Locker Group CASE STUDY

Locker Group Reduces Server Hardware Costs by $50,000 and Boosts Application Performance to Improve Customer Service Locker Group engaged Core Technology Partners to design and implement server virtualisation, storage and disaster recovery infrastructure to reduce operational costs, boost application performance and enhance customer service.

Company Profile

Established in 1956, Locker Group manufactures perforated and expanded metals, wire mesh and curtains used in facades, balustrades, conveyor belts, industrial flooring, screening and interior products. These products are used by thousands of companies in the architectural, construction, engineering and infrastructure, and resources sectors.

The company has offices across Australia, including Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Launceston, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth, Sydney and Townsville, and also serves customers from offices China, India and New Zealand.

Business Challenge

Prior to 2011, Locker Group’s two data centres in Melbourne and Sydney housed 17 ageing and increasingly costly Dell mid-range servers that were reaching end-of-life and would no longer be supported by the manufacturer.

“The cost of extending the warranties on these servers so we would continue to receive support from Dell was almost half the total value of each machine,” said Peter Ibrahim, IT Manager, Locker Group. “We also have a relatively small IT team so it was time-consuming to regularly update firmware and drivers for these systems.”

These servers were used to run a web-based configure-to-order application that enabled staff to determine how to configure products and allowed customers to request quotes, plus an intranet and document portal built using Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft SQL databases. They also hosted the company’s core Sage ERP 1000 enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) system.

“We realised that we needed to deploy new servers to maintain the performance and availability of these vital applications, which were used by staff every day to manage production processes and customer orders across Australia and New Zealand,” said Ibrahim.

Locker Group also required infrastructure that would provide a high-level of redundancy to better protect it against server failure at either of its two data centres. The company was not replicating data between Sydney and Melbourne, which meant that it would take up to five days to recover data if there was a disaster such as a fire or flood at one of these locations.

“Core Technology Partners’ engineers explained in detail how the solution would help us cut costs, improve efficiency and provide enough storage capacity to support our data growth in the future.”

- Peter Ibrahim, IT Manager, Locker Group

Solution Provided by Core Technology Partners

In early 2011, Locker Group engaged Core Technology Partners to design and deploy new IT infrastructure at its two data centres. Core Technology Partners’ technical specialists and engineers initially worked with Locker Group’s IT team to create a detailed document outlining how new physical and virtual-server technology, plus a storage area network (SAN), would help the company achieve its objectives.

Key benefits of the new infrastructure would be reduced running costs, enhanced performance of core business applications and improved disaster recovery capabilities.

At its Sydney data centre, Locker Group’s ageing servers were replaced with two Dell PowerEdge R710 systems, connected to an IBM System Storage DS3512 iSCSI SAN with 8TB of storage capacity. The company also deployed three Dell PowerEdge R710 systems and an IBM System Storage DS3512 iSCSI SAN with 12TB of storage capacity at its Melbourne data centre.

The five Dell PowerEdge R710 servers run VMware vSphere 4 Essentials virtualisation technology and the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. Locker Group has created 17 virtual servers at its data centres, which run the company’s core applications, apart from the ERP system. Some six virtual servers are used for application development and testing.

Core Technology Partners introduced Locker Group to PHD Virtual Backup, an automated backup solution for virtual server environments. The application enables Locker Group’s IT staff to restore any application or database running a virtualised environment, with the click of a button.

Core Technology Partners also helped Locker Group replace Linksys network switches with new Cisco switches at both data centres. The new network provides a 4Mb/s Ethernet link into the company’s Melbourne data centre and a 2Mb/s Ethernet link into its Sydney site.

Server Hardware Costs Slashed

The new virtual server infrastructure has enabled Locker Group to save around $50,000 this year in server hardware costs.

“We didn’t need to allocate any portion of this year’s IT budget for new physical servers,” said Ibrahim. “With virtual server technology in place, we don’t need to buy new systems to support existing and new applications across our network.”

Virtual Servers Created in Minutes

Virtualisation technology allows Locker Group’s technical staff to create a virtual server in around 10 minutes. This is particularly useful if the company needs to quickly launch a new application or recover from a failure.

“For example, the server application that provides services to staff who use RIM BlackBerry smartphones recently failed,” said Ibrahim. “While I was trying to bring this server back online, I created a virtual server so staff could continue to receive emails on their mobile devices. This took me around 45 minutes; previously it would have taken a day to fix this issue and restore email services.”

Server virtualisation also enables the company to automatically transfer virtual machines from one physical server to another following a system failure or major event such as a flood or fire at one of its data centres.

“This ensures our core applications will stay online and staff can continue to serve customers if a server fails or disaster strikes,” said Ibrahim. “We plan to deploy the new version of PHD Virtual Backup with real-time data replication capabilities so we can automatically replicate data between our data centres, which will provide us with an extra level of protection.”

Improved Application Performance

The new infrastructure has also improved the performance of Locker Group’s web-based configure-to-order application. Web pages are refreshed in half a second, compared to one-to-two seconds previously.

“This performance boost has improved the efficiency of our staff because they can configure orders quickly while providing a faster service to customers who use the application to request quotes.”

Why Core Technology Partners?

Initially, Core Technology Partners was one of three suppliers being considered by Locker Group. According to Ibrahim, the methodology used by Core Technology Partners to evaluate Locker Group’s needs, develop a strategy and implement a solution, stood out from competing suppliers.

“We knew straight away that Core Technology Partners’ engineers would assess our requirements and deploy IT infrastructure that was right for our business without trying to sell us technology that we didn’t need,” said Ibrahim.

“The engineers explained in great detail how the solution would help us cut costs, improve efficiency and provide enough storage capacity to support our data growth in the future. In fact, I haven’t come across a supplier that has provided us with so much certainty that a technology deployment would transform our business.”

Core Technology Partners also provided Locker Group’s IT staff with basic training around server virtualisation and developed detailed documentation covering the entire deployment.

“Our IT team use this documentation to solve all sorts of problems,” said Ibrahim. “If there’s an issue that we can’t fix ourselves, Core Technology Partners’ engineers are immediately available to help.”

Future Plans

Locker Group will soon engage Core Technology Partners to help deploy an upgrade to Microsoft Exchange 2010, running in a virtualised environment. The company will replicate email data between servers in Sydney and Melbourne in real-time, ensuring staff can continue to access their emails following a system failure.

“Core Technology Partners is now my preferred vendor,” said Ibrahim. “I consider the company to be a service provider that offers real solutions to business problems.”

Problem

Replace ageing servers that were reaching end-of-life with more cost-effective and better performing systems. Improve disaster recovery capabilities to protect against system failure and upgrade storage with extra capacity to support data growth.

Solution
  • Five Dell PowerEdge R170 servers
  • Two IBM System Storage DS3512 iSCSI SANs
  • VMware vSphere 4 Essentials virtualisation technology
  • PHD Virtual Backup
Benefits
  • Saved $50,000 this year in server hardware costs
  • Created a virtual server in 10 minutes, enabling the company to quickly launch a new application or recover from a failure
  • Restored services for mobile devices in 45 minutes rather than one day
  • Provided automatic failover capabilities that ensured core applications would stay online following a server failure or major disaster
  • Improved staff efficiency by boosting the performance of a web-based configure-to-order application; web pages are refreshed in half a second, compared to one to two seconds previously
  • Deployed storage systems with enough capacity to support future growth