U.K.-based Hyperlast manufactures specialty polyurethane elastomers used in a wide variety of manufacturing and engineering applications. Within the past few years, chemical processing innovations at the company have increased the complexity of its production methods, challenging support systems to keep up with evolving technologies. For example, the company uses Wonderware's InBatch to manage its batch recipes, but it found that InBatch's proprietary database could not be integrated with its other business-control systems.
Most modern database programs such as Microsoft Access, Oracle and SyBase allow for integration via the Open DataBase Connectivity (ODBC) standard. ODBC is a database programming data pipeline, or API, that allows a programmer to abstract a program from its database. With the ODBC API, a programmer can write one program that can access any database with an ODBC driver -- all database calls are made to ODBC rather than the database. Unfortunately, InBatch's embedded database, Raima Database Manager (RDM), did not have an ODBC driver. As a result, Hyperlast could not synchronize or report data from InBatch.
The company faced a dilemma: it could either change its entire system architecture, an extensive and costly process involving bugs, retraining and downtime, or it could find a way to access the existing InBatch database and integrate the data via industry standards.
Proprietary databases can make it difficult for chemical processing companies to connect batch-control systems with other software. Data pipelines such as RDMi provide the open connectivity needed. Shown here, a worker accesses batch data at a food processing plant.
System migration simply was not an option. "Our company installed and used InBatch for many years in different locations and [company users are comfortable with] this product," says Peter Davis, Hyperlast's IT director. "Replacing InBatch would be a huge and expensive task, and our familiarity with Wonderware products and local representatives is very valuable."
A third-party solution was at hand: RDMi from ITTIA could create a data pipeline between RDM databases such as InBatch's and ODBC and allow for database integration and reporting. "We did some serious investigation, but ODBC was the only alternative," says Davis. "There was no [possibility of] access and data synchronization until we learned about RDMi."
ITTIA developed RDMi to offer a reliable embedded data management tool to thousands of databases developed with RDM. RDMi has been used successfully by many organizations in many different fields, from chemical processing and manufacturing to building access management. Companies such as Hyperlast need RDMi to provide ongoing database reporting from solutions such as InBatch, others use it to migrate data to a new system. RDMi allows companies to keep legacy data when moving to a new system; without a data pipeline, data would be lost, or would have to be be re-keyed -- an inaccurate and expensive prospect.
Hyperlast's implementation was not without challenges. Although installing RDMi was straightforward, and the product worked right out of the box, Hyperlast found that its SQL queries took too long to execute -- up to four minutes in one case. This speed was unacceptable. ITTIA product support looked at the SQL queries Hyperlast was using and discovered that each query was searching the entire database -- more than 134,000 records. Hyperlast needed to create a new database key in order to execute the search more efficiently. ITTIA helped Hyperlast structure its queries more efficiently, and performance problems disappeared.
ITTIA is now promoting db.linux, an open-source combination network and relational embedded database engine with no development or runtime fees. The core code is a much-improved version of the RDM engine, and is available for evaluation at the company's Web site, www.ittia.com.