In the lingerie retail industry, there’s arguably no name more recognizable than Bras N Things (BNT). With more than 200 stores throughout Australia and New Zealand, the company is a major success story. Yet it is success that has been built on providing customers with nothing short of the best possible lingerie retail experience; and underpinning that is a high performance IT infrastructure supported by Systems Operations Suite (Level 2) from Halcyon.
When BNT’s IT Manager, Leigh Shaba, started with the company in 2007, one of the main challenges he was confronted with was ensuring full integration between the company’s newly implemented IBM i-based JDA ERP and MICROS point-of-sale (POS) systems. A crucial component of that integration was to be a systems monitoring and notification solution for IBM i that could reduce systems administrator workloads and, most importantly, monitor every aspect of the server then broadcast alerts in case of systems error.
“If data from each of the stores isn’t downloaded automatically at the close of business, or there is a glitch in the overnight batch processing on IBM i, it can have an enormous domino effect on the company,” Leigh explains. “If the ERP system isn’t able to process a day’s sales, then replenishment orders for the warehouse don’t get prepared. This in turn can result in 60 warehouse personnel being unable to do the day’s picking, not to mention stores potentially running short of stock.”
Regardless of having used Halcyon technologies prior to joining BNT, Leigh invited two other systems monitoring vendors along with Halcyon to propose a solution. Aside from an on-site demonstration, Leigh insisted on being provided with several reference sites from each of the vendors.
“The Halcyon sites were the only ones that didn’t complain about vendor support,” he says. “And they were also those sites that were most enthusiastic about their systems monitoring solution. What stood out particularly, though, was that Halcyon’s Systems Operations Suite was the only one of the three that delivered really versatile alerting and the ability to send commands to IBM i via SMS. Then, aside from being vastly better technology, it beat the others hands down when it came to price.”
Once the Halcyon solution was implemented, personnel received trained, a comprehensive list of alert definitions was completed, business disruptions caused by IBM i-related issues ceased almost immediately. Contributing to that is alert escalation—a feature Leigh regards as being crucial to effective systems management.
“When the system sends an alert about an issue that needs resolution, such as a disk failure or job unable to be run, it essentially won’t rest until there is a resolution,” Leigh explains. “If an issue isn’t addressed within five minutes of initial notification being sent, another alert is sent, then yet again five minutes later if there’s no response. Failing that, the alert is escalated and I receive the notification.”
Of particular benefit to the BNT team is that the Halcyon Message Communicator component of the solution enables IBM i system commands to be sent and acted upon by SMS.
“Anything that doesn’t require physical intervention can be done with little more than a mobile phone,” Leigh says. “This gives us the ability to resolve issues without needing to be on site, and well before they can have any impact on the business.”
Halcyon alerts and notifications are not restricted to the IT department. In fact, Leigh has configured the system to send email notifications to various business units when specific jobs on IBM i have been completed. An example of this is the BNT buying team’s extensive reliance on a third-party business intelligence application.
“It’s essential for the team that their buying decisions and strategies are based on the most current data,” Leigh explains. “Now, as soon as the application has finished processing the previous day’s transactions, the Halcyon system automatically notifies them by email.”
When it comes to gaining time-savings from the Halcyon solution, Leigh states that four hours per day is a conservative estimate. Where administrators used to spend around two hours every morning and every afternoon checking message queues and history logs, they now devote that time to providing support to the company’s user community.
“Halcyon has given us the ability to concentrate on our core role, which is supporting the users,” Leigh says. “We’re no longer constantly poring over IBM i queues and logs just to make sure that backups have been completed and jobs that were scheduled to run have run. Essentially, we’re now at the stage where the vast majority of IBM i operation-related tasks are fully automated.”
Bearing out precisely what he had been told by other Halcyon customers, Leigh and his team have discovered that Halcyon support is more than just a cut above the rest.
“Every time we’ve contacted Halcyon, the response has been almost immediate,” Leigh states. “That’s precisely the level of support we need in order that we can provide it in kind to the business. Would I recommend Halcyon to other large IBM i sites? Definitely!”