Eliminating downtime in the tea trade with IBM Informix

Published on 09-Sep-2011

Validated on 15 Jan 2014

"Previously, an outage could take us up to three days to recover from, and in that time, we’d be losing data and business. Since upgrading our databases to IBM Informix 11.5 with HDR, we have had zero downtime." - Shantanu Das, Deputy Manager-IT, McLEOD RUSSEL INDIA LIMITED


Consumer Products

Deployment country:


India has always played a pivotal role in the tea trade, and it is still a key player today with the world’s largest tea producer, McLEOD RUSSEL INDIA LIMITED, based in Kolkata, India.

Business need:
The world’s largest tea producer needed to improve systems uptime across its 50-plus tea gardens to enable accurate tracking of harvest, production and marketing of up to 100 million kilos of tea per year.

McLEOD RUSSEL INDIA LIMITED chose IBM Informix with High Availability Data Replication (HDR) to enable continuous access to critical data across the organization’s 300-plus endpoints.

Enables 100 percent systems uptime (vs. several multiday outages per year) Delivers 90 percent faster database performance Projected return on investment (ROI) within a year

Case Study

For people in all corners of the globe, a cup of tea provides a gentle way to greet the day or take an uplifting afternoon break. However, getting tea from the bush to the cup is a complex business proposition composed of equal parts agriculture, marketing and technology.

India has always played a pivotal role in the tea trade, and it is still a key player today with the world’s largest tea producer, McLEOD RUSSEL INDIA LIMITED, based in Kolkata, India. Producing approximately 100 million kilos of high quality teas every year from more than 50 sprawling tea gardens in three countries, McLEOD RUSSEL INDIA LIMITED uses IBM® Informix® databases to keep business on track.

“Our databases are the backbone of our operations,” says Shantanu Das, Deputy Manager-IT for McLEOD RUSSEL INDIA LIMITED. All the company’s product and marketing information is served by a database application called TLMS. Based on IBM Informix since 1999, the application helps the company consolidate information coming in from its acres of tea plantations, make business calculations and ultimately propel sales.

Supply and demand
In order to make the most of each harvest the company relies on its IT department to deliver database access 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Until recently, the company had been using an early version of Informix to drive its databases. “We were running on Informix 7.22 for 10 years, which was probably too long—but in the tea business, we just go with what works until it is absolutely necessary to change,” Das explains.

The older version had long since been out of support, and was running on legacy hardware that didn’t allow for high availability or performance improvements. “A couple years ago, we really started having trouble with downtime, and knew we needed a better solution,” Das recalls. “We were standardized on Windows Server 2003, and each time we needed to update the system or install patches, it would restart on its own, and we’d have no access to our databases during that time.”

Das and his IT team considered offerings from competitors. “We looked at the competition, but we also knew we had been running on Informix successfully for a decade, and that really played into our decision,” relates Das.

Eliminating downtime with Informix and HDR
To address its performance and downtime issues, the company deployed IBM Informix with High Availability Data Replication (HDR), which enables Das and team to replicate data changes from a primary database to a secondary database, giving them a fault-tolerant replica. “Informix with HDR gives us automatic failover without requiring any additional hardware or software,” Das explains.

Should the database become unavailable because of any unplanned outage, such as a power failure or a hardware issue, the secondary server takes over, giving the 300-plus employee end users of the company’s services access to critical data. HDR performs this function seamlessly on its Informix database without any interruption in service. “Previously, an outage could take us up to three days to recover from, and in that time, we’d be losing data and business,” Das recalls. “Since upgrading our databases to IBM Informix 11.5 with HDR, we have had zero downtime.”

A 90 percent performance improvement
Upgrading to a supported version of Informix also delivered a noticeable increase in performance. With field offices accessing and updating the database from its 50-plus tea gardens, sometimes over slower connections, response time improvements have been tangible. “Our remote offices have noticed a speed jump between 85 and 90 percent since we upgraded our Informix database, and we’re very happy with it,” Das says.

Speeds for backend processing of reports have also improved. “Before, if we had even five minutes of downtime, that could impact the reports we were making for top management,” Das says. “Now we can make reports and perform backend processing without the risk of incurring downtime.”

ROI in a year
Because the company depends on its databases for vital information updates from the field as well as sales and marketing information, downtime is expensive.

Now that it has high availability configured through Informix HDR, Das and team are no longer experiencing the data and business losses of previous years. “With around the clock, around the year availability, we’re projecting a return on our Informix investment within a year,” Das says.

Supporting five-fold growth while reclaiming IT staff time
In the meantime, Das and the IT team are spending less time recovering from outages and spending more time on innovation. “We used to have a lot of headaches in IT—now we’re able to concentrate on improving our business,” Das explains. “Since implementing Informix with HDR, everything has been very smooth.”

As business continues to grow, that time will be used to drive new efficiencies at the world’s largest tea producer. “We’re growing every day—in fact, we have acquired three companies in the past two years, and our production has increased up to 100 million kilos. So our database usage and data volume have grown five-fold, but we have not had to increase the number of database administrators managing Informix,” explains Tushar Bhattacharyya, Assistant Manager-IT for McLEOD RUSSEL INDIA LIMITED.

With an updated version of Informix and IBM support, the tea producer is ready to match that growth in the future. “There are so many things about the tea market that we can’t predict,” Bhattacharyya says, “it’s wonderful to know we can continue to rely on IBM Informix.”

Solution components:

  • IBM® Informix® 11.5

For more information
To learn more about IBM Informix database software, please contact your IBM sales representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website:

For more information about McLEOD RUSSEL INDIA LIMITED, visit:

Products and services used

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

Informix Servers, Informix Dynamic Server

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2011 IBM Corporation Software Group Route 100 Somers, New York 10589 U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America August 2011 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, and Informix are trademarks or 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 Windows Server is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries or both. Other product, company or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. 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.