Case study Manufacturing

Elddis ups a gear with flash performance injection

New solution significantly boosts 3D CAD, ERP and Notes email systems within the VMware environment and sharply drops the number of IT support calls

Part of Explorer Group Ltd, Elddis Caravans & Motorhomes are based in Consett, Co Durham and are the UK’s leading manufacturer of contemporary caravans and motorhomes. Being the country’s established touring brand is achieved through the delivery of an intelligent and safe design process combined with stylishly engineered models – each of which involves detailed planning and hundreds of components delivered into the manufacturing chain in order to create the ultimate home-from-home experience.

To create new models for the fleet, the Elddis design team rely on 3D CAD precision planning applications to include contemporary features and maximise space and functionality. Once designed, Elddis rely on their internal ERP and in-house stocking applications to ensure components are available for production line assembly.

CAD Design is extremely intensive and I/O hungry, and the existing Elddis virtual infrastructure was struggling to deliver the necessary data throughput following CAD application upgrades and user count increases. The reliability of the platform, and relative simplicity of deploying new servers had led to virtual machine and application sprawl into surplus capacity beyond that originally factored into planning and sizing. On the ERP side, Epicor ® Unidata was also struggling to deliver timely access to information for dynamic procurement and supply. The combined resource demands of all critical business applications was negatively impacting productivity, and internal support calls were increasing as IT staff grappled with performance spikes and unhappy users.

Solution

We worked hand in hand with Elddis to re-engineer their existing on-premise environment for a performance boost. The existing DataCore SANsymphony-V iSCSI shared storage implementation, using a Highly Available mirrored configuration over Ethernet between the IT Office and the main Consett Head Office was to be upgraded with a new very high performance tier of flash storage, and the existing VMware hosts scaled up with additional RAM.

The flash tier would fix storage performance issues by eliminating competition for traditional spinning disk resources across all Tier 1 applications, and the host upgrade would eradicate memory over-commitment to provide breathing space for Windows Server 2012 R2 upgrades and deployment of new business applications.

We merged original storage silos into single pool, and prioritised Elddis’ ‘hot’ working set data using SANsymphony-V Auto Storage Tiering to deliver an altogether more responsive, agile IT environment. The addition of an affordable and easy to install Micron P420m PCI-e flash card in the two DataCore nodes also meant ultra-low latency access for critical data, and further boosted and future proofed the environment into the next decade of growth.

Value

Darren Nesbitt is the IT Controller for The Explorer Group, who noted some practical examples of efficiency gains through the optimisation project.

“Planned rebuilds of the internal stock and error identification systems used to take up to 4 hours. This now takes 17 minutes. And with email and other applications, we have noticed a vast speed increase - users who had become used to the blue circle while views rebuilt can now switch through screens instantly. And the facility to accelerate application data access with flash has allowed our CAD department to be given greater access speeds for designing in 3D.”

Customer Services, once reliant on mediocre performance when ascertaining updates on orders, can now advise with confidence and speed to customers and dealers alike. And internally, the IT Support desk has observed a notable reduction in user support calls to troubleshoot application performance.

Performance problems on this existing VMware ESX virtualised environment were threatening business productivity and efficiency. We needed a quick-fix to reduce the risk of relying on infrastructure which was approaching capacity limits and had exceeded performance thresholds. And we had to maintain total availability across all Elddis systems, from production planning, scheduling, inventory control and quality management to supply chain management and distribution
Simon Birbeck Executive Infrastructure Consultant