The Smart List: City Furniture finds shelter from natural disaster in the cloud
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Home furnishings company City Furniture has 29 retail locations, two distribution centers and roughly 1,800 associates spanning almost the entire state of Florida, placing it smack in the midst of the hurricane belt.
Here, City Furniture VP and deputy CIO Chad Simpson and IBM Hybrid Cloud Services Global Sales Leader Munish Gupta discuss the role of cloud migration in reducing the risk that comes with running a business in a hurricane impact zone.
What are the drivers behind City Furniture’s business and technology vision?
Chad: One of our key drivers is cloud diversity. Our servers and data are located in South Florida, and we’ve had many near misses as well as direct hits from hurricanes in the last several years. City Furniture is a retail environment; for us, every second matters, and if our systems are not online then we’re letting our customers down.
How is technology helping that vision come to life?
Chad: Moving to the cloud allows us to be more agile. We have the ability to flex up and flex down on a busy sales week, and we can actually add computing capacity, which was a real struggle for us prior to this. Also, not having our datacenter or physical assets in a wind storm zone reduces our business risk significantly. And we’ve refocused certain efforts on hardening our network — as you move your business-critical environment to the cloud, your network becomes your lifeline.
Munish: Working with IBM Services, City Furniture was able to migrate its IBM i Series AS400 and more than 80 virtual servers running Windows x86 to the IBM Cloud. In City Furniture’s environment, IBM i runs the backend distribution applications; the x86 environment and VMware workloads run the front end. It’s very important that these systems talk seamlessly with each other, and it really helps to have a single point of contact to go to if anything fails.
What new trends are you tracking on the horizon?
Chad: Now that our data’s also in IBM Cloud, we’re able to leverage some more API- and cognitive-based services. We have several projects in play right now, working with IBM Cognos Analytics and IBM Db2 Warehouse on Cloud, which will eventually tie into using Watson and cognitive capabilities to better serve our customers.
What does “building smarter business” mean to you?
Chad: For City Furniture, building smarter business through technology is really trying to transform a traditional furniture and home furnishings company into a technology company. Our president has been known to say that we are no longer a furniture company — we’re a technology company that sells furniture. The only way to do that is to continuously innovate and leverage technology such as cloud, cognitive, data and analytics. We’re continuously pushing the needle and trying to gain a competitive edge however we can.
Munish: Building smarter business means enabling customers to focus on their core competencies and what they really need to provide their clients. We provide the basics to our customers so that they can focus on their applications and new innovation that they want to bring in.
What does “innovation that works” mean to you?
Chad: Working smarter not harder and really being able to leverage our assets — and people are our most important asset, so applying their skill sets in smarter ways. Every day we’re looking at our processes and leveraging technology and data to help our associates work smarter and ultimately help our end users.