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Juice maker squeezes out IT infrastructure savings

For nearly 150 years, the grape growers at Welch's have been leaders in the manufacturing of juice and jelly. What may be less known is that the Concord, Mass.-based company, whose formal corporate name is Welch Foods Inc., is also pioneering the adoption of server virtualization technology. By removing its IBM mainframe and iSeries midrange servers -- and running multiple operating systems and applications on single x86 servers -- the company's maintenance costs have dropped by 50%, said Carmine Iannace, Welch's manager of IT architecture. The virtualization software it runs -- VMware ESX Server -- has added a 30% to 35% savings on top of that. In an interview, Iannace talked about this and other projects in Welch's quest to make its multi-OS environment more efficient for the long haul.

What are your major IT projects right now?

Windows isn't being displaced. Our infrastructure is growing, but Linux is what ate the mainframe and the iSeries.

Carmine Iannace, manager of IT architecture,

Welch Foods Inc.

We have two major concurrent projects. We are retiring our midrange and mainframe systems and moving to an x86-based architecture. And we are doing an ERP [enterprise resource planning] conversion. [In that project,] we're moving from IBM DB2 to Oracle on Linux and Intel. We are also doing a data center virtualization project.

Both projects marry in ERP, in Oracle, in Windows and the x86 architecture. The [VMware software] lets us host Linux and Windows on the same physical server. We also standardized on Dell hardware because they have a standards-based commodity offering. What applications run in each server environment?
Our core business applications -- ERP, database, financials, human resources, manufacturing and online purchasing -- run on Linux and Oracle using Oracle's Real Application Cluster databases. It's a load-balanced database where two databases run simultaneously, and if one server goes down, the other takes over the full load. Windows servers run ERP reporting, and the applications that hold the juice recipes. We run a full Microsoft Active Directory. Financial reporting runs on Windows. You've consolidated 100 servers onto five physical servers since you've started your virtualization program. Was saving money the major motivator, or was it something else?
Saving money was one thing, but we also wanted to improve our disaster recovery [program]. We used to move the servers around from hardware to hardware. Today, most of our images are running off of a SAN [storage area network]. Our next project is to build a [virtualized] disaster recovery data center, and to extend virtualization into the manufacturing realm. How do you distribute your staff's responsibilities?
We are a small IT shop, with 37 people total. We have three core system administrators, two for Windows and one for Linux, but they all wear many hats. Virtualizing helps save money, lower management overhead, and since there is less hardware to manage, we can approach the infrastructure programmatically. We want to manage

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a virtual pool of resources.

We have 210 servers in the entire company and three people to run it all, plus network storage, servers, OS patches, application support and scripting. We run at a 70-to-1 server ratio, so there is never a dull day and we need lots of coffee.

And virtualization isn't just the hardware, infrastructure and servers, but network connectivity. Our administrators are learning all about the applications. So they're becoming less hardware specific and network specific. Now we have people who are halfway into the applications and halfway into the infrastructure.

For where we are in food manufacturing and retailing, I think we are extremely aggressive in our use of technology because we see true business value. It makes us more dynamic to changes in the marketplace. Will Windows remain as part of your core infrastructure?
Windows isn't being displaced. Our infrastructure is growing, but Linux is what ate the mainframe and the iSeries. How do you see your computing environment evolving in the next 12 months?
This year we have a major data warehouse project based on Oracle and Linux. The reporting will be done using software from Cognos [Inc.] and Windows. We are trying to push the envelope on virtualization. We are 65% virtualized in our production data center and we want this up to 75%. We want to go more toward the application-driven infrastructure where the application can speak to the hardware and be hardware-aware.

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