on the ASE, Sybase sent out a project manager and consultants to help identify the best approach.

“TransCanada asked for some more information and asked us to flesh out the plan even more. When we came back with the plan, with the steps it would take, including all data feeds that would have to be moved, etc. – the decision makers at TransCanada decided to implement,” Churchill said.

He added there was some customization that had to be done, but that Sybase has replaced other DB2 installations so they had the toolset and the expertise already.

Nicholas agreed that the implementation has gone very smoothly. The new system has been running since July, and Nicholas noted productivity is definitely up. “The difference has been monumental,” he said. “We do a lot of month ends, and we’re particularly busy at April and October. At the end of March 2000, we were running 24-hour coverage internal to keep up with the workload. When we implemented the new system, the productivity has gone up in orders of magnitude. We were at 120 to 150 seconds per call before and that is now down to three, four or five seconds.”

He added that employees are much happier with this system. “Previously we would have to say to people, ‘I’ll get back to you’, just to answer a simple question. Now we can take a couple of seconds and get the answer.”