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Passport Canada

"I absolutely like it, because ASE is a product where you know exactly what you're dealing with."

Dragana Davidovic
Head of Database Services
Passport Canada

Passport Canada uses Sybase ASE to manage its primary database with a hefty five terabytes of data – guaranteeing outstanding performance, and absorbing constant data growth.  Passport Canada runs Sybase Replication Server to maintain a warm standby system duplicating its information.

Business Advantage

Key Benefits

Sybase Technology


A High-Volume, Mission-Critical National Database
Passport Canada is a Special Operating Agency of Foreign Affairs Canada. Its mission is to facilitate travel for Canadians by delivering internationally respected travel documents that meet the highest security standards in the world.

The agency receives approximately 12,000 passport requests each day and issues 2.8 million passports each year. This volume of work translates into an immense amount of data that continues to grow. Passport Canada uses Sybase ASE to hold all applicant information and this database continues to scale with the organization's needs.

Head of Database Services for Passport Canada is Dragana Davidovic. Responsible for the continued smooth functioning of the organization's database systems, Davidovic is a believer in ASE and its ability to support Passport Canada's mission, "I'm the supervisor of an excellent team of seven highly skilled DBAs. Coupled with ASE, this proved itself a winning combination."

Big and Important
Passport Canada's database is populated from fifty separate sources where initial passport information is collected from applicants. Foreign consulates serving citizen and refugee passport requests are also coming on-line and gathering applicant information. These external sites funnel data into the main system at the central headquarters in Gatineau, on the far western edge of the Quebec province.

Davidovic classifies information used to process passport requests, "We store everything related to a passport application. We keep not only the information the applicants provide on the form, but also scanned images of the application, supporting documents and photos. These images take up a lot of space. But it's all necessary. The amount of data we're carrying, tracking, and cross-referencing allows each passport application to be more carefully reviewed. On the main database server our data growth rate is about 6.5 gigabytes every day. This adds up to over 1.5 terabytes a year."

Given the size and importance of Passport Canada data, the choice of database to hold and manage the information was a critical decision. In 1999, Passport Canada moved to Sybase ASE. Data integrity was a significant factor in the decision for ASE. Sybase ASE has excellent reputation for stability; with its successes in the financial markets where –as with Passport Canada –data integrity must be assured.

Stability in an Entropy-Prone Universe
ASE's reliability had been confirmed many times at Passport Canada. As the person with responsibility for the system, this predictability has not gone unnoticed by Davidovic, "I absolutely like ASE, because it is a product where you know exactly what you're dealing with. All our ASE installations, including the large one on the main server, are very stable. Our central index server, as well as Passport Canada print centers are 24/7, so reliability is extremely important. In the event of hardware failure we always manage to recover it completely without any side effects or data loss. In my view, this is extraordinary and not something I take by default."

Replication Server – ASE Insurance
Because the information contained in the system is so important, two years ago Passport Canada began using Sybase Replication Server to provide a warm standby system. It replicates from the main system in Gatineau to an identical replicated site at Mississauga, Ontario. The system is configured with a manual switchover so the fault alarm can be verified before cutting over to the standby system.

Backstopping ASE with Replication Server assures almost continuous operation and gives Passport Canada a complete package that includes performance, capacity, scalability, and disaster recovery.

Advisory Council
Dragana Davidovic was invited at the last TechWave, the annual Sybase user conference, to be a member of an international Technical Advisory Council that meets to discuss various issues. It was a very positive event for Davidovic, "I have to say, it was an excellent experience and I was proud to be invited to participate as a representative at that table. We all represented different sized customers from all over the world. Sybase uses these forums to really talk to their clients, an exchange about what's good and what could be improved. As a client, Passport Canada definitely appreciates the opportunity to voice any issues. I also used the opportunity to say how happy I was with Sybase."

Bringing Peace of Mind to a Large System with Constant Growth
Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise is a data storage system with immense flexibility. ASE's affordability lends itself to be used on smaller projects where its professional development environment and tools speed application creation and data integration with other systems. ASE can seamlessly scale with the growth that attends a successful application. In medium-sized projects, ASE's performance and affordability create an unbeatable total cost of ownership with reduced administrative and maintenance efforts. 

In large projects like Passport Canada, database selection is an especially critical factor in success. Data sizes become so large that every administrative task needs to be approached with forethought, keeping in mind the consequences of each action. In a project of this scale, there is no room for instability. Further compounding the complexities of this class of project is that large databases usually accumulate new information at such a high rate that, in terms of data loss, down-time becomes tremendously expensive. 

Sybase technology is well-regarded for stability and performance. There is little exposure for failures. With ASE and Replication Server, Passport Canada is doubly insulated against failures. ASE provides inherent stability and reliable recovery. The second line of defense is Replication Server, constantly maintaining a warm standby at a separate location, ready to take over in the event the primary system fails. 

At five terabytes, Passport Canada has one of the largest database installations in Canada, and continues to grow. ASE continues to scale with the agency's needs without nearing the total capacity of the product. The perfect combination of performance, stability, scalability, and affordability make Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise a uniquely attractive database system. This stability fosters peace of mind, allowing the IT team at Passport Canada to focus on their core mission.

Passports are vital to the security of a nation as well as ensuring international mobility for a country's citizens. Davidovic explains the fundamental importance of the passport, "The passport is the most widely accepted proof of a person's identity and citizenship. It is considered a secure document that establishes the bearer's identity and nationality, and the passport's integrity is endorsed by the country of issuance." By ensuring the integrity of the database, Sybase ASE is helping Passport Canada perform its important mission.

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