University of Berlin boosts performance with IBM Informix

Published on 10-Dec-2010

Validated on 07 Oct 2013

"IBM Informix 11.5 with Continuous Availability is giving us significant performance improvements over our old environment." - Antje Janke, Database Systems Executive, tubIT

Technical University of Berlin


Deployment country:

Database Management


Technical University of Berlin boosts system performance and availability with IBM Informix 11.5

Business need:
The Technical University of Berlin needed to extend secure access to its student information database outside the campus walls while providing faster system performance for its 30,000 students and staff during peak traffic times.

The university chose an IBM® Informix® solution with Informix I-Spy®, Informix Online Connection Manager and Server Monitor for faster and secure anytime, anywhere access.

-- Significantly improved database performance -- Enabled database consolidation -- Expanded database availability three-fold

Case Study

Two words sum up the pinnacle of hundreds of years of mechanical and mathematical advances that have paved the way for the modern world: German engineering. With faculty and alumni that include Nobel Prize winners and pioneers in the fields of aerospace, computer science and manufacturing, the Technical University of Berlin has played an important role in creating that distinction.

With a tradition of innovation that continues to this day, providing the university’s 30,000 students and staff with swift, reliable access to student information, class schedules and grading systems is a top priority. The university department in charge of making sure that happens is called tubIT. Charged with provisioning basic network services and supporting the development of IT infrastructure for research, tubIT last year began to recognize some performance issues.

During peak network traffic times, network access was becoming a problem. “We have several times during the year when we experience extremely high traffic loads,” says Antje Janke, executive for database systems at tubIT. “We have high traffic loads at the beginning and end of each semester because of registration and exams. And at the end of each month and year, it happens again with end-of-year accounting.”

The administration relied on several different database systems that were incompatible with each other, making the sharing of information between departments painful and slow. “Our goal was to consolidate our data onto a centralized solution for maximum compatibility and an increase in speed,” Janke explains.

Opening a larger floodgate

To boost availability during heavy traffic times, create a compatible information sharing environment and speed login times for its students, faculty and staff, tubIT chose to standardize on IBM Informix 11.5.

With Informix I-Spy, Informix Online Connection Manager and Server Monitor, tubIT is able to offer additional security and visibility. And with the addition of the Informix Continuous Availability Feature (CAF), the Technical University of Berlin is now able to support peak traffic loads without affecting user performance.

Impressive performance and response time improvements over the previous system

“During those peak times, our previous system was not scaling well,” Janke recalls. “It would take up to three minutes just for our faculty, staff and students to log in.”

With a cluster of Informix 11.5 instances enabled through CAF, tubIT is leveraging a redundant architecture for load balancing, creating practically uninterrupted data services, even if one or more servers fail.

“Even during high traffic periods, nobody has to wait any longer than a few seconds to log in to the system,” Janke explains. “IBM Informix 11.5 with Continuous Availability is giving us very significant performance improvements over our old environment.”

A multinode active cluster environment for high availability along with a shared disk cluster also means tubIT can perform backups and maintenance without affecting system performance. “We now have 24-hour access with no downtime, which is important in a research university.”

Threefold expansion in database availability

The consolidation onto IBM Informix 11.5 has also opened up network access options for the university staff. The combination of Informix Online Connection Manager and Server Monitor and IBM I-Spy provides staff and in the future also students with secure,
firewall-protected database access into the campus network from any location.

“With our old architecture, we had a very strict firewall set up, so only people from within the university computer network could access the system,” Janke recalls.

It meant users needed to physically be on campus at a university terminal to access and verify their data. "Before, students couldn't even check their own information for correctness, so they had to go each time to a clerk, who would then verify together with the student his information and eventually make the required modifications," Janke says. "It was very annoying, especially if you're not living in downtown Berlin."

The university’s network users are no longer limited by physical proximity or time of day. “We now have a single port access through the firewall into the secure university system,” Janke explains. “IBM Informix with I-Spy allows us to provide students and staff with around-the-clock access (students read-only) to all of the services on the network for a threefold expansion in database availability,” Janke explains.

Reducing paperwork

Access to the database has also reduced manual, paper-based processes for the university’s student information system. “If a student had an address change—which is not uncommon—they had to fill out three different forms to request a change of address,” Janke relates.

The forms then had to be entered into the database, and eventually, the student’s address would be changed. “In the future the student will be able to perform the change himself from his computer at home.”

Database management in half the time

With Informix, the network isn’t just easier to use, it’s easier to manage. Using the OpenAdmin Tool (OAT), developers and administrators of Informix have a web-based graphical interface that makes it easy to view performance and perform administrative tasks.

“Through a browser, we can see what our performance is like and what kind of statements are coming through,” Janke says. “Before we would have to resort to command line utilities and SQL structures, but with OAT, it’s much faster and easier for us to maintain the database.”

Consolidating seven databases to two Informix instances

With proven improvements in performance and administration of its student information system, the Technical University of Berlin decided to consolidate some older SQL-based database (including three PostgreSQL databases) onto the IBM Informix 11.5 platform in
the coming year. It’s a move tubIT is projecting will deliver significant administrative cost savings annually.

Offering faster access during peak traffic times and anytime access to the university’s databases has not gone unnoticed. “We got a letter from a departmental director formally thanking tubIT for dramatically improving speed and access,” Janke says. “Thanks to IBM Informix, we’re enabling our students and staff to spend more time teaching, researching and learning.”

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Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Informix Dynamic Server, Informix OnLine, Informix I-Spy

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2010 IBM Corporation Software Group Route 100 Somers, New York 10589 U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America May 2010 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo,, Informix and I-Spy are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at Other product, company or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. This case study is an example of how one customer uses IBM products. There is no guarantee of comparable results. References in this publication to IBM products and services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates. IMC14558-USEN-00