Dell case

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How Dell Does IT
When the computer company moved one of its critical supply chains from a legacy UNIX system to industry-standard technology and Oracle Database 10g, it boosted performance and cut $5 million out of IT costs.
The right IT platform helps Dell manufacturing facilities like the one above stay up and running and turning out some 100,000 systems a day.


t Dell, fast, flexible,and lean supply chains lie at the heart of the business. Indeed, Dell’s supply chain capabilities are a key competitive differentiator for the company—one that enables Dell to deliver built-to-order computers to customers quickly and cost-effectively. And that means that when it comes to the information systems that support that supply chain, there is little room for error. “If these systems arenot

operational, we don’t build and ship products. If we don’t do that, we don’t book revenue— which makes these systems mission-critical,” says Duane Miller, senior manager of Worldwide Procurement IT at Dell. Not long ago, however, Dell’s IT professionals saw potential problems looming on the horizon. The database that was the foundation of its supply chain applications was running on alegacy UNIX

system—and with the ongoing success of Dell products and the resulting IT workloads, that system was reaching the limits of its capacity. “We were starting to get ‘Sev 1’ calls regularly,” says Miller. Such calls, he explains, occur when an outage in the supply chain management system interrupts production. “They are the highest level of severity in terms of problem calls, based on thedegree of impact to the business. With those calls, it’s all hands on deck, and we drop everything and get them back up and

operational, because the problem is stopping manufacturing at one of our domestic or international facilities.” What’s more, the IT group could see that things weren’t going to be getting any easier. The demand for Dell’s products was increasing, and forecasts called forhigher production volumes in the near future. In addition, the company was bringing on new factories the system had to support. To handle these growing workloads, the IT department clearly needed to increase the capacity of its supply

chain database platform—and managers wanted to do so quickly, before the coming holiday season, when the company’s sales tend to spike.

Saying good-bye to UNIXDell’s challenge was hardly unique: Running out of headroom on a large legacy server is a familiar problem for IT professionals in many organizations. Traditionally, the solution has been to add another legacy server, in essence implementing a relatively large amount of capacity in one pass—and then hope the new server will meet the company’s needs for several more years. But Dell IT leadershiptook a look at advancing technology and decided there was a better way. “We saw that there was an opportunity to move the database from the expensive UNIX environment to a more cost-effective standards-based environment that could provide the high levels of performance we needed,” says Miller. The platform Dell selected: groups of Dell™ PowerEdge™ servers running Oracle® Database 10g with OracleReal Application Clusters, and drawing on Dell/EMC storage devices. The platform uses the Linux® operating system, reflecting a growing trend in the Oracle community: According to an Independent Oracle Users Group member survey in early 2006, Linux will overtake Sun’s UNIX-based Solaris as the top operating system for Oracle database deployments in 2007. The demands on the Dell and Oracle platformwere clearly going to be significant. The database has to support a range of vital supply chain processes, including configuration management, procurement, material-cost management, inventory, and accounts payable. In terms of workloads, that means handling the volumes of information needed to manage 1 million Dell part numbers across nearly 200 product families. It also means tracking nearly 3...