Lantern converts to MS SQL

Lanterns is one of the largest vehicle vehicle recovery companies in the UK. They have been using Vtrak since 2005 and this has allowed the company to grow and diversify.

One of the things about computer systems is that they should be able to deal with the number of transactions that a companies carries out, and also the number of transactactions that will be required for the foreseeable future. Systems should be scaleable, they should be able to grow with demand.

Laser Byte noticed the growth in Lantern's system and decided to tell them about their concerns about using Topspeed data tables. The industry standard was MS SQL and Laser Byte could make Vtrak work with MS SQL as the back end.

The Problem:

Lantern, being a recovery company operate 24/7. They are like an emergency service. Their systems have to be reliable, resilient and able to cope with the demands thrown at them by the users and business. Some of their data tables held millions of records, and it is known that Topspeed files become unstable with larger numbers of records and high useage. Most of this is because of oddities in operating system that are used to run multi-user systems. This meant that the growth of Lantern was constrained by the capacity of the system.

Laser Byte proposed that we should transpose their back end database from Topspeed to MS SQL. This would involve converting 137 data tables, millions of records and a lot of programming to ensure compatibility between the front end and the new back end. The conversion of the existing data would take 12 hours to run, on its own. This was a big task!

And all the conversion had to be done without the system being "down for more than 10 minutes! How could this be done?

The Solution :

In order to fulfill the requirement that the system should not be down for more than 10 minutes at any one time, Laser Byte concluded that the only way of doing this was to do the conversions in batches. 

Each batch of tables could be converted within 10 minutes and the new front end installed and tested live. Prior testing and small batches meant that each batch was manageable. Each batch was given 2 weeks to settle down before moving on to the next batch.

And Laser Byte were not idle in between batches.... they used this time to write the new front ends for the next batch of tables. They also used the time to do test conversions and also to time them in order to ensure that the downtime of the system was minimised.

Many months and 20 batches later the final batch of tables was completed.

And the task was the largest we have ever undertaken: 480 modules, 137 data tables, 20 million records, a completely new SQL server setup.

The conversion has brought many benefits to the system: the system is faster, more capable of growth, almost limitless in capacity and far more resilient. In fact there have been no database issues since the conversion.

And the conversion brought other, less obvious benefits: Now, Laser Byte Ltd are able to complete modifications and enhancements without taking users out of the system. The searches can be optimised using SQL Native calls and this makes them more versatile.


Overall, it was a total success story!

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