When you process hundreds of millions of meal vouchers a year, speed and reliability are vital. CRT Services wanted to avoid delays in processing.
CRT Services upgraded its core systems, deploying IBM i on IBM Power System S914 and IBM FlashSystem storage for a stable, high-speed platform for its IBM Db2® databases.
4X boostin processing speed
Cut 2 hoursfrom overnight processing
>725 millionvouchers processed annually
Business challenge story
Seeking room to maneuver
Many French companies give their employees restaurant vouchers as a tax-efficient benefit. Employees redeem the vouchers in participating venues, which then send them to CRT – a joint-services organization owned by the four major French voucher companies. The CRT Processing division handles more than 725 million vouchers a year, with a value of nearly EUR5.7 billion; the CRT Services division validates the vouchers and reimburses the restaurants and similar venues.
At CRT Services, a combination of outdated hardware and incorrectly configured applications was restricting the ability to manage peaks in processing workload. The small team managing the server did not have good visibility of the environment, so the company was struggling to maintain the core processing environment effectively, and saw that its costs were rising.
Arlette Quillere, CIO at CRT Services, says: “We had major issues with the cost of maintenance, and we were also coming up against capacity limits. We wanted to have more room to maneuver, both at times of peak demand and during our overnight batch processing, where we faced the risk of not completing our system backup before the start of the next working day and of not providing data on time to our partners.”
Going the extra mile to add value
CRT Services engaged Zénith IT Consulting to advise it on modernizing its core voucher-processing platform. Rather than simply configuring a replacement server, Zénith set out to add value, proposing a new architecture with an all-flash external storage system.
“Zénith showed us how our existing architecture – based around a monolithic system with internal disks – was a bit of a technological dead-end,” says Arlette Quillere. “Although switching to an external storage solution naturally meant higher initial costs, Zénith convinced us of the long-term benefits around flexibility, performance, scalability and total cost of ownership.”
The new core voucher-processing environment at CRT Services is built around an IBM Power System S914 server with an IBM POWER9™ processor. Designed for security, reliability and performance, the server gives CRT Services a stable, high-speed platform for its IBM Db2® databases running on the IBM i operating system. These databases do the heavy lifting of processing hundreds of millions of redeemed vouchers annually, running hundreds of large parallel processing jobs simultaneously.
The IBM FlashSystem solution makes a significant contribution to the increased performance of core systems at CRT Services, combining the performance of flash and Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) with the reliability and innovation of IBM FlashCore technology, in a powerful 2U enterprise-class, all-flash storage array.
CRT Services also deployed two third-party utilities from M81: Control for i provides comprehensive monitoring and management tools, while Flash for i uses cloning technology to enable non-disruptive backups.
In addition to configuring, deploying and setting up the new IBM Power Systems S914 server running IBM i and IBM FlashSystem storage solution, Zénith went beyond its contractual obligations to help CRT Services troubleshoot performance issues. Working together, the companies tuned CRT Services’ applications to optimize them and take full advantage of the new architecture.
Arlette Quillere comments: “Zénith had some additional expertise that we lacked internally, and we found their advice to be excellent. We encountered a number of issues on this journey, and Zénith saved us on two memorable occasions, by identifying things that we had not seen.”
Accelerating the core business
With its core voucher-processing system now running around four times faster, the team at CRT Services no longer has any concerns about its ability to handle peak workloads. Overnight batch-processing jobs finish two hours earlier, leaving a large window in which to complete or re-run jobs before the next working day.
Arlette Quillere says: “Our core systems run at full capacity around the clock; these time savings give us peace of mind that backups will not over-run and disrupt the next day’s operations. This also gives us greater flexibility in planning operational shifts, and enables faster financial reporting to our stakeholders – making the whole end-to-end process more efficient and reliable.”
As a result of these performance improvements, CRT Services offers faster, more efficient and more timely services to its stakeholders, helping them understand their financial position faster. This also means that the whole reimbursement cycle is swifter and more accurate, ensuring that businesses participating in the voucher scheme receive their funds within the agreed timeframes.
“Before I worked with the IBM Power Systems platform, I had the impression that it was old technology,” says Arlette Quillere. “My experience with the platform has completely reversed that impression. The combination of IBM technologies at CRT Services has really transformed our capabilities, and we look forward to a continuing relationship with both IBM and Zénith IT Consulting.”
Founded in 1972, CRT is an association under the French law of 1901 and a shared processing center for paper restaurant vouchers. The Processing division of CRT receives, scans and processes more than 725 million vouchers a year, with a total redeemed value of nearly EUR5.7 billion (USD6 billion). After analyzing the deposit slips and corresponding vouchers to check for any disparities, the Services division of CRT prepares the reimbursement of the redeemed value of the restaurant vouchers, sends out checks from the voucher-issuers to the restaurants and related parties, and closes the financial loop.
Take the next step
To learn more about how IBM Power Systems technologies offer leading value, performance and reliability to businesses worldwide, please visit ibm.com/power
To learn more about how IBM FlashSystems technologies accelerate and optimize multicloud environments, please visit ibm.com/it-infrastructure/storage/flash
Zénith IT Consulting offers IT consulting, IT engineering, systems integration and solution development services to a diverse set of business clients in France. The company aims to add significant value to all client relationships, working to become a trusted advisor.