Perle Systems Case Study
Elonex PLC is one of the most successful and reputable manufacturers of PCs in the UK. Turnover is £110 million in the UK alone, where it is the largest direct supplier of PCs and commands a significant share of the market. Elonex employs 250 people in the UK-at its commercial and manufacturing headquarters in London, and at branch offices in Bradford (sales) and Cumbernauld, Scotland (manufacturing and sales).
In order to synchronize and closely control commercial and manufacturing operations, Elonex runs production, distribution, sales, admin and management systems from one central server in London.
Online bar scanners at strategic points in the manufacturing process in both the London and Scottish plants record exactly what hardware is being made and how far through production each component has reached. Stock control, sales order processing, invoicing and delivery documentation are all integrated and on-line at all times, giving up-to-the minute management information on all aspects of the business.
The system, based on an Elonex Pentium server using SCO UNIX and RAID storage, is live 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Perle RIO - Remote I/O Serial Connectivity Solution
Fault tolerance and reliability are crucial to the success of the Elonex system, and ultimately the business, so the company uses Perle RIO, an I/O product designed for enterprises with mission critical applications and where high performance and distance from the host is required.
In their London office, Elonex have two RIO host cards installed in their server. Connected to these cards are 32 8-port Remote Terminal Adapters (RTAs)-providing 256 serial connections. Twenty-six of these RTAs are situated locally, spread between the manufacturing and commercial divisions. Devices connected to the system range from production line scanners and thermal printers to dumb terminals and PCs. RIO's flexibility enable Elonex to locate RTAs where they need them.
Elonex use RIO Long Distance Modules (LDMs) to connect their Cumbernauld and Bradford sites to the central server. LDM connects one of the RIO host cards to RTAs on both sites via leased lines. The LDM is a fraction of the cost of multiplexors and further RTAs can be plugged into the remote RTA as and when needed. Elonex have four RTAs located at Cumbernauld and two at Bradford.
"Typically, only around 130 people are active on the system at one time, and the performance is excellent," says Richard Foster, System Manager at Elonex. "Things do show signs of slowing down once we pass 200 concurrent users, but we think this is due to some old application software we are running."
Foster says, "We chose RIO from a range of I/O solutions because it is so simple to install and maintain, and because it has a proven track record. So far, it hasn't let us down."
RIO is not a conventional multiuser solution; it's dynamic reconfiguration facility enables you to move RTAs around your system without having to shut your system down - particularly useful in fluid environments like factories. RIO will recognize the RTA and its configuration wherever it is relocated. Of course, at this level of flexibility, you could easily lose track of your configuration. That's why RIO comes with "real-time" configuration software, which draws a map of your "network" and updates automatically to show changes in the configuration.