Logistics network companies drive innovation with JBoss FuseSource

March 12, 2013

Lynden, a company that specializes in complex shipping logistics, needed a tracking system that would work in locations with unreliable Wi-Fi and require minimal IT support.

Customer: Lynden

"The FuseSource solution was the only one that we could test that it do the job – that took a lot of the risk out of the decision. The fact that there are no license fees was icing on the cake." -Rob Terpilowski, Integration Architect, Lynden

Solution:

Using the FuseSource distribution of Apache ActiveMQ, Lynden was able to connect their legacy database system with mobile devices in remote regions and in warehouses often fraught with signal-free zones.

Software:

FuseSource

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Business Challenge:

Lynden, a company that specializes in complex shipping logistics, needed a tracking system that would work in locations with unreliable Wi-Fi and require minimal IT support.

Solution:

Using the FuseSource distribution of Apache ActiveMQ, Lynden was able to connect their legacy database system with mobile devices in remote regions and in warehouses often fraught with signal-free zones.

Benefits:

By relying on lightweight and flexible ActiveMQ for reliable messaging, Lynden now has a system that keeps all warehouses, transportation specialists, as well as the customers up to date at all times, even when all signals are lost or warehouse PCs are shut down for the night.

A legacy database system, EDI, and an expanding delivery business

Lynden specializes in providing logistical services to remote locations. Headquartered in Alaska, Lynden operates a family of transportation and logistics companies providing worldwide services across land, sea and air. Their mission is to solve complex transportation problems by combining the right people with the right tools and the right experience.

Lynden’s logistic information has been stored in a legacy database as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) objects for years. The database system, Universe DB, was extremely old, but was stable with “100s, maybe 1000s” of green-screen applications running off it. Rip and replace was not an option, but they needed a solution that could efficiently disseminate the information in the database to every warehouse, distribution center, and mobile agent in the rapidly growing company.

The original system used MSMQ to deliver the logistics information to every location. All endpoints at warehouses and distributions points were configured to poll the database every 30 seconds for all new EDI objects, but as the company grew the data traffic became unmanageable and updates were taking over 45 minutes. As a stop-gap measure they reduced what data was shared with certain locations to reduce the update cycle, but this approach could not keep up with the growth of the company.

Another concern was IT support. To keep the operation running efficiently, Lynden did not want to require IT staff at every location. Not only did the system have to be easy to maintain, but it had to be tolerant of outages as PCs are often shut down at night.

Lynden knew they needed a new system, and they investigated both open and closed source solutions.

Open source or closed source?

Lynden narrowed their search to three options: FuseSource, a small commercial vendor, and a major commercial vendor. The proposed architecture had few servers initially, and would have resulted in relatively small license fees had they gone with the commercial vendor.

These fees were not enough in interested the sales representative from the major vendor, and Lynden was unable to get the software to develop a proof-of-concept (PoC). Since they were at the mercy of the sales representative and could not move forward, Lynden narrowed the list down to the other two.

Because the open source FuseSource could be downloaded and tried immediately for free, Lynden was able to develop a complete PoC application and stress test it as much as they pleased. Unlike the other commercial solution they considered, it became quickly apparent that the FuseSource solution was the only technology resilient enough to handle their complex environment. The battle-hardened technology combined with FuseSource’s experience in building mission-critical applications made it the obvious choice.

Open source FuseSource delivers

Lynden built their new systems with FuseSource’s distribution of Apache ActiveMQ, and employed FuseSource Consulting Services to get themselves off on the right foot. They also have a subscription with FuseSource to ensure that their mission-critical application stays up and running at peak performance.

Phase 1 involved creating interfaces on the handheld devices to talk to a web services that communicates directly with the database server. With ActiveMQ delivering the data, every employee with a handheld knows the status of every delivery and every customer at all times.

The system is now up and running at one the Lynden companies, keeping track of 70,000 pieces of freight a day. As more of their companies come on line, the system will be tracking over 300,000 pieces of freight each day. During Phase 2, the green screen applications, including the warehouse manager and customer services applications, will also be moved over the ActiveMQ.

Conclusion

Lynden are known for their reliable deliveries in less than ideal locations, and they needed a reliable messaging system that could perform in less than ideal conditions. The FuseSource solution proved to be the perfect foundation for their tracking system. The small footprint of ActiveMQ made it easy to deploy in warehouses and mobile devices, and the absolute reliability of message delivery made the system work despite network disruptions.

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