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Senwes migrates to Linux

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When Senwes, one of the largest grain handling companies in the southern hemisphere, decided to upgrade its main data centre and disaster recovery site, it was looking for flexibility.
The company required a flexible and scalable solution that would allow it to easily extend its IT service offering to new business units that were in the process of being integrated into Senwes as part of an expansion drive.

“With a rapidly growing base of users to serve,” says Martin van Zyl, IT manager at Senwes. “We needed a flexible and scalable solution that would enable us to deliver improved service levels, all while reducing our overall expenditure – both capital and ongoing.”

A tall order by anyone’s standards, the team at LSD Information Technology had no problem meeting – and exceeding – Senwes’ requirements.

On hand with a Linux solution that significantly reduced Senwes’ reliance on enterprise products and their often-hefty price tags, LSD provided the answer to Senwes’ challenges.

Flexible and scalable
A soaring US Dollar and equally steep IT capital and maintenance costs had left van Zyl and Server Engineer, Alexander Steyn, nervous about how they were going to manage the budget for this particular rollout – never mind how they’d accommodate the growing influx of users being integrated into the network on an ongoing basis.

“LSD has an energetic and innovative approach to the way they do business – each member of the team seems personally committed to providing a solution that really meets your specific business needs.”
“In our game you can’t afford delays,” says Van Zyl.

“Senwes operates a mission critical environment that handles in the region of 2,5-million tons of grain and oil seeds at any given time.

“Any unnecessary delay in the process – even if it is just a server glitch – could see truckloads of seed and grains lost to the competition, simply because of poor customer service and delays.”

With this in mind, the team at LSD not only had to meet a tight deadline, but also had to ensure that the rollout did not hinder or delay Senwes’ day-to-day operations in any way.
In fact, by the time the project plan was agreed upon, it was determined that the window for migration was limited to one weekend, including troubleshooting.

Mission impossible
With mere weeks to design a cost-effective new solution and only 48 hours to roll the project out, the LSD team was quick to jump into action.

Says Steyn, “Working with LSD was a breath of fresh air – the team was always available to answer our questions and seemed eager to help us, with no query being too big or too small.”
He adds that the whole transition process went off like a dream too.

“The overall change management of the system was almost instantaneous, and the vast majority of our users are still completely unaware that any system change has taken place.”
In fact, Van Zyl explains, the whole solution was up and running even quicker than they’d expected it to be.

“We got to Sunday afternoon and everything was working perfectly – no hassles, no problems and no glitches. Our project lowlight was that there were no problems, no excitement.”
Decreased cost and increased performance

With a flawless rollout under their belts, the team at LSD let the new system show its stuff.

Van Zyl explains that, to date, the IT department has seen performance improvements averaging 47% for dialog response times, 42% for background tasks and 43 % for all tasks. This is based on the averages for the six months prior to the migration and the six months after the migration.

These performance increases were seen alongside cost savings in the region of R1,5-million per annum.

“In terms of day-to-day operations we’ve seen fantastic results too,” Steyn says.

Overall, he explains, the time to deploy new machines is down to a third, and now physical maintenance on a machine no longer means downtime. What’s more, the department is easily able to provision new machines and servers when and how it suits them, without causing downtime or delays.

And the skills transfer was a piece of cake too – Steyn is confidently able to apply the knowledge he gained from the LSD team, even though a large majority of the training took place by means of conference calls and Skype.

When probed about project highlights, both men have plenty to say, and both are very clear that the performance improvements they’ve seen over the last few months are testament to the great work the team at LSD have done.

“LSD’s energetic and innovative approach to the way they do business is invigorating; each member of the team seems personally committed to providing a solution that really meets your specific business needs,” Van Zyl concludes.