Axminster Tool Centre
Distributing, retailing and warehousing over 14,000 active products naturally creates a lot of related information which it’s vital to manage effectively for a smooth-running operation.Axminster Tool Centre distributes and retails a wide selection of tools and machinery worldwide, with its IT department regularly bringing new applications online to cope with the associated data. Until recently, each innovation would typically require the deployment of a new server, which over time had led to an over-crowded data centre that was delivering diminishing returns. “We were experiencing serious performance issues, which were costing us a lot in terms of wasted time,” says Damion Norcombe, Axminster’s ICT Manager. “It was even getting to the point where customers were suffering, with orders taking a long time from placement to fulﬁlment.”
The heart of the problem was the large and expanding number of servers: “Not only were they underperforming, but the majority were also underutilised and starting to age,” says Norcombe.
A new approachBy late 2007, it was clear a total rethink was needed. “We talked to IBM Premier Business Partner APSU, who were able to provide the consultancy we were after as well as the products,” says Norcombe. “The team ﬂoated the idea of virtualising all our server needs, which is not something I’d considered.
APSU Client Manager Ben Spode invited Axminster into APSU to demonstrate a VMware virtualisation solution “to prove the business beneﬁ ts of better management, improved resilience and more efﬁ cient use of power”. Although Norcombe admits to being sceptical, he soon saw what virtualisation could deliver.
The resulting solution has VMware virtualisation software running on two IBM System x3850 M2 servers, with a Fibre Channel storage area network (SAN) for redundancy and resilience based on an IBM DS4700 array.
Adding value “APSU understood that we couldn’t just take down the old system during the working day. Their ability to work with us on minimising disruption was greatly appreciated.” “Working with APSU has really added value to our business. They have worked with us to evolve our business and improve our processes. It’s improved our work/ life balance as we used to spend a lot of time out of hours installing updates. Now we can deploy the latest technology during business hours which takes minutes says Norcombe”.
Time and money“Although it’s early days, I can already see where we’ll be saving money,” says Norcombe. “We’re currently running Sage Line 100 software, with plans to move to Sage Line 200. We can cope easily with new projects like this now, as we no longer need to deploy yet another new server. We just need to go and buy the software. New applications take minutes not weeks to implement.”
Audits and assessments have also become easier, as well as general housekeeping, like upgrades and patches. “The management burden is naturally lower, too,” says Norcombe.
"Although it’s early days, I can already see where we’ll be saving money." Damion Norcombe, ICT Manager
Prioritised dataThe new setup allows for the tiering of stored data, helping to maximise Axminster’s investment and lower the cost of ownership of its IT. There is now ‘gold level’ data, stored for easy retrieval, a ‘silver level’ one step below that, and a ‘bronze level’ offering low-cost storage for archiving.
“Not only have we hugely reduced the space needed for servers, but we have tons of capacity for future needs,” says Norcombe. “We’ve got so many plans now for what we can do for the business.”
“The whole implementation was achieved with a minimum of downtime,” he continues. “When it came to training, we found we didn’t need a great deal as we’d learned so much as we went along.”
Norcombe is also delighted that his department’s environmental footprint had been greatly reduced. “Energy consumption is right down, with fewer servers and power saved on cooling systems, so we’re a lot greener, and that’s important these days,” he says.
About APSUAPSU is a leading IBM Premier Business Partner, a HP Preferred Partner, a Cisco Premier Partner, and a Microsoft Gold Certiﬁed Partner.
At APSU we strive to maintain long term partnerships with our clients, and the continuing relationships that we have with clients such as HMV Group, Arcadia and Admiral Insurance is testament to the high quality of service we provide.
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Working with us will ensure that your IT systems are effective in helping you create and maintain a competitive edge.
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