“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”
This sentiment has never rung more true than for Northern Marine, an organization that operates a diverse fleet of tankers, ferries, and offshore assets. Each of Northern Marine’s vessels relies on a host of critical applications, such as navigation, crew management, cargo management, accounting, security, maintenance systems, and even digital entertainment systems for the crew. If their onboard internet is intermittent, their navigation will fail, and it will be impossible for a ship’s navigator to chart a course.
A modern onboard IT infrastructure bridges two worlds — traditional onboard IT and the cloud — and keeping a fleet of ships up and running 24x7x365 is no small task. But even in today’s always-connected digital economy, there’s no guarantee that a connection with the cloud or even to shore will be available. While shore-based connections have dramatically improved over the past two decades, continuous operation and regulated safety requirements are driving the need for an onboard data center approach. Lacking a guaranteed connection, many ship operators still find themselves experiencing communication problems in the middle of a storm, during a satellite switch, or during a cyber-attack. Worse still is the possibility that communication might be jammed during a hijacking attempt.
Replacing or repairing any part of a ship’s onboard operating environment is very complex and can take days to fix depending on the ship’s location. For Northern Marine, highly available, reliable IT infrastructure that was easy to manage was a must, and optimizing operations with self-healing, automated infrastructure for all applications was a critical next step.
As Scott Mungall, IT technical lead at Northern Marine noted, “We were looking for ways to evolve our onboard IT infrastructure across our fleet. In the last several years, requirements for key infrastructure systems on board have changed. Each vessel now has two or more operational critical applications on its server infrastructure, meaning we really can’t afford any downtime. We need to be able to sustain equipment failure and still continue to operate."
Northern Marine needed to upgrade the existing IT infrastructure on board their vessels, ensure that servers remained online and operational with minimal downtime, and reduce their exposure to expensive en-route repairs, all while complying with regulatory requirements. Because internet connectivity is highly intermittent and with no onboard IT personnel, Northern Marine deployed Scale Computing clusters to run their operations smoothly while at sea. The first 27 ships were deployed in 2019 and 2020.
To learn more about how Northern Marine partnered with Scale Computing to modernize their critical fleet IT systems utilizing Scale Computing Edge, read the full case study.