Andrew Johnston: Architecture and Consultancy Services

Case Study - Rental Systems Re-platforming for Livingston Rental / Sema (1995 – 1997)


Migration of legacy rental system to new strategic platform

Key Outcomes

Successful migration. Reduction of projected hardware costs. Data integration for previously separate European business divisions.

Key Challenges

Simultaneous outsourcing and replatforming of IT capabilities. Divergence of systems supporting different business units.

Key Technologies

Data General, Solaris, Oracle (database and forms), Windows, Visual Basic, ISDN-based wide area networking


This project centred around porting the Livingston Group’s equipment rental systems from a legacy Data General architecture to a more flexible Unix/Oracle base.

I defined the overall technical architecture for the new system. Performance benchmarking and prototyping exercises saved the client several hundred thousand pounds by allowing the use of lower-specification hardware. The performance prediction work led to a paper for the EUROStar ’96 testing conference.

A leading role in commissioning the new infrastructure included setting up the Sun servers, defining a disaster recover plan and operational procedures, sorting out LAN communications and establishing new configuration control tools. I also set up a Wide Area Network between several European sites.

Thereafter I specified, designed and implemented the following:

  • A system to replicate stock information between the British, French and German sites, using Oracle database services and a client-server front-end.
  • A scheme for remotely monitoring numerous aspects of system performance on the various Unix and NT servers and Oracle databases, relaying potential alerts back to a single point for system administrator attention via a graphical front-end.
  • A tool to automate translation so that English, French and German versions of the Rental system (written in a Unix-based legacy 4GL) could use common source code.

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