Founded in 1899, Morrisons is a large UK supermarket chain. It has over 500 stores and more than 100 convenience stores with an additional 100 convenience stores planned this year. In January 2104, it launched an online food offering, and by the end of the year will have 50% UK household coverage.
IT in Morrisons is complex, but through a number of simplification programs, they are consolidating their environment onto fewer platforms and solutions to ensure that they deliver optimal value to their customer-the business. Simon Close, who joined Morrisons as their Head of Service Operations in 2011 explains, “Service comes first for me and my role is to ensure the IT service is stable and reliable and that we keep pace with the business demand. We need to deliver the business imperatives and our store estate needs to be continually refreshed and supported.”
VirtualWisdom was introduced into Morrisons to offer a pervasive monitoring solution as part of their Storage Transformation Program at the end of 2011. “I was already familiar with the solution so I ensured it was part of the deal we were doing. We wanted to consolidate down from a large number of storage vendors onto a single supplier and single SAN environment, with VirtualWisdom plumbed in the middle of it, to ensure and assure performance, response times and availability of the storage environment. We needed a solution that would allow us to ensure against any issues as we migrated off a legacy environment onto a new storage platform, and we saw that VirtualWisdom was going to be fundamental to that success. It was really our insurance policy so we could demonstrate the response times and the throughput of the storage arrays were at the same, if not better post-migration, from the legacy to the new solution.”
As part of the storage consolidation, Morrisons conducted a before and after comparison baseline on both the legacy and the new platform using VirtualWisdom. The application identified technology issues and a serious concern with the new storage platform which wouldn’t have been discovered without VirtualWisdom. This identification and resolution was critical to the success of the migration as it enabled Morrisons to hold their storage vendor accountable to performance commitments before fully transferring hundreds of servers and terabytes of data to the new storage arrays. This, saved months of avoided delays, effort and money.
Simon continues, “VirtualWisdom is a very pervasive solution. There are thousands of different data points that can be captured. It’s really our first port of call if we have any inkling that we have a performance issue anywhere in the environment. The key benefits are its ability to let us get on top of issues as quickly as we can so we can resolve them and get the business back working as it needs to be as fast as possible, with minimum disruption.”
Simon continues, “Reactive troubleshooting is always a necessary evil in the environment in which we work. It’s very difficult to get from reactive to proactive, but VirtualWisdom does allow you to do that through its reporting and alerting capabilities.”
On the topic of keeping his teams focused on productive efforts supporting the business due to VirtualWisdom’s proactive monitoring capabilities, Simon observed, “Virtual Instruments is a productivity enabler. We’ve only got a relatively small team here at Morrisons so Virtual Instruments is key to leveraging the toolsets we’ve got. We don’t need tens and hundreds of Storage Admins because we’ve got a solution that will allow us to do the monitoring and alerting, and keep an eye on the Storage environment, so the team can get on with their day jobs and not be concerned with constant monitoring. When we are alerted, we’re able to dive in and drill down to see if there are any issues in the environment.”
Regarding the release of VirtualWisdom4, Simon states: “The Virtual Instruments platform itself has really evolved from an engineering type solution to something that is more customer focused. You no longer have to understand Fiber Channel protocol and storage in its depths to interpret the information it was presenting to you. I’m really excited to get my hands on VirtualWisdom4 here at Morrisons and exploit some of its new features.”
“In terms of the user interface it’s leaps ahead of the current implementation and leaps ahead of anything I have seen on the market. It really lends itself to be a truly customer friendly interface that we can share with IT, and even non-IT, making it useful to other customers within Morrisons who want an understandable and reliable view into what’s happening in the environment that we run on their behalf.
Apart from the new interface, that looks really cool and interesting, one of the main functions we have been pushing for is a ‘compare feature’. VirtualWisdom4 allows us to overlay and compare a graph with a spike of activity today, with one from any time in the past, to determine if the profile of the workload has changed. With the new platform we can easily create new entities, define them, group them together and cluster them in a topology view.”
“We’re excited to use the VirtualWisdom4 appliance-based solution, since it lends itself to easier and faster deployment, and will scale as our service to the business scales.”
Simon concludes: “With VirtualWisdom4 we’ll be presenting information that means something to each of the users of the interface, not just the Storage team. It’ll help establish common dialogue and understanding about how the service infrastructure that supports the business is performing—by showing things in an intuitive, user friendly way that is relevant to any team that is responsible for performance and availability in their respective focal areas. The new dashboard and alerting is important. VirtualWisdom4’s new interface allows us to lift definitive insights up a level and present that information in a more consumable fashion to our customers. This is really critical and is where the value is from Virtual Instruments to Morrisons going forward.”
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