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How the Right Cloud Offering Saved this Food Distributor a Bundle
Faced with an end-of-life server and storage solution, this company avoided a $100k refresh investment by finding a cloud platform that supports its MultiValue database needs.
A successful California-based regional food distributor and restaurant supplier has a supply network spanning 17 states, with distribution centers in Temecula, Stockton, Fresno, Denver, and Dallas. The company has over 300 employees and has been in business since 1977.
“We’re a 24×7 operation, and our IT has to be able to keep up,” says the company’s IT director. “Our mission as a company is to develop solutions that exceed customers’ expectations, and IT plays a pivotal role in our ability to deliver on that mission.”
The distributor’s customers provide a high level of service to their vendors, and they depend on the food distributor to do the same. “Our ability to print labels and ship orders on time relies heavily on the availability of our technology and our data,” he says.
The company’s ERP runs everything from inventory control and warehouse management to finance and purchasing. From the moment a pick release is received from a customer to when the payloads within that release are translated into an order, the ERP system manages the whole process—often running several orders simultaneously. And with the web service tools at its disposal, the company can generate and receive orders in a variety of formats that seamlessly integrate with its customers’ business systems.
A Legacy System Reaches Its End of Life
The distributor’s server, storage and other IT infrastructure was long overdue for an upgrade, and the signs were evident. “The equipment was almost 10 years old and components were failing all the time,” recalls the IT director. “Each morning I wondered whether I was going to come in to work and find our server dead on arrival,” he adds.
The IT director and his coworkers knew they had to do something different because daily server maintenance was consuming most of their hours. “After pricing a new server and storage appliance, I was shocked at the cost. Just to get a single IBM Power Series 7 server with adequate storage was $100,000—not including installation services,” he says.
Initial Cloud Offerings Not A Fit
While some companies can save money by moving their IT infrastructure to the cloud, that option didn’t seem to be a fit for the distributor’s business model. “We met with a number of different cloud providers to design a virtual environment in a colocation center, but each offering was cost-prohibitive, and I didn’t feel any of the providers understood our business needs,” recalls the IT director. His suspicions were further confirmed after he explained that his company’s ERP system utilized a MultiValue database and the cloud provider couldn’t support their environment.
The MultiValue database is a system that incorporates the features of multi-dimensional and NoSQL databases to store information. Like the relational database model, MultiValue databases store data in tables. However, MultiValue databases use a less rigid schema than a relational database, and with MultiValue databases a single field can have a list of values. This means that one table cell (i.e., a field) can have several values unlike relational databases where each cell can have only one value.
“Some of the key benefits of MultiValue databases is that they consume less disk space, memory, and processing time than relational databases,” says the IT director. “Also, MultiValue applications can handle complex data structures, and they make it easier for desktop applications (and their components) to work together, which is exactly why we use it for our ERP system.”
At one point, the IT director was close to signing a contract with a colocation provider. “They would provide the space, HVAC services and wide area network connectivity, but I would have had to pay for and provide my own equipment,” he says. “On top of that, they weren’t forthright in sharing information, including what their redundant systems were like or what my bandwidth charges would be for data. That level of service was just inadequate for our business needs.”
Finally, A MultiValue Cloud Solution Emerges
While attending an IT trade show a few years ago, the company was introduced to cloud services provider NexusTek, which offers innovative software solutions that enable customers to preserve decades of investment in custom applications, including MultiValue databases, while embracing modern features associated with cloud computing.
“Unlike public cloud offerings, which often have limited application support, we can do backup and monitoring at the database level,” says John Bramley, director, MultiValue Practice at NexusTek. “Plus, we can support on-premise applications and infrastructure, or we can move some or all IT resources to an Azure environment. Another differentiator with a MultiValue platform is that it contains both the database and development environment. It’s much more efficient than running SQL and connecting to an external database. And the data in a MultiValue environment can be accessed easily across different interfaces via a RESTful API.”
After learning that NexusTek’s cloud platform was optimized for high-performance business applications, accounting systems and legacy ERP applications, and that it was more economical than buying and managing new equipment on-premise, the IT director was sold.
The Right Cloud Solution = Cost Savings and Better Availability
Today, the distributor’s ERP system and web services run in the NexusTek Cloud. Not only are daily system restarts and repairs a thing of the past, but the new solution offers significantly improved throughput and performance. “I love the pay-per-use model because we only pay for the storage we’re using, our spot in the data center, and a monthly support cost which is far less than the $100K server refresh cost we considered previously,” says the IT director.
In addition to the labor savings and cost savings of the NexusTek solution, improved availability is a significant bonus. “We have customers who can’t tolerate us being offline for more than four minutes,” he says. “When our old infrastructure experienced an outage that caused us to be offline for an extended period of time, it seriously compromised our relationship with our customers and endangered our business.
“With NexusTek, we no longer have to worry about downtime, and we can give our customers the SLAs they need to trust us and grow their business with us.”