Fast-Growing Manufacturer Uses Mainline/IBM PureFlex to Triple IT New Project Productivity
THE BUSINESS CHALLENGE
- Upgrade IT infrastructure to support critical new ERP, MES and CRM applications
- Use virtualization to enhance agility and service levels
- Simplify and streamline IT management and support
- Increase ability of small IT team to deploy new projects
- IBM PureFlex Standard, with Mainline Integration and Testing Services
- IBM Storwize V7000 storage solution (rackmounted)
- IBM Flex System Fabric
- IBM Flex System Manager
- IBM uninterruptible power source (UPS) (rackmounted)
- Mainline VMware Virtualization QuickStart service
- New servers/services deployed in hours instead of days/weeks
- 100 percent uptime with virtually no management time required to date
- Three major new applications deployed and growth accommodated without adding IT staff
- Three times more IT staff hours available for new projects vs. maintenance
The Business Challenge:
A manufacturer based in the northeastern U.S. employs hundreds worldwide with locations in Europe and Asia. Like nearly every company, it wanted to speed up its ability to deliver new IT services, yet increase IT cost-efficiency.
“As technology continues to accelerate and the lifecycle in our category continues to get shorter, we have continued to make major investments in our manufacturing operations to provide even greater capability,” says the customer’s IT manager. “To maximize our efficiency and control of these operations, we have also made major investments in our ERP, manufacturing and CRM applications. To get agility and cost efficiency, we wanted full virtualization on a platform that could grow with us for many years to come.”
The team evaluated solutions from HP, Dell, Cisco, and IBM. “We called the vendors directly,” the IT manager says, “and IBM recommended Mainline, an IBM Premier Business Partner.”
Mainline in turn recommended IBM PureFlex, which combines compute, storage, networking, virtualization and management into a single infrastructure system. “I don’t want to swell the heads of our Mainline team, but they were phenomenal,” says the IT manager. “There were just three of them, and they were responsive, specific, and told us just the right details that we needed to hear.”
In contrast, some other vendors directed the customer’s IT team to contact experts within their companies on different topics. “I was talking with 5 to 15 people at a time trying to get something resolved. I’d get conflicting stories and the feeling that one person didn’t know what the other was doing,” the IT manager explains. “In Mainline’s case, I had just one point of contact during the evaluation phase.”
The customer also wanted to have a single phone number for technical support. “IBM was one of the few vendors that offered compute, storage, and networking integrated in one system that was VMware-aware, and the solution came with one phone number for support,” the IT manager says. The Mainline solution got the green light.
The single biggest “aha” point was designing the master data object model, says Kurtz. “The Mainline architect laid out a model that brought together disparate data sets and linked or fused them in a way that allowed our application to work,” he explains.
ConneX is powered by IBM PureData for Analytics, an appliance that simplifies and optimizes services for analytic applications. Mainline provided the appliance, along with QuickStart Services, which includes onsite education and knowledge transfer to help the IT team speed time to value.
Time was tight!
There was another challenge: changes in the customer’s industry meant it had just a six-month window for doing everything from gathering requirements to going live.
“We were simultaneously working on deploying the CRM, MES, and ERP applications, so we wanted the infrastructure up rapidly,” the IT manager explains.
Up in two days
To speed deployment, Mainline recommended its Integration and Testing Services. That meant that a Mainline partner, Arrow Electronics, integrated the IBM PureFlex System, IBM Storwize V7000 and IBM UPS into a rack and conducted extensive testing before the solution was sent to the customer.
When the solution arrived at the customer site, Mainline technicians came on site with it as part of Mainline’s VMware Virtualization QuickStart service. “Just two days after we powered on, we were already migrating servers onto the new system,” says a senior network engineer at the customer. The Mainline technicians drew on deep VMware experience to configure and optimize the VMware 5.1 platform, and conducted demonstrations to transfer knowledge to the company’s IT team.
Tripling capacity to add value
The team can concentrate on new projects instead. “We can turn on servers in hours instead of days,” says the IT manager. “I deployed a Camstar training environment in an hour or two that would have taken days or weeks in the old environment. And we implemented a new SharePoint environment in less than two months.” Collaboration and communication has been enhanced across virtually every department, he notes.
“We’ve also been able to install our ERP, MES, and CRM applications and new infrastructure on schedule—all with no increase in IT headcount,” the IT manager adds. “Mainline’s IBM PureFlex solution has enabled us to change the ratio of IT time we spend on maintenance compared to new projects from 75/25 to 20/80.”
As a result, the IT staff has three times more hours for adding value instead of just keeping systems running. “We can say yes to requests that we used to have to push back on,” the engineer says. Notes the IT manager: “We’re making our internal customers happy by enhancing processes and saving them time that they used to spend doing redundant or remedial tasks. This will eventually translate into shorter time to market for our products.”
Maintenance? “It just runs”
“The IBM PureFlex system takes whatever we throw at it,” says the senior network engineer. “It’s rock solid and does everything that we need it to do.” IBM Flex System Manager software integrates with VMware vCenter to provide full, built-in virtualization support of servers, storage, and networking. The system automates many tasks and optimizes itself.
“As a techie, I like to get into a system with a wrench every now and then and make sure everything works,” the engineer notes. “But I haven’t had to do that. I haven’t been forced to get under the hood yet. We’ve had to put zero hours into managing the solution.”
Another benefit was unplanned: the PureFlex system looks striking in the rack. “When prospective customers walk through our facility on a tour, and the sales team brings them to the data center, they see the IBM PureFlex system and get an added sense of security that we know what we’re doing and will be around,” the engineer says. “We’ve built for the future.”
The future includes plans for new disaster recovery capabilities. “One reason why we went to a virtualized environment is to enable us to replicate virtualized servers and data to our second data center, making it a disaster recovery center,” the IT manager says. “We are working with Mainline right now on planning this. It’s the next big project on our plate.”
The end result is that the customer has a platform that makes it much easier, faster, and less-costly to adapt quickly to changing requirements.