I think SharePlex had paid for itself within a year of being installed. It offers the sort of functionality that’s absolutely necessary for us as a high-service business. For a relatively small fee we saw benefits immediately.
Your customers around the world access their accounts from Oracle databases in their region. How do you keep local data stores continuously synchronized with your central data stores?
Premier Farnell is a leader in high-service electronics components, with nine distribution centers worldwide and local, transactional websites in 46 countries. Keeping the order and product data on those local websites synchronized with data stored centrally plays a big role in the company’s reputation for customer service.
“Our Oracle environment ranges from version 12c to 11g,” says Steve Wright, head of platform engineering for Premier Farnell. “We maintain four production databases that are spread around the globe. We also run 20 non-production databases for user acceptance testing and functional testing in pre-production. All of those databases live on Oracle Exadata.”
The company’s database infrastructure is on premises in three regional data centers: Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. Each region has its own production and non-production Oracle Exadata appliance.
Given the global system, Premier Farnell needed a way to make the information in the central data store available to the regional websites.
“We use SharePlex to replicate a subset of tables from the central data store to the regional data stores,” says Wright. “For example, we replicate order history from our central store to the regional data stores that feed our production websites. The result is that our customers always have an up-to-date view of their order history, no matter where they are.”
In essence, Premier Farnell uses SharePlex to replicate 20 different tables to the regions. SharePlex provides continuous, nearly real-time replication, and it goes in both directions, sending back information and analytics from the regional data stores to the central data store.
“We need that nearly real-time replication for our customers,” says Wright. “SharePlex synchronization is as valuable to our customers as it is to us. When they log onto our website, they expect to see that their information is up to date. They don’t want to have to wait for batch updates or put up with gaps in processing. SharePlex plays a big role in helping us show our customers their account status. Without that added value, there would be quite a large gap in our web presence.”
Operationally, SharePlex is transparent. The target database for the replication takes the updates, which are then reflected immediately on the local websites, without any intervention. And when intervention is required — for example, when network problems interrupt a replication from the UK to Singapore or to the US – and it’s necessary to re-synchronize files, SharePlex takes care of it.
Similarly, when Wright’s team adds new tables or newer versions of tables, they simply make changes to the source database, add the configuration to SharePlex and then synchronize to the targets.
SharePlex abstracts any complexity whenever Premier Farnell replicates between different operating system versions. The Exadata appliances run the same OS, but when Wright’s team was replicating between those and commodity servers running a different version, SharePlex kept the databases synchronized. Its flexibility meant freedom from worry about the source and target versions.
“It’s the flexibility of SharePlex and the way it can replicate between different versions of the database,” says Wright. “It helps us overcome our geographic challenges. And it lets us work with granularity, picking and choosing which items in which tables we replicate. It’s not overly complicated and it doesn’t require lots of handholding, but it does the job that we need it to do.”
Wright has been involved with the team of database administrators for several years and observes that they are generally happy with SharePlex. Of note are the support they get from Quest and the attention they receive when they need extra training, updates or documentation. Wright is especially pleased by how quickly Premier Farnell has seen a return on its investment.
“I think SharePlex paid for itself within a year of being installed,” he says. “It offers the sort of functionality that’s absolutely necessary for us as a high-service business. For a relatively small fee we saw benefits immediately.”