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Case Study: How a Tennessee Community Enhanced its Public Safety Through Always-on Applications

Author: John Fryer, Stratus Technologies

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2015-10-22
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In 2014 the Lebanon (TN) Police Department upgraded its outdated computing infrastructure to run all applications – including its emergency CAD, traffic reporting, police use of force, and document and record management systems – on virtualized industry-standard x86 servers in its on-site data center. They followed this up in 2015 by deploying a continuous availability solution to keep its critical applications up and running - all the time.

 

The Situation

The City of Lebanon is located in Wilson County, Tennessee, approximately 25 miles east of downtown Nashville. The county seat and a growing residential and business community, Lebanon has a population of almost 30,000 according to the 2013 census. Importantly, the city also sees a daily influx of over 100,000 people. The Lebanon Police Department’s Communications Division is responsible for 24/7/365 dispatch of routine and emergency calls to police, fire, animal control, and public works. In addition to dispatching an average of 5,700 calls each month, the agency also enters and maintains National Crime Information Center (NCIC) records such as missing persons, wanted persons, stolen vehicles, weapons, license plates, and other items containing an identification number.

The Communication Division relies on critical applications — from various record management and reporting systems to Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) software that extends to field unit vehicles — to conduct daily business, track incidents, and respond quickly and effectively to emergency situations. Always-on availability of these applications is crucial for optimizing operational efficiency and ensuring community safety and security.

 

The Challenge

For years, the agency’s aging physical server infrastructure lacked the redundancy needed to perform routine support and updates while maintaining operational continuity. Without regular maintenance, the servers would inevitably go down, forcing dispatchers to resort to a paper-based solution while the systems were restored. When dispatchers received a call, they would write down all the required information and dispatch responders without the help of automation. Once the servers were back online, the handwritten dispatch information would have to be manually entered into the system. While this outdated approach worked, it significantly slowed response times—intolerable during life-and-death emergency situations where every second counts.

 

The Solution

This all changed in 2014 when the Lebanon Police Department upgraded its outdated computing infrastructure to run all applications – including its emergency CAD, traffic reporting, police use of force, and document and record management systems – on virtualized industry-standard x86 servers in its on-site data center. They followed this up in 2015 by deploying a continuous availability solution to keep its critical applications up and running—all the time.

While server virtualization reduces costs, improves agility, and optimizes hardware utilization, it also provides a single point of failure for multiple applications, making continuous availability all the more important. After consulting with a nearby municipality that was successfully using Stratus Technologies’s fault-tolerant downtime prevention software, everRun Enterprise, the agency decided to run its virtualized applications on it as well to ensure business continuity and data integrity by keeping Windows applications up and running with mainframe like availability—without requiring application modifications.

Stratus Technologies

As Police Officer Elvis Huff, MIS System Administrator for the Lebanon Police Department states, “Always-on software makes it simple to achieve continuous application availability. The software is remarkably easy to install and manage—even with limited IT resources—and comprehensive monitoring and notification features let us know of any problem so we can take immediate action to head it off.”

Now, the agency’s applications live on two physical machines. If one machine fails, the application continues to run on the other machine with no interruptions or data loss. If a component fails, it’s simply replaced with the healthy component from the second system. The I/O is automatically mirrored to the redundant server and memory check-pointing ensures all in-flight transactions, as well as data in memory and cache, are preserved.

Built-in application monitoring provides complete performance visibility, letting the department know when an application or device is down, and restarts it instantly to minimize impact. For added peace of mind, a support center constantly monitors the virtualized environment and automatically sends system-level notifications should a fault occur.

 

The Results

The transition has helped the Lebanon Police Department improve efficiency by operating a stable, reliable, and always-on virtualized application environment. The agency has experienced no unplanned downtime since implementing server virtualization. In addition, the solution’s built-in redundancy enables IT personnel to take down a server for routine maintenance and keep all of the other virtual machines running—without interrupting agency operations.

By keeping systems up and running all the time, agency personnel have the power to optimize response times in emergency situations and to better protect and serve the Lebanon community day in and day out.

Says Huff, “When lives are on the line, you need the ability to detect issues and prevent system failures before they occur. With our always-on availability software, we’re able to do just that. As a result, our systems are continuously available, helping our agency deliver the best possible service to the community.”

 

John Fryer is Senior Director of Product Marketing at Stratus Technologies where he is responsible for go-to-market strategies and industry initiatives across all the company’s product lines. He has over 25 years of experience with systems and software products in a variety of engineering, marketing and executive roles at successful startups and major companies, including Motorola, Emerson Network Power and Oracle. His experience includes more than 15 years working with high-availability solutions for the Enterprise and networking industries. For more information on Stratus Technologies, see: http://www.stratus.com/

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