This case study explores the IT challenges faced by a large retail company that had been utilizing virtualized infrastructure based on Dell/VMware/clustered storage for the past 10 years. The infrastructure consisted of two-node clusters hosting various VMs, each serving specific purposes such as scales, pricing and promotions, pharmacy, and IT.
However, upgrading the existing infrastructure to handle new applications was proving to be challenging, and there was a need for a change.
- Upgrading their infrastructure has not been easy to do, which made it difficult to deploy new applications
- They didn't have live vMotion between the VMS, so they didn't have rolling updates or automatic failover when a node failed, and high availability was needed
- The whole stack had aged and the IT team was worried about failures
- Environment split between space in a local data center and on-premises system, resulting in higher than expected licensing costs
- High cost of training on vendor systems, amounting to $4,500 per IT professional per year
- Provisioning new resources was both a time-consuming and error-prone process, requiring them to use expensive third-party integrators
Top Business Benefits with Scale Computing Platform
- Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
- Easier to manage infrastructure and 50% savings in licensing year-over-year
- Reduced time spent managing infrastructure by more than 75%
- Compact form factor
- Full resiliency, automatic failover capability, ensuring uninterrupted operations in the event of server failures
- Scale Computing’s Zero-Touch Provisioning (ZTP) enabled the internal IT team to remotely configure clusters, reducing manual configuration errors and accelerating deployment
The Challenge - Retail Tech Stack was Long in the Tooth
Upgrading the large retailer's infrastructure was proving to be a challenging task, primarily due to the lack of live vMotion between VMs, resulting in the absence of rolling updates due to high licensing costs.
Furthermore, the existing infrastructure lacked automatic failover capabilities, leaving the company vulnerable to potential disruptions when a node failed. With the entire technology stack becoming outdated and showing signs of age, it became imperative for the company to explore alternative solutions to remain competitive in the market.
By leveraging edge-enabled, real-time video analytics, the large retailer expected to experience improved security measures and be able to make inventory decisions based on demand. According to experts in the retail industry, these advancements would result in a significant reduction in shrinkage, up to 20%. The analysis of data from handheld RFID devices and camera footage would provide actionable insights that generate alerts for staff members. These alerts would also highlight potential security vulnerabilities and identify items that require restocking or price markdowns.
And, recognizing the importance of engaging customers with personalized in-store experiences similar to those found online, with the use of in-store Bluetooth powered by edge servers, a mobile app on the shopper's device would trigger real-time offers based on their location within the store and their previous purchases. These interactions expect basket size increases ranging from 20 to 50%.
To support advanced applications like these, a digital-ready infrastructure is required. This infrastructure should be fast, secure, easily scalable, and specifically designed to accommodate emerging use cases driven by next-generation technology, all at a lower TCO.
Motivation for Exploring Scale Computing
The company decided to explore solutions like Scale Computing due to the difficulties encountered in upgrading its existing infrastructure. The absence of live vMotion between VMs and the aging nature of the entire technology stack prompted the need for a change. While considering their options, the company evaluated VxRail, an engineered solution with built-in storage clustering, but found it to be too large and expensive for their requirements. They even approached Dell to inquire about smaller turnkey solutions, but Dell could only offer non-engineered options.
The IT Director stated, “At the point of sale, processing millions of transactions, we find one of the most significant applications of edge computing. Throughout the journey from the store to the cloud, there exist numerous potential failure points, such as switches, routers, telecom circuits, and cloud providers. By leveraging edge computing, we ensure a robust and redundant system that allows us to process all transactions directly at the store.”
The company sought a solution that would provide automatic failover, maintenance ease, and an engineered approach, which led them to Scale Computing, ultimately finding it to be a more suitable fit for their requirements. The compact form factor and the ability to fulfill resource requirements within NUCs were identified as compelling aspects. Scale Computing's emphasis on full resiliency and failover capabilities also stood out as significant advantages.
Benefits of Scale Computing
The retailer immediately discovered it could achieve a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and increased operational efficiency with Scale Computing Platform by consolidating its hardware infrastructure, including servers, storage, and networking, into a single, integrated solution under a unified management interface. This consolidation eliminates the need for separate hardware and software components, reducing upfront capital expenses and ongoing operational costs associated with maintaining multiple systems.
Right-sized, edge-ready infrastructure combines compute, storage, virtualization, and disaster recovery into a single solution that eliminates the cost for each component individually. The unique architecture of the operating platform uses a fraction of the resources of alternatives. The retailer gained far more computing power and can run more applications with a single platform using significantly lower-cost hardware.
From initial deployment and routine system maintenance to capacity expansion and hardware replacement, this retailer was able to easily automate and remotely execute administrative tasks using Scale Computing Fleet Manager.
Scale Computing’s Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) feature of SC//Fleet Manager allows the retailer’s IT team to remotely provision and administer clusters and has also greatly improved their operational efficiency.
Before ZTP, we would have to provision our clusters manually and had to outsource this process to one of our integration partners, which was not only time-consuming and expensive but was also more likely to result in misconfiguration errors and delayed the deployment of key revenue-producing applications.
An additional factor that attracted the company to Scale Computing was the automatic failover capability, ensuring uninterrupted operations in the event of server failures. Maintenance became easier with Scale Computing, eliminating the need for manual interventions during failover scenarios. The self-monitoring, self-healing system monitors, detects, and corrects problems in real time without needing to send its already limited IT staff to the store. The ease of use also meant that the infrastructure could be run by others in case of emergency without training. It's so easy to use.
Many in-store applications and workloads must be run on-premises, and the retailer was concerned about internet outages and the need for continuous operations. Cloud solutions were briefly considered but did not align with their requirement for reliable on-site performance.
"Scale Computing Platform enables us to swiftly develop, validate, and deploy applications, all accomplished within a single day. I have the capability to remotely monitor and manage the majority of our extensive device network, which exceeds 90,000 devices."
Simplification was a final factor in the decision-making process. The company reported that setting up their old environment could take several days, whereas the new Scale Computing cluster only required approximately an hour. This significant reduction in deployment time and the overall efficiency of the Scale Computing solution made it the preferred choice over other options.
Scale Computing provided better cost efficiency, particularly with the option of a five-year support plan compared to Dell's three-year offering.
By adopting Scale Computing Platform, this large retail company overcame the challenges associated with upgrading its existing virtualized infrastructure. Scale Computing provided simplified deployment, automatic failover, and full resiliency, all within a compact form factor. The company valued Scale Computing's turnkey approach, cost efficiency, and ease of maintenance compared to its previous solution. With the implementation of Scale Computing, the company aims to roll out the solution to 125 stores over the next year, expanding its footprint while achieving synergy with other company banners.