To avoid having to buy expensive proprietary hardware for its UNIX-based merchandising and data warehouse systems, The Dairy Farm Company Ltd. decided to migrate its applications and databases to SUSE? Linux Enterprise Server on low-cost Intel-based hardware. The solution has generated significant cost savings and performance improvements.
Dairy Farm is a leading pan-Asian retailer, operating 3,875 outlets - including supermarkets, hypermarkets, health and beauty stores, convenience stores, home furnishings stores and restaurants. The company employs over 68,000 people in the region, and achieved total sales of US$6 billion in 2006. In Hong Kong, the company operates as The Dairy Farm Company Ltd.
Operating in the fast-moving consumer goods marketplace, The Dairy Farm Company Ltd. needs to exert constant pressure on operational costs, in order to keep prices low while preserving profit margins. The IT department plays a crucial part in this strategy, delivering the best possible service while continually reducing hardware, software and services costs.
"We realised that we could make significant savings by rethinking our UNIX strategy," said Colin Rice, IT Director at The Dairy Farm Company Ltd. "We used to buy proprietary variants of UNIX that were tied to the vendor's own hardware, which meant that we were largely 'locked in' to that vendor. And if we decided to change vendors, porting our applications would require work."
The proprietary UNIX* servers were shipped with the vendor's own microprocessors, preventing The Dairy Farm Company from taking advantage of the lower-cost x86 processors available from Intel* and AMD*.
"Once you move to Linux and commodity hardware, there is no lock-in to a specific brand of servers, and the intense competition between commodity hardware vendors means lower maintenance and support costs. Migrating to SUSE Linux Enterprise has helped us reduce our ongoing hardware costs by 70 percent."
The Dairy Farm Company Ltd.
The Dairy Farm Company decided to adopt an open source strategy and migrate the Oracle* databases used by its data warehouse and merchandising systems from UNIX to Linux*. This would enable the company to take advantage of commodity Intel x86-based servers, significantly reducing the costs of hardware acquisition and ongoing maintenance.
"Migrating from UNIX to Linux was a no-brainer," said Rice. "Our Oracle databases and scripts, for example, needed little modification. We researched the various alternatives, including TurboLinux*, Red Hat*, and SUSE Linux Enterprise, and then built pilot systems to test our databases and applications."
The company worked with IBM and Novell? Hong Kong to handle the deployment of the new IBM* System x* hardware.
"Novell was able to demonstrate that SUSE Linux Enterprise offers full interoperability with our chosen IBM System x servers," said Rice. "Moreover, Novell engineers were locally available in Hong Kong to assist The Dairy Farm Company with the project, so we were confident that Novell would be able to provide the right level of support when we went ahead with the full rollout. If we had selected a Linux distribution other than SUSE Linux Enterprise from Novell, we are certain that the support would have been weaker."
Following the success of the pilot, the company decided to move forward with the migration to SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. The Dairy Farm Company's IT environment is large and complex, with thousands of programs to port and test, but even so, the project was completed within two years - on time and on budget.
The company has also adopted SUSE Linux Enterprise for its store systems - creating synergy across these elements of the IT infrastructure.
"We were confident that Novell would be able to provide the right level of support when we went ahead with the full rollout. If we had selected a Linux distribution other than SUSE Linux Enterprise from Novell, we are certain that the support would have been weaker."
The Dairy Farm Company Ltd.
"Having a single operating system for both servers and store systems across the enterprise is a major advantage for our IT staff," said Rice. "It is much easier for them to support users and apply updates, and the same technical and security standards can be applied to all systems - saving a great deal of time and effort."
The Dairy Farm Company has also noticed significant improvements in performance thanks to the combination of SUSE Linux Enterprise and IBM System x servers. The Oracle databases and applications run up to 475 percent faster than they did on the old proprietary UNIX servers. As a result, the company provides a high level of service to end users while keeping both the number of servers and the cost per server to a minimum.
"Proprietary hardware isn't just expensive to buy - it is even more expensive to maintain," said Rice. "Once you move to Linux and commodity hardware, there is no lock-in to a specific brand of servers, and the intense competition between commodity hardware vendors means lower maintenance and support costs. Migrating to SUSE Linux Enterprise has helped us reduce our ongoing hardware costs by 70 percent."
Working with Novell and IBM has enabled The Dairy Farm Company to build a single-platform architecture for all systems, simplifying support and accelerating time-to-market for new projects.
"With a single operating system, we are more flexible and can respond faster to new functional requirements from the business," said Rice. "Migrating to SUSE Linux Enterprise has already delivered considerable benefits in terms of price/performance, and has given us a robust and scalable infrastructure for the future."