Customs broker consolidates to meet security requirements

A Winnipeg-based customs brokerage is applying the lessons learned from a server consolidation project to its entire IT management strategy, according to one of its senior executives.

George H. Young (GHY) recently moved from

eight servers to two, including an IBM eServer i270 with Integrated xSeries Server cards for its brokerage system, financials, report generation, and the more than $2 billion in Canadian and shipments to the United States it processes each year. An IBM eServer i820, meanwhile, handles file sharing, firewall, e-mail, DNS services and document imaging.

Nigel Fortlage, GHY’s vice-president of IT, said the setup is a far cry from the company’s previous sever infrastructure, which included an AS/400 and seven other servers running a mix of Windows and Linux. An internal analysis showed the mish-mash was making it difficult for GHY’s IT staff to back up data and fully utilize its resources, but the proposed solution — adding nine more Intel-based servers to run Red Hat Linux — would have meant doubling Fortlage’s three-person staff. The human resources department balked at the idea.

“”They said, ‘No way,'”” said Fortlage, adding that server consolidation hadn’t been considered until IBM approached the firm offering to help out with its IT problems. “”We’d heard the message (about server consolidation); it had just never sunk in for some reason.””

John Norget, an IBM Canada certified information technology specialist, said IBM approached GHY as one of its legacy system leases was coming due, but the company is actively seeking server consolidation opportunities across the country.

“”It’s giving them the ability to respond to new requests,”” he said. “”They were finding that a lot of their time was taken up managing versus proactively addressing other needs.””

As an example, Fortlage said GHY was using five different tape drives, four different tape formats, and was performing incremental backups because GHY had exceeded capacity. The consolidation project, he said, will give his department the ability to plan for the future. Later this year, for instance, GHY will link the two iSeries servers together to increase automation of key functions, he said. The company is also currently piloting a document imaging program that allows customers to see details and records on the Web for things such as duty and taxes, and landed costs.

“”We need to start considering operating as a real-time business,”” he said, adding that legislation related to security after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 are requiring customs brokerages to provide information as soon as possible. “”If you don’t start working on a solution yourself, the government is going to tell you what to do.””

Fortlage said the success of the server consolidation project has him taking a closer look at what’s running Windows or Linux on various machines in order to achieve even tighter integration. Norget said other users are doing the same.

The original consolidation project, which required about a month and a half of consultation with IBM, cost approximately $30,000 less than solution HR opposed, Fortlage said.

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