Business challenge

To reduce the service delivery bottlenecks hindering their system during data processing, Compass sought to find a cost-efficient storage solution that could speed up nightly batch jobs and high-volume order requests.

Transformation

Compass worked with MAPSYS, an IBM Business Partner, to find a solution for eliminating input/output operations per second bottlenecks. They chose IBM FlashSystem 5000H for its affordability, performance and ease of integration.

Results

34% more inputs/outputs

per second with IBM FlashSystem

25% less disk usage

due to additional storage from the new drives

78.3% better

average disk response time

Business challenge story

Staying ahead of the data

Compass Health Brands, a manufacturer and distributor of consumer medical products, supplies products to big-box retailers, pharmacies, home medical equipment dealers and physical therapists who, in turn, sell them to consumers. They also sell products directly to consumers on their website and through Amazon. While Compass’s distribution list includes everyday bath safety and mobility products, they also supply pulse oximeters, CPAP machines and other respiratory devices. During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to quality homecare equipment like this became more crucial than ever for those who need assistance with activities of daily living.

With increasing equipment orders and data coming in from their distribution centers throughout North America, Compass needed to upgrade their storage to keep operations running smoothly while data was migrated for processing.

Compass uses an enterprise resource planning (ERP) package running on an IBM Power Systems™ servers which utilizes an internal disk system for storage. These solutions were frequently reaching capacity, overloading the system during nightly batch jobs, crippling operations and resulting in reporting delays. “We shouldn't be at 100% utilization on a regular basis,” says Andrew Lesak, Director of Technical Services at Compass. “We had pushed the infrastructure about as far as it could go.”

Compass’s forecasting tool used the data coming in from nightly batch jobs for sales and operations planning. When calculations were not completed in time, business essentially shut down as users could not sign into the system until the batch job is finished. With their internal disk system running at capacity, batch jobs were running well past the 6:30 AM deadline.

“It wasn’t getting done until 8:00 AM,” Lesak notes. “We get containers from overseas so if you need to make an adjustment to the shipment, you’ve got to do it ASAP.”

Each time a batch job ran over the deadline, it interfered with next-day orders for Compass’s major retail clients. With their forecasting and ERP systems not functioning properly, they reached a critical point and knew they needed to upgrade their storage infrastructure.     

We wanted to minimize the impact to the business regarding downtime. The IBM FlashSystem solution allowed us to do the data migration while we were live and without any impact to the users – that was huge!

Andrew Lesak, Director of Technical Service, Compass Health Brands

Transformation story

Leveraging the power and speed of enhanced storage

Compass joined forces with MAPSYS, an IBM Business Partner, to find and install the best storage solution to work with their infrastructure. MAPSYS was previously brought onboard at Compass to help them develop and enhance their ERP. Knowing the ERP and POWER Systems setup well, MAPSYS was the perfect Business Partner to leverage during the search for a solution that would work seamlessly with these systems.

Compass and MAPSYS explored several options before choosing FlashSystem 5000H. They considered buying storage arrays from different vendors, using their existing storage systems or updating their existing internal storage. Ultimately, they chose FlashSystem 5000H because it was easy to implement, more cost-efficient than any of the competitive options and offered the capabilities needed to minimize downtime.

MAPSYS conducted a technical system analysis to determine which processes could be improved the fastest. Using data gathered from the analysis, MAPSYS was able to build a business case for installing FlashSystem 5000H, an affordable storage solution with the enterprise-grade performance and features that Compass required. Compass engaged IBM Global Financing to provide a payment plan that could help optimize cash flow and align the infrastructure investment with current and future business needs. With a robust financial strategy in place, Compass was able to implement FlashSystem 5000H in two simple steps.

First, Compass deployed a scalable Storage Area Network (SAN). This high-speed storage networking architecture enabled data to move swiftly through the Compass system, resolving service delivery bottlenecks. Using FlashSystem with the built-in capabilities of IBM Spectrum Virtualize, a software-defined storage solution that enables infrastructure flexibility and rapid workload deployment, Compass could then migrate data from on-premises storage to their forecasting tool for processing without disruption.  

“We started migrating data over, replicating the data little by little over a multi-week period while we were live,” says Lesak. “The internal drives are still running, but they're slowly trickling things over to populate the new SAN. That happened without any noticeable impact to the users.”

Second, instead of replacing all of their internal drives in a costly and complex infrastructure expansion, Compass leveraged the inherent serial-attached SCSI (SAS) drives in FlashSystem 5000H to connect directly to their POWER Systems server through fiber channel technology. This allowed Compass to continue utilizing their existing IT infrastructure investments as efficiently as possible while updating outdated features as needed.

Results story

Empowering consumers to live healthier, more independent lives

“Our investment in FlashSystem 5000H appears to be paying significant dividends and we are also seeing user benefits in [our forecasting tool],” says Lesak. Installing FlashSystem 5000H has significantly boosted the speed of data migration and the quality of overall system performance at Compass. Lesak continues: “The speed of FlashSystem 5000H, the data migration capabilities of IBM Spectrum Virtualize and the AI-driven performance monitoring of IBM Storage Insights have helped us increase the data our systems can send and receive by 30% while keeping us online during changes to infrastructure, data processing, backups and more.”

Nightly batch jobs run faster with relatively no impact on the system, reducing downtime and keeping critical business applications available for users from sunup to sundown. Memory faulting declined by 93%, decreasing the amount of time the processer has to wait for data to be retrieved from the disk. Disk response time, or the time it takes to read data from storage, declined by 78% on average with a peak reduction of 87%.

FlashSystem 5000H also offered Compass a new level of scalability for the future. Disk space utilization was reduced by half thanks to additional storage from the new drives. Compass now has the space to grow and upgrade its infrastructure as needed, without the burden of disruption or a hefty price tag.

Additionally, (though hybrid cloud wasn’t an initial consideration for their ERP and storage purchases), choosing FlashSystem 5000H helped Compass future-proof their business. The external storage can expand into a second site or the cloud and if they purchase a new box, they can take that SAN with them.

By implementing the affordable, non-disruptive FlashSystem 5000H storage solution, Compass now has the tools to make even greater strides in its mission to deliver innovative, high-quality homecare products without delay.

Compass Health Brands logo with dark blue and aqua text

Compass Health Brands

Compass Health Brands is a market and brand leader of consumer medical products for over 20 years with one goal in mind—to provide innovative, high-quality products through our valued customers that enable consumers to live healthier, more comfortable and independent lives.

 

About the IBM Business Partner:

For over 35 years MAPSYS has been serving IT customers’ needs around the Ohio valley and across the United States.  Headquartered in Columbus, OH with offices in Cleveland, Ohio and Indianapolis, Indiana, MAPSYS is a Premier IBM Business Partner with relationships across many of the major manufacturers and technology partners.
 

Take the next step

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Flash Storage and All-Flash Array Solutions | IBM

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