Mainfreight builds links with new tools

Transport firm Mainfreight has used yet-to-be-launched Microsoft products to link a collection of databases picked up through company acquisitions.

Transport firm Mainfreight has used yet-to-be-launched Microsoft products to link a collection of databases picked up through company acquisitions.

Mainfreight, which has bought a number of other companies, ended up with a variety of legacy systems which it was able to avoid replacing through the development of MainChain, a system which ties 11 databases together.

MainChain was developed by Designer Technology using Microsoft Visual Studio 2003 and .Net Framework 1.1. The development tools will be launched later this month, at the same time as Microsoft's latest server platform, Windows Server 2003 (formerly referred to as .Net Server).

Mainfreight IT manager Kevin Drinkwater says a year ago the company began grappling with how to give customers a single view across all its operations, business and international locations. DTL suggested using the .Net platform; a prototype was built and testing with live databases followed.

“Most of the time building the system was taken up by deciding how we would do it. For example, we wanted it to be smart. One key thing is that there is no common reference that runs across all these systems. So the system has to build a chain of references to make the pieces fall into place. The .Net framework puts all those pieces together.

“Another critical thing about .Net is that the data comes back from the queries asynchronously. There are multiple queries at multiple times. As it pulls information back it puts it together in a logical order even though it doesn’t get the information in that order. It doesn’t matter where in the chain the customer queries – front, end or middle, the process goes to all the databases and finds a link.”

Mainfreight is also one of eight New Zealand early adopters of Windows Server 2003 out of 150 worldwide.

The others are Carter Holt Harvey, healthAlliance, Wool Research, St John Ambulance, Employers and Manufacturers Association, Tuners Auctions and Genesis Power.

Mainfreight is making the jump from Windows NT 4.

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