IT Weapons for Service Organizations

Each year, our sister publication Computer Dealer News hosts the Channel Elite Awards to recognize IT Solution Provider for their innovation, leadership, and commitment for creating value for their customers. As Canada’s leading IT channel publication, CDN invited solution providers to submit their best work to nine different categories for 2013’s awards. Here, we present the case studies these award nominees put forward to us. Find out who the big winners are on Sept. 11 when CDN presents them at the CEA Awards Gala.

Learn more about CDN’s Channel Elite Awards 2013

Nominee: IT Weapons from Brampton, Ontario

Describe the solution or service your provide.

John Brooks Company Limited was founded in 1938.

Today with over 200 employees and a diversied portfolio of Fluid Handling Equipment and Engineered Solutions – John Brooks is recognized as a leading distribution and solutions provider to Canadian Industry.

John Brooks’ head office is located in Mississauga with a western distribution facility in Edmonton and sales offices in Mississauga, Montreal and Edmonton. John Brooks has grown and adapted to keep pace with the needs of their increasing customer base with sales presence in every province. Divisions of John Brooks include the Spray Nozzle, Pump and Filtration Products Division, Dynablast Division and Uniquip Division.

IT Weapons Implemented a virtual infrastructure for their growing IT environment. This enabled the organization to completely transform IT operations, reduce their data centre footprint,and allowed them to transition quickly and cost-effectively to a flexible, scalable IT system that helped streamline their business and provided a turn-key disaster recovery plan.

We provided the following solutins:

Virtual Infrastructure

• HP DL380 Servers

• VMware vSphere

• Microsoft Windows Servers Storage and Backup

• Dell EqualLogic PS4000E iSCSI SAN

• Dell EqualLogic PS4000XV iSCSI SAN

• Symantec Backup Exec 2010 R3

• HP MSL2040 Tape Robot Library

• Liebert GXT3-10000RT208 Dual Conversion Online UPS

Heather Collis, General Manager for John Brooks Company Ltd., had this to say about our service:

“We are very pleased with the partnership with IT Weapons. The project implementation was on time and on budget which is extremely important. I do not like surprises and need to ensure my IT partner can internally manage project schedules effectively. The team at IT Weapons are experts in their fields, they know their stuff, we feel confident their solution will exceed our expectations, and as an added bonus – they are nice people.”

What made your service of the highest quality? Provide measurable evidence of how you benefitted the customer’s business.

When a Citrix performance issue emerged at John Brooks Company, their General Manager Heather Collis, began her search for Citrix support by turning to Google. Her search uncovered IT Weapons and she engaged with us immediately.

She was impressed with our promptness,professionalism and how our team expertly solved the issue at hand. This great first impression led to some high-level discussions about John Brooks Company’s IT struggles and an upcoming Request for Information (RFI) they were preparing to help address their big picture problems.

There was a long list of requirements: dated hardware requiring replacement, software issues, a weak disaster recovery plan, and future WAN and ERP projects. John Brooks Company issued an RFI looking for IT Network Optimization Partner Services.

“We needed to identify a partner and solution to assist in establishing the future IT network infrastructure and strategy to meet our immediate and long-term business needs,” Collis notes. “The solution had to address our need to minimize ongoing day-to-day internal IT management and provide suitable crossover for DR planning for mission critical functions.”

“We interviewed three providers and chose IT Weapons due to their diversity of solutions,expertise in innovative technology and overall feeling of strong integrity as their core values,” explains Collis. “They talked our talk and had a solid team to back them up. There was a good feeling that we had chosen a partner and not just a solution.”

The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for 18 two-CPU physical servers over a 5-year period is $278,200. The TCO of 3 virtual servers is only $55,400 over 5 years. In addition, this solution not only provided ongoing reduced capital costs but also reduced their energy costs by about 31,000 kWh per year.

This is equivalent to one month’s hydro at $7500, which means a savings of $37,500 over the life span of the servers (5 years). The total savings over the 5 years amount to over $260,000 in power, server hardware and software licensing costs. Not to mention that the footprint of the data centre room reduced significantly – leaving room for their systems to scale up as the company grows.

By leveraging the wide range of vSphere’s advanced features,John Brooks Company was able to increase efficiencies, automate resource management, and improve service levels and high availability across their organization’s information workers. vSphere High Availability (HA) guards against potential hardware and OS failures, and since virtual machines are encapsulated, their conguration and state information can easily be captured and migrated in case of a hardware failure or system stress.

Virtual disks are literally files that can be backed up and moved quickly for Disaster Recovery purposes. Also, VMware Update Manager helps them simplify data centre management by automating patches and updates for their equipment. And VMware Converter is an easy-to-use wizard-driven tool that centrally transforms physical machines to virtual machines as well as between virtual machine formats. With a virtual infrastructure designed and implemented by IT Weapons, John Brooks Company now has a centralized computing system with the capacity to grow smoothly and accommodate future server provisioning requests without having to purchase additional physical servers.

Virtualization for server containment provides a clear strategic benet because the provisioning cycle is dramatically reduced. Collis states, “A virtual infrastructure solution adheres to our key objective of upgrading our infrastructure environment to support the organizational strategic plan and individual department business objectives through the effective use of information technology, and provide the capacity to address future growth.”

Describe how services were delivered in a timely fashion, or how the response to a crisis was above and beyond the usual.

The IT Weapons Methodology is the key to our success and to securing long term client loyalty and trust.

IT Weapons’ first recommendation was to perform an Infrastructure Assessment (IA) on John Brooks Company’s existing computing and network environment, reviewing 6 major areas: Active Directory, messaging and collaboration,Citrix XenApp, storage/virtualization, network infrastructure and general infrastructure components. T

he purpose was to identify any issues that may be impacting performance or stability, and recommend best practices to increase the scalability, exibility, stability and security of the current environment.

IT Weapons recommended: 1) simplifying and consolidating the IT infrastructure, 2) rather than repairing existing legacy systems, building out a new data centre system in line with industry best practices.

In the end, John Brooks Company gained critical insight into their infrastructure that enabled them to make strategic and informed decisions about the future of their IT systems. Several areas were identied where John Brooks Company should invest heavily to maintain stability and support growth in the future. IT Weapons proposed a phased approach starting with Virtualization. This approach promised to deliver the most cost-effective results while minimizing the impact to the end users. Server virtualization was just the start for John Brooks Company.

They had several reasons for re-thinking their storage infrastructure. The IT Weapons Infrastructure Assessment uncovered a number of problems with their existing SAN. It consisted of 3 boxes of SAN Drives (along with 18 physical servers) and required 2 external air conditioners to be working 24/7. A couple years back, they were close to having a fire in the data centre room when one of their air conditioners failed over the weekend and the temperature reached over 50 degrees Celsius.

After this incident, a fan was added and the door to the data centre room was kept open, as a short-term solution. With a new SAN solution, they were able to avoid both the costs and safety issues associated with aging hardware. A pre-requisite to many of vSphere’s advanced features, including HA, is the implementation of shared storage. In conjunction with the 3 ESXi hosts, a Dell EqualLogic High Capacity PS4000E iSCSI SAN and a High Performance PS4000XV iSCSI SAN were implemented. The footprint and power consumption of the data centre room dramatically decreased. There is now one air conditioner that works partially throughout the day and the door remains closed. John Brooks Company also had issues with their tape drive for backups and archiving. It was old technology for data storage and was not reliable as a contemporary solution.

It took 72 hours to backup their existing network and data storage, which cut into their operating time by monopolizing server and network resources. After-hours jobs that span into the business day were causing network slow downs, CPU lagging, and adding tremendous administrative burden to their existing small IT team. To help eliminate their struggles with backup and archiving, IT Weapons implemented Symantec Backup Exec 2010 and an HP MSL2040 tape robot library for John Brooks Company. “When we deployed Symantec Backup Exec in production, it reduced our backup window by almost 20 hours a week,” explains Collis. “Our old disaster recovery strategy was extremely weak and basically non-existent. We would backup onto tapes with no solution to recover if the server was lost. We were uncertain if the backups would work to restore applications.

Now, we are able to complete full backups – before it was just partial – and we also have duplicate backup which we never had before. We feel a lot safer now.” LOOKING AHEAD Now that John Brooks Company addressed their server infrastructure needs, the next phase is to upgrade their critical applications, namely their ERP, Citrix for desktop and app virtualization, Exchange for email, and refresh their CRM. John Brook Company sat down with IT Weapons to strategize a 12 to 24-month plan.

“I believe staging the plan is critical,” explains Collis. “And it will be easier to justify a long-term solution than a quick x that does not address our future needs.”

How does your service surpass competitors in meeting the needs of customers?

The business itself was built on the premise that our expertise and integrity will keep our clients (and their IT systems) safe. Hence our tagline: isn’t it time you felt safe?

A central point of differentiation is that every ITW solution is piloted internally; we evaluate new technologies in actual production use for ourselves before we bring them to market. It’s about integrity. If it’s not good enough for us to use, we won’t recommend to clients. Happily, this also speaks to our commitment to expertise; we ensure that we know the technology inside/out before we implement it for clients.

Our internal IT budget is close to 10 times that of other companies our size (60 employees). Maintaining an internal level of technical expertise that rivals competitors 4-10 times our size has been costly. But, as our financial records, our growth rate, and national industry recognition show, this strategy works for us. What is more, these staffing ratios are clearly something that our competitors actually see as prohibitive.

Competitors usually shy away from technical staffing ratios like ours because it is expensive to build a technical expert and have her spend part of her time in the pre-sales process. It is much cheaper to fill your office with sales people who require fewer training resources and don’t command big salaries.

They compensate sales people with commission to encourage performance. On this model, sales people are self-interested hunters; they make promises to clients and hand off projects to their SEs who are responsible for execution. On the contrary, our technical teams make guarantees they uphold themselves.

Our sales team is a group of farmers who spend their time managing relationships without having to pressure clients for revenue in order to guarantee compensation and job security. Again, that speaks to core the strategy of building trust relationships with clients. Client response to our model and the national awards for service we’ve won are evidence that they see us as a cut above our competitors; we still have 4/5 of our first clients; the fifth simply moved to Singapore.

Our sales model and all our branding/messaging derive explicitly from our core values: integrity and expertise and speed. Our “go-to-market” approach has always been to lead with our technical consultants rather than sales people, and execute quickly. Our mission is to avoid traditional “sales” and empower smart decision making.

Most IT resellers and service providers begin their sales cycle as a broker between prospects and large vendors like Microsoft or Hewlett Packard. We operate differently. This is partly why our sales model was featured in the PROFIT Magazine feature on Sales and Marketing in the 2010 PROFIT 100 issue.

We are a technical, solution-based team of consultants, not a sales organization. Our sales team has no commission, no quotas, and nearly every client meeting involves a senior technical consultant at the table to answer client questions and understand their tech-needs.

How does the solution further your customer’s green or environmentally friendly plans?

See Section 2 on the reduced data centre footprint and power cost reductions.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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