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Valspar centralise business critical IT


The Valspar Corporation is one of the largest global coatings manufacturers in the world, providing coatings and coating intermediates to a wide variety of customers. Since 1806, Valspar has been dedicated to bringing customers the latest innovations, the finest quality, and the best customer service in the coatings industry. The company has more than 9,500 employees in over 25 countries and a turnover in excess of $3 billion.

The challenge

With the market for coatings mature, Valspar’s growth strategy is based on acquisition. And it has been highly successful, growing six-fold in the last ten years. However, as Valspar was acquiring companies’ products and customers, it was also acquiring the associated IT infrastructure, as John Reeve, IS Director – Europe, Valspar Corporation, explains.

Consolidating as many resources as possible into a single data centre was the obvious answer, but John was worried about application performance over a Wide Area Network (WAN), so he started looking at enabling technologies. A white paper led him to look at Riverbed devices, which accelerate application performance on WANs.

“Riverbed lent us two devices,” says John. “We moved the servers from two of our UK sites that had particularly demanding users and connected them remotely. The users told us there was no difference in performance, which convinced us that it was possible to give users access to the applications they needed from a central location.” The next step was to look at the other technologies that would be needed to establish a central data centre.

The Solution

Valspar reviewed the technologies that were available with a number of companies including telent, who were introduced by Riverbed. As Valspar had already standardised on HP infrastructure, and was very happy with the quality of its products and support, it was natural to look at HP servers and storage. 

telent, an HPE Gold Partner, provided technical resources to help Valspar define its requirements. The company also helped Valspar undertake a proof of concept by loaning HP hardware and virtualising part of its environment using VMware. With server virtualisation and an HP SAN being the chosen solution, Valspar developed detailed specifications and put them out to tender. After careful consideration Valspar selected telent to supply the solution.

“telent were prepared to spend a lot of time helping us to define the final solution we needed,” says John, explaining why telent were chosen. “As a result, we were extremely confident in the technical ability of its experts. The proposal telent put forward was also cost competitive.”

Valspar wanted to make sure the Riverbed devices were in place first, so it sourced and implemented these separately. While it did so telent began building the HP servers and HP SAN into the rack. This was initially done at telent's build centre before its experts went on site to install the HP servers and VMware and configure the HP SAN. The whole onsite effort took just 3-4 days.

Since then Valspar has migrated three sites to the new HP infrastructure and is planning more over the coming months. “There were no particular benefits in adopting a ‘big bang’ implementation approach,” says John, “and the risks were much higher. So we are taking a phased approach. Also, we wanted to ensure our disaster recovery site was operational before we went too far.”

The Results

To date Valspar has 45 virtual servers running on seven physical HP blade servers and has already seen major benefits. “The environment is much easier to maintain, which has freed up resources to focus on activities that add more value to the business,” says John. “We’re using less power and the ability to take a virtual machine and run it on any server, together with functions like snapshots, are extremely attractive from a business continuity point of view.”

From a cost avoidance perspective the solution has also been very successful. “Having a virtualised environment means we have been able to retire approximately 30 physical servers and haven’t needed to buy more,” explains John. “I estimate we’ve saved at least £50,000 and, when we’re finished, that could be £100,000, perhaps more.”

Backup is also considerably easier. “Before we were managing hundreds of back up tapes and had numerous backup devices. With the HP MSL tape library we’ve probably saved £40,000-50,000 on those devices,” says John. “In addition, without the Riverbed devices, we probably would need around 2.5 times the bandwidth we have. Projecting that over three years means we would have had to spend about $2 million more without them.”

Aside from increasing the number of sites that are serviced from the central data centre, Valspar also intends to expand the capabilities of its disaster recovery centre. “We would like to bring our second site up to the same standard as the main data centre,” says John. “By doing so we will be able to load balance between the two, giving us greater flexibility.”

Commenting on the part telent played in helping Valspar deploy its new data centre solution, John says: “Even though they were a new supplier, Richardson Eyres were not pushy during the sales process. They were prepared to provide the necessary technical resources, which other companies were not.”

“When it came to the implementation telent did exactly what they said they would do,” John continues. “Its technical people were very knowledgeable. They were always helpful and provided a very good service.”

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