An essential link in the UK’s fresh food supply chain, Fresca Group (FG) is a network of companies involved in the growing, importing, packaging and wholesale distribution of fruit, vegetables and salad. It serves every major UK retailer, as well as a range of other food-centred businesses such as hotels, restaurants and food service companies.
With locations across the UK, and strategic alliances with leading global food exporters, FG provides innovative logistics and customs clearance solutions to the UK food sector and takes a flexible approach to fulfilling its customers’ specific business needs. It employs around 1250 people, across 5 companies and achieves combined sales of £414 million annually. FG invests heavily in innovative technologies to deliver high levels of logistical and customer support to its growing customer base.
- UK’s largest distributor of homegrown and imported fruit, vegetables and salad
- 1250 employees, across 5 companies
- Annual combined sales of £414m
With technology playing such a vital role across all of FG’s operations, maintaining an up-to-date and high-performing IT infrastructure is critical to its continued success. “Like most large enterprises, we work on a five-year cycle for IT equipment, and we needed to implement a major refresh,” said Warwick Botwright, Fresh Produce Centre IT Manager. “Initially, we explored a likefor-like upgrade, but we were also keen to understand how we could consolidate our datacentre estate to improve efficiency, reduce ongoing costs and simplify IT infrastructure management.
“Our first thought was to migrate to a public cloud solution like Microsoft Azure, yet when we examined the implications of such a strategy, a number of issues became evident. Simply replicating the existing on-premise system would have been problematic. Integration with our existing set up would have been complex, delivered sub-optimal performance and potentially created legacy SAP application issues. It would also have made it difficult to provide budgetary certainty for the immediate future.
“Such an approach could lead to increased ongoing costs associated with over-provisioning virtual machines, ensuring geographical resilience and subscribing to a premium tier storage plan. For financial stakeholders within the business that were seeking cost guarantees, the numbers just didn’t add up. We have a productive relationship with Softcat, so we got in touch to explore alternative solutions that would provide FG with both operational and financial benefits.”
Critical success factors
- Identify replacement technologies for business-critical end-of-life IT infrastructure
- Consolidate existing datacentre provision and enhance overall system performance
- Ensure effective ongoing cost control
Softcat has extensive experience and an unparalleled depth of knowledge in the IT infrastructure field. It has been helping similar clients within the sector access highly functional, added value IT infrastructure solutions for years. Recognising the issues around migrating to a public cloud provision, it proposed an alternative onpremise solution leveraging a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) coupled with a resilient and high performing Nutanix Cloud Platform.
“The recommendation to employ a Nutanix solution represented a real turning point,” said Warwick. “Softcat was able to demonstrate that, from an operational viewpoint, there was little difference between a public cloud offering and Nutanix’s private cloud hosted on-premise. Just as importantly, however, it would provide the cost certainty stakeholders within the business were demanding.”
From the beginning of the engagement, Softcat worked closely with FG’s CIO and built personal relationships with key IT managers across the business. It ensured any concerns from within the business would be heard and enabled Softcat to demonstrate how such issues could be overcome. Extensive consultation took place to illustrate how the HCI concept has been used in similar firms to help strengthen the business case and Softcat offered accountability for the selection, design and implementation of the full solution.
Softcat also highlighted how the Nutanix solution would enable FG to consolidate its data-centre provision. From a finance perspective, Softcat worked alongside FG to accurately assess various consumption models and provide budgetary certainty. Third-party technology providers were also included to help ensure that legacy applications and essential backup functions would integrate seamlessly with the Nutanix solution. And to minimise any disruption to business-as-usual activities, Softcat proposed implementing the solution over a two-month period.
- Extensive consultation with inhouse IT managers to help build a robust business case
- Design, implementation and solution project management with minimal disruption to BAU activities
- Solution elements: Nutanix Cloud Platform, Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor, Prism management plane, Arcserve backup and disaster recovery
FG now has in place an agile, scalable and easy to manage IT infrastructure that removes the financial uncertainty associated with public cloud solutions. Softcat worked hard to realise added value across the engagement and offered flexible financing options to ensure a reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) for the life of the agreement. It helped FG assess a variety of consumption models, separating hardware from software and rationalising licence subscriptions that delivered both Capex and Opex financing opportunities.
Choosing a Nutanix solution ensured FG can retain and enhance the performance of its existing mission-critical technologies. The Nutanix architecture integrates seamlessly with FG’s Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor installation and provides the flexibility to deploy future workloads under HyperV, Nutanix AHV or VMware hypervisors at no added cost.
Keen to minimise any disruption, a plan was devised to stage the migration over two months. “Given the complexity of the existing infrastructure, we were concerned that even minor service interruptions could have serious implications across the business as a whole,” said Warwick. “But - and I can’t stress this enough - thanks to the expertise and professionalism of both the Softcat and Nutanix specialists involved in the project there was no disruption whatsoever. Apart from the obvious performance improvements, the business itself was unaware that a significant migration had taken place.”
The project enabled FG to consolidate five datacentres into just two. Softcat carried out extensive groundwork to enable the in-house team to successfully complete the critical workload migration, as well as assisting with the set-up of new Arcserve appliances to deliver enhanced backup and disaster recovery capabilities.
In total, 42 physical servers were migrated to just two Nutanix clusters. This enabled more than 30 TB of data, with 120 virtual workloads, to be rationalised down to just 90 as part of the process. It not only freed up rack space but enabled FG to create a much simpler infrastructure delivering enhanced performance thanks to faster processors and all-flash storage. Backup times have been cut in half and application performance across the board is now quicker and more responsive.
“Nutanix is a win-win solution,” according to Warwick. “It’s given us the technical benefits we were expecting from the public cloud – on-demand scalability, agility and simplified infrastructure management – but with none of the budgetary uncertainties associated with a wholesale migration to a thirdparty provider. With Nutanix, new workloads can be brought online rapidly and fine-tuned within minutes in response to increasing demand. It also makes troubleshooting much easier and more efficient. The IT team can now concentrate on developing innovative ways to leverage the new infrastructure, for example, automating manual processes and deploying new applications, rather than spending valuable time carrying out simple maintenance tasks.”
“Thanks to the expertise and professionalism of both the Softcat and Nutanix specialists involved in the project there was no disruption whatsoever” - Warwick Botwright, Fresh Produce Centre IT Manager
Benefits at a glance
- On-premise agile, scalable and easy-to-manage IT infrastructure
- Migration to new infrastructure achieved with minimal disruption to BAU activities
- Consolidated datacentre provision and enhanced infrastructure performance
- Reduced TCO
Why Softcat & Nutanix?
“Softcat came to the project offering solutions, information and a range of options,” said Warwick. “There was no hard sell, no hidden costs and no changing promises - something we’d experienced in the past with other providers. Throughout the engagement, Softcat was professional, honest and refreshing to work with. We immediately felt we could trust Softcat, and our experience has borne this out. The solution represents a massive success for our business and was achieved with absolutely minimal disruption to our core activities.”