IFC Logistics’ Journey to Invisible Infrastructure

Author: December 15, 2015

An interview with Phillip Beal, Project Manager, IFC Logistics

Background: IFC Logistics is a transport supply chain services provider. Its core business is freight forwarding – everything from the vendor right through to the stores which sell the products it ships. It also provides third party logistics (3PL). Phillip Beal, Project Manager at IFC Logistics, is responsible for all communications and technology within the business. Phillip recently sat down with us to discuss IFC’s transition from on-premises IT to a managed service from Nutanix partner, Advantage Technology Solutions. Here is a summary:

Q: What issues did IFC Logistics face with its former IT infrastructure?

Our biggest challenge was around reliability. While the hardware itself served us well, we needed a disaster recovery mechanism to ensure that if a site went down, it could easily be brought up in another location without interrupting the wider business. If our employees don’t have access to our logistics and warehousing systems, we can experience significant delays in managing and fulfilling customer requirements.

Another issue was around the maintenance of our IT. We have far from the largest data centre, but justifying the time and cost associated with both owning and maintaining the technology was difficult. Running the air-conditioning alone was expensive; add to that the cost of having contractors on site all the time to ensure everything’s running as it should, and the bills add up very quickly. Then there’s the loss of productivity when our internal IT department is forced to dedicate resources to keeping the lights on as opposed to focusing on core business projects.

Q: Why was the managed services route with Advantage Technology Solutions the best option?

Much like water and electricity, we see IT as a fundamental utility; we need it to be constantly available, but we don’t need to worry about how that happens. With our on-premises hardware reaching end of life, we decided we wanted to go down this path of consuming IT rather than running it ourselves. The long term goal being reduced infrastructure costs and diverting IT resources to serving our customers’ needs more so.

When we met with the Advantage team they worked tirelessly to understand our business, and drew up a solution to meet our needs now and in the future. This approach helped us not just understanding where we needed to go but also where we actually were at the time with our infrastructure.

By going down this new path, we not only eliminated the massive up-front hardware expenditure, but also freed up our IT department from the tedious chore of managing complex storage area networks (SANs) and a virtualised environment. That means they can focus on further enhancing our internal logistics, warehousing and administration systems to provide the best possible service to our customers.

Q: What impact will the Nutanix technology have on IFC Logistics?

The Nutanix technology was a core component of Advantage’s solution. Driven by Advantage’s services, Nutanix gives us that reliability layer to ensure our systems are always on. That’s a big thing. If any of our systems were ever to go down – for example, our warehouse management system – the effect spreads right across the business, and can be felt by the customer too. Processes that normally take three to four minutes end up taking several hours. That’s lost productivity. Our staff have to stop their customer-facing duties and begin manually inputting and calculating data. That’s even more lost productivity. Nutanix removes this risk because it runs and fixes itself – a self-healing solution. Add Advantage’s support, and we wouldn’t even know if there was an issue.

Q: What sort of cost savings has IFC Logistics realised since the implementation?

It’s hard to quantify the exact cost savings because of the new consumption model, but we’re confident we’ll reach a complete return on investment (ROI) within 18 to 24 months. That’s the result of several benefits of the move.

Firstly, in the event of an outage, ultimately our customers will suffer; be that in delays in picking or reporting or reduced communication, combined with the potential financial impact which can be enormous. In fact, we calculated that the failure of a single system – even for a few hours –could wipe out our profit for the entire week due to our market competitiveness. We don’t have that to worry about now.

Secondly, the productivity returned to the business – everything from administration to IT – is insurmountable. Staff can do their jobs without interruptions because applications are always live and information up-to-date. That means our clients stay happy because we deliver projects and services on time.

Ultimately, though, while it can’t be quantified, the biggest saving comes in peace of mind.

Q: Can you tell us about your transition to Advantage’s managed service?

The move from on-premises to Advantage’s managed service took less than one day, and most of that time was spent watching the Nutanix technology work on its own. Advantage made the transition a very simple experience, and helped us understand what was different and the benefits that will come as a result. Nutanix and Advantage have made our IT infrastructure invisible and a fundamental utility that is constantly available to us. We now focus on time on our customers and driving business benefits.