Case Studies

When Every Minute Counts: Managed Database Services for Nordion

In the nuclear medicine business, time is of the essence. That’s why Nordion turned to Pythian to ensure around-the-clock availability of its mission-critical systems. By quickly responding to and fixing recurring issues missed by other DBAs, Pythian helped Nordion reduce its ongoing monitoring and support costs by $850,000 per year—freeing up valuable time and money for much-needed system upgrades.

Company: Nordion – Ottawa, Ontario
Market: Healthcare
Oracle® Database
Oracle E-Business Suite

Nordion is a global health sciences company leading the market in products that prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. Headquartered in Ottawa, Canada, Nordion supplies targeted therapies, sterilization technologies, and medical isotopes that benefit the lives of millions of people in more than 60 countries around the world.

  • 99.97% high availability
  • 0 downtime through major transition
  • 70% reduction in support costs


Unlike vaccines, medical isotopes can’t be stockpiled; their short half-lives render them ineffective in days or even hours. Because Nordion’s products must arrive exactly when they’re needed, any system downtime could result in missed shipments and lost business—and profoundly affect the lives of those depending on isotopes for advanced medical care. Nordion’s systems are as scrutinized as the products themselves—meaning they must be highly reliable and secure to comply with regulations limiting access to sensitive patient data. With no database administration resources of its own, Nordion relied on the capabilities of external partners to keep its systems available and secure. When response times started slipping to hours instead of minutes, Nordion called on Pythian to provide the support it needed.


Pythian’s flexible managed services offering allowed Pythian to immediately deliver the hands-on expertise and business-planning support Nordion required. For the first few months of the engagement, Pythian focused on resolving recurring incidents that had been leading directly to user dissatisfaction and unnecessary business risk—quickly demonstrating their ability to respond to and fix time-critical issues. After stabilizing the environment, Pythian was able to allocate unused time within the contract to proactively streamline Nordion’s processes and support structures.

“Pythian is the little tugboat among the big tankers—it has the agility to turn around quickly and get the job done. And as they gained more and more experience with us, our only question was: why would we ever even consider staffing DBAs internally?” -Ian Beaulieu, DBA Manager, Nordion


Pythian created a highly available environment by increasing Nordion’s system uptime to 99.97% with only two hours of unplanned downtime in 2011. By focusing on automation, stabilization, and process improvements, Pythian discovered major efficiencies every year of the contract. By the third year of the engagement, Nordion reduced its database support costs from $1.2 million annually to just $350,000. Now, with less time and money spent on monitoring and management, Nordion can call on Pythian to provide additional, as-needed support on other data-critical projects, including upgrades to Oracle E-Business Suite and Oracle Database. To date, Pythian has been providing remote database administration for Nordion’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) environment since 2007, including the management of all facets of business continuity (backup and standby) for Oracle E-Business Suite and security for Oracle Database. When Nordion divested several of its businesses in 2010, Pythian’s scalable services and extensive experience with the company’s systems ensured continuity of service throughout the transition period. Pythian still provides operational support to many of the divested companies.

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