To continue its business growth and maximize efficiency, Westfleisch wanted to modernize its business systems and needed a fast and reliable foundation to power its tightly integrated production facilities.
The company deployed VersaStack from Cisco and IBM, reducing the complexity of its IT infrastructure by optimizing its network, server and storage architecture, while streamlining support services.
Simplifiesinfrastructure management and helps to minimize downtime
0.01 secondlatency ensures uninterrupted, integrated business processes
4x higherperformance supports business growth and continuous operations
Business challenge story
Keeping it simple
As one of the top five meat producers in Europe, Westfleisch operates an extensive network of abattoirs, processing and packaging factories, and distribution centers. With twelve sites spread out across North-West Germany, managing the IT infrastructure was a real challenge.
Jens Alex, CIO at Westfleisch, begins: “There were many different points of management for IT infrastructure, not including our main data center. Our existing infrastructure set-up was very complex, which made it difficult to recognize and resolve issues quickly. Because our products are perishable, speed is key. Under European law, animals cannot be used for consumption if they are not processed within a certain timeframe, so we must avoid downtime of mission-critical systems and services at all costs.”
Lukas Nicodemus, Project Coordinator at Westfleisch, concurs: “It took far too long to identify issues – such as a malfunctioning switch or server, for example – across the extensive, multi-site infrastructure. This meant that it took too long to resolve problems, increasing the risk of extended downtime. To make matters worse, vendor support was fragmented. This resulted in finger-pointing between the server, network and storage support teams, further delaying effective problem resolution.”
To prevent downtime and interruption in production processes, Westfleisch knew that it needed to reduce the complexity of its IT infrastructure, simplify and accelerate troubleshooting, and integrate support.
“We wanted the infrastructure to be easy to manage and always-available,” says Jens Alex. “To achieve this, we sought a fully redundant solution with separate networks for the data center and our production facilities, and an integrated wireless network for mobile devices and sensors to keep sites and staff connected.”
To keep operations running smoothly, Westfleisch decided to deploy the VersaStack solution, an integrated infrastructure from Cisco and IBM. VersaStack combines Cisco UCS Integrated Infrastructure, which includes server, networking and software components, with IBM® Storwize® storage systems for a best-of-breed platform for business solutions.
In total, the company runs approximately 100 Cisco Unified Computing System servers. In its data center, Westfleisch deployed cutting-edge Cisco Nexus 9396 switches to support its virtual server environment, which is based on VMware virtualization technology. At its production facilities, the company installed highly-reliable Cisco Catalyst 2960 switches to ensure rapid communication between the local systems and the central ERP application.
Flexible storage management is key in a fast-growing IT environment. Westfleisch takes advantage of the virtualized IBM Storwize V5000 and IBM Storwize V3700 storage systems and SAN switching fabrics, based on Cisco MDS 9148 switches, to complement its virtual server landscape with a powerful storage solution.
Jens Alex recalls: “Having worked with Cisco before, I knew that they were the right vendor for this kind of project. Today, Cisco serves as our single point of support for the server and switches, as well as for the IBM storage. This has substantially reduced the complexity of both the infrastructure and support services.”
Westfleisch worked with Cisco and implementation partner SVA System Vertrieb Alexander GmbH to set up the solutions, including VersaStack, at its data center and production facilities, improving the reliability and performance of its system architecture. Lukas Nicodemus comments: “When companies undergo an infrastructure refresh such as this, they usually only replace servers or storage arrays. For us, practically everything in our data center is brand-new, including all of the networking equipment and cabling. VersaStack has completely transformed our data center and we are currently in the process of rolling out the new solution across the remaining production sites, with one factory already almost completely onboarded with great success.”
To smoothly and securely integrate into the corporate network mobile devices like barcode scanners and various industrial sensors at its production facilities and warehouses, Westfleisch also deployed a comprehensive wireless environment based on Cisco Aironet 3700 Series and Cisco Aironet 1570 access points in combination with a Cisco 5520 Wireless LAN Controller.
High performance, low latencyOnce all sites are using the new infrastructure, Westfleisch will gain a unified, up-to-the-minute overview of its entire IT environment. Today, the company is already reaping the rewards of the complete technology refresh based on Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure.
Jens Alex elaborates: “As we deploy our new ERP system, we are also connecting more and more systems at our production facilities to our primary data center. Speed and efficiency are key in our industry. One site processes 9,000 pigs a day – as a result we send 2,500 messages per minute to our ERP application. We can only run the production at this speed if our connections are reliable and our systems can ingest the data without delay.”
Lukas Nicodemus adds: “Our new VersaStack infrastructure has been live for about a year and performance levels are phenomenal. We are now achieving ultra-low latency, which has gone down by a factor of 10 from 0.1 seconds to 0.01 seconds. In combination with a four-fold increase in computing performance with the same number of physical servers as before, this ensures that all production sites can operate at maximum speed without any delay.”
Building on the new VersaStack solution from Cisco and IBM, Westfleisch plans to create a single dashboard that will enable the company to easily identify issues and respond to problems much faster than before, significantly reducing the risk of downtime and related financial losses. Lukas Nicodemus explains: “We will be able to see when and at which site a new switch or server is needed and handle the maintenance much faster than in the past. Crucially, this will help us minimize downtime and keep sites operational, enabling us to deliver the freshest of meat to our customers.”
As a next step, Westfleisch plans to use Cisco UCS Director to establish a unified infrastructure management with fully automated provisioning workflows. This will help to streamline operations and support processes even further to create a comprehensive and powerful Infrastructure-as-a-Service platform.
Jens Alex concludes: “As we roll out the solutions to all our sites, we are already beginning to see the impact of the new, modern architecture. With VersaStack from Cisco and IBM, we have an integrated, comprehensive, easy-to-manage solution that provides the highest levels of performance, availability and reliability, helping us to run and grow our business. We have already seen a significant improvement in flexibility and service levels, supporting our journey to becoming a highly-digitized company, where business processes are supported by real-time information and instant access to business data.”
Westfleisch is the number three meat marketer in Germany and ranks amongst the top five in Europe. The international company, based in Münster, slaughters, cuts, processes and refines meat. In 2015 the company sold over 980,000 tons of meat and generated turnovers of EUR2.42 billion (USD2.74 billion). Westfleisch is owned by about 4,000 farmers in North-West Germany and the Netherlands. On the basis of cooperation agreements, they breed pigs, cattle and calves. Westfleisch has approximately 5,000 employees.
Take the next step
To learn more about how IBM and Cisco are working together to develop innovative storage and networking solutions for the data center, contact your IBM or Cisco representative or Business Partner, or visit the following websites: ibm.com/versastack or www.cisco.com/go/versastack