SPAR is the world's biggest international retail food chain, with 19,000 stores in 35 countries. In the UK alone, SPAR records an astonishing 12 million transactions a week throughout its 2,800 stores with annual sales last year topping £2.7 billion.
Much of SPAR’s success comes from running their stores as franchises, allowing store owners to be agile and efficient and to adapt to local needs, tastes and opportunities. To do this well not only requires an agile and efficient distribution operation, but also a serious technology backbone. Appleby Westward is the SPAR Retail Distribution Centre for the West Country and hundreds of stores from Portsmouth in the East, Falmouth in the West and Bristol and Bath in the North rely on their support day in day out. Most of the stores not only use them for distribution of goods, but also for vital technology processes like order & stock control transmissions, EPOS support and even staff payroll.
Appleby Westward, however, prides itself in being more than simply a logistics company, and takes a very active role in helping retailers increase sales and profitability. As part of the strategy of working in partnership with retailers, the company also helps with store modernisation and have ploughed £10 million into store development over the past five years to help grow retailers’ businesses and maintain SPAR’s position as the leading convenience brand in the South West. When any organisation updates its servers it is always a serious task, but when Appleby Westward’s IT team approached their server virtualisation project, they were effectively doing it for hundreds of their stores too, which meant that it had to be approached with an extra level of care and precision.
Appleby Westward needed to upgrade its aging server infrastructure and so seized the chance to reduce their overheads – both in power and air-conditioning use as well as in hardware costs – by virtualising their servers. In the past, most servers would handle one single process or task each, and would frequently sit idle while others struggled with a heavy workload. A company the size of Appleby Westward needed dozens of servers to handle the company’s information, data and communications, many of which would only be used for short bursts.
Virtualisation is simply the process of harnessing one machine’s latent capacity to run several different processes simultaneously. Virtualisation software partitions a server to divide it into several ‘virtual’ machines, all capable of running multiple tasks. It also gives a high degree of protection allowing a handful of modern servers to safely replace large banks of expensive and inefficient machines.
If one machine should fail the built-in redundancy just switches to another without interruption. Novatech successfully replaced the firm’s 15 physical servers to 3 Intel based Dual Xeon, Dual SSD Novatech machines and migrated one server onto their VM. At a stroke this not only reduced the servers by 2/3 rds, but also substantially reduced the associated annual running and maintenance costs by a similar margin. At the same time Novatech also configured and setup the EMC SAN as a storage solution.
Jamie Wilson, Novatech’s IT Director, explained that the success of the project was largely down to the collaborative approach between supplier and customer. “We always prefer to do as much of the project work directly with the client’s own IT team, so they can see first-hand what is being done. They know their systems inside out so it is in everyone’s best interests do the hardware installation and migration with them, side by side. It minimises the likelihood of future problems and means that we leave them in full control of their new infrastructure.”
Working with Novatech. “As this was Appleby Westward’s first introduction to the world of virtualisation it was reassuring to have Novatech by our side, to guide us through the process and ensure that our project goals were not only met but in some cases exceeded. Their focussed and thorough approach meant that the project ran exactly to schedule and by ensuring we were fully involved throughout we then had the confidence and knowledge to take full management of the infrastructure once the implementation was complete.”
"As this was Appleby Westward’s first introduction to the world of virtualisation it was reassuring to have Novatech by our side, to guide us through the process and ensure that our project goals were not only met but in some cases exceeded."