Global Manufacturer and Retailer

Following the Sun to Greater Business Intelligence

For a global organization, data and insights must be collected, analyzed, and acted upon in near real time to achieve optimal impact.

Infrastructure and system inefficiencies can often slow down to unacceptable levels the Business Intelligence (BI) applications used to gain insights. A global manufacturer and retailer of clothing products found itself struggling to make the move from being a product-driven organization to a customer insight-driven organization due to latency issues with their BI platform.

“The company was trying to leverage their business intelligence platform in new ways,” explained Jared Cheney, Senior Vice President of Operations at Atmosera. “They were seeking deeper insights and greater agility. However, their progress was constrained because their BI platform was tied to a centrally-hosted ERP (Enterprise Resource Platform) system that had a very geo-diverse footprint of end users.” Latency issues caused by the geographic spread of the company’s infrastructure were affecting the propagation of data and inhibiting the teams across the company from using the BI platform to gain timely insights and take action.

The manufacturer knew that in order to gain the insights and agility they sought, they had to make their BI platform and the data it generated more user friendly and accessible to their global workforce.

  • The Challenge

    A global manufacturer and retailer of clothing products found itself struggling to make the move from being a product-driven organization to a customer insight-driven organization due to latency issues with their business intelligence (BI) platform.

  • Solution

    Atmosera developed a “follow-the-sun” database for the manufacturer where the BI database has replicas in each geographic region, and the primary changes to match the daylight hours for each region.

  • Benefits

    BI reporting experienced a 5X improvement across the regions, enabling three-year and five-year strategic roadmaps to be built around the BI data.

Mapping the Journey to Business Intelligence

In the journey to greater business intelligence, the manufacturer’s primary concern was maintaining the integrity of their ERP system. Any solution proposed would need to address the BI platform requirements in a way that would not hinder the performance of the ERP system, the tools that were tied into the system, and the customizations that had been made to the system.

With Atmosera already hosting the ERP system, the manufacturer turned to their trusted cloud provider for a solution. Jason Kirkwood, Systems Architect – Engineering for Atmosera, said, “The company spoke with a few other vendors, but none had the geographic reach they were looking for, or a fully-vetted design that would match their needs. At Atmosera, we met those requirements. We also have extensive experience working with Azure, which they anticipated using, and could design a solution in such a way that it would not impact their existing platform.”

Creating a Database to Follow the Sun

From an executive perspective, a company can have a mountain of data, but if the average employee won’t utilize the data because accessing it takes too long, then leadership ends up driving the business blindfolded. Data must be available in a timely fashion for BI applications to generate actionable insights.

Accordingly, Atmosera developed a “follow-the-sun” database for the manufacturer. The BI database has replicas in each geographic region where the manufacturer has teams, each replica becomes the primary data source as daylight hours progress through the regions. So, when the sun rises in Asia, the Asian replica acts as the primary database, ensuring immediate access to BI data for Asian users. As daylight wanes in Asia and rises in Europe, the European replica becomes the primary database. By moving the primary replica, users during their day time have maximum speed available to perform data analytics and BI work. Region by region, the primary database follows the sun over the course of a 24 hour day.

“By following the sun, we allow all the data from their main system to be replicated and available in the locality of their end users at the exact time when it is needed most. This ensures a much lower latency interaction with the reporting and with business analytic insights,” affirmed Clayton Siemens, Systems Engineer – Operations for Atmosera.

Establishing a Better Schedule

From a technical standpoint, Atmosera took the manufacturer’s existing primary database out of the ERP system. This database is now replicated it in Azure to cube the data out into SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS). The cubed data is then replicated across different Azure regions in order to have the web and BI servers located where users are working access the data during daily operations with the lowest possible latency.

As part of the solution, Atmosera was able to demonstrate their deep knowledge of Azure and their partnership with Microsoft. “Creating a ‘follow-the-sun’ database was unique. Microsoft’s representatives whom we spoke with during the design and implementation were impressed. Up to this time, people have always recalculated data every place it is needed, which requires more resources and therefore more money. We were able to establish a new and better route by cubing the database and moving the cube in an accurate and timely fashion,” explained Scott Horn, Systems Engineer – Operations for Atmosera.

High Speed Access to Data from Anywhere for Better Decisions

A company can have a mountain of data, but if the average employee won’t utilize the data because accessing it takes too long, then leadership ends up driving the business blindfolded.

Celebrating the View from the Top

With the follow-the-sun database in place, the manufacturer swiftly saw results. Initial BI reporting as well as cached reporting experienced a 5X improvement across the regions. Ryland Bowles, Project Manager for Atmosera, stated, “The company is building their three-year and five-year strategic roadmaps around the BI data they are now able to utilize. Having accessible, actionable business insights is changing the way they view data, how they leverage data for strategic purposes, and how they approach fulfilling their strategies moving forward.”

Identification of network concerns was another direct result of implementing Atmosera’s solution. Atmosera was able to resolve account issues to deliver better performance in key areas, and pinpointed pieces of legacy software that were holding the company back from achieving maximum agility in the marketplace and in their business operations. The company plans to work with Atmosera to upgrade where necessary to improve the network and applications.

The solution provided by Atmosera also helped the manufacturer to become more comfortable with transitioning additional services to the cloud. Scott Harvey, VP of Engineering at Atmosera, noted, “They are gaining a comfort level with being able to deliver cloud services to the end user, and with the tools that are available to them in Azure. This is key, since, with their geographic footprint, their need for services such as this will only continue to increase as their business expands.”

However, increased services do not necessarily mean increased staff. The manufacturer had been planning to add to their IT staff, but the implementation of Atmosera’s solution has made that unnecessary at this juncture. The solution is helping the company to maximize the resources they have available, rather than making an investment in additional headcount.

"By following the sun, we allow all the data from their main system to be replicated and available in the locality of their end users at the exact time when it is needed most."

Clayton Siemens

Azure Architect Engineering for Atmosera

Following the Sun to Success

Going forward, the manufacturer plans to continue their partnership with Atmosera and form a long-term strategic relationship. Scott Harvey affirmed, “We will be helping the organization migrate much of their core infrastructure to Azure over the next three years, including their ERP system. This is an ambitious goal, but is fully achievable based on the results we are seeing here. We are glad to have the opportunity to support this company as they ‘follow the sun’ to success.”

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