Manufacturer Boosts Productivity, Morale With IT Overhaul

How a maker of industrial equipment improved productivity and reduced costs throughout the factory floor and offices.

By David Papp, PC World |  Networking, blade servers

Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Argus Machine Company has made custom parts and pipeline threading in Canada for oil and gas fields since 1958. But in three buildings totaling 100,000 square feet, unreliable, piecemeal technology was increasingly frustrating some 100 employees.

Workers in its plants rely on software that instructs manufacturing and assembly machines, but frequent network outages forced them to upload commands manually, causing product delays. Staff in sales, marketing, accounting, and administration had a rough time accessing the corporate intranet and documents, as well as the printing, e-mail, and accounting systems.

The existing technology mixed HP tower servers, an IBM e-series blade chassis, and an old VMware ESX 3.0 server with only 2GB of RAM and four memory-starved virtual machines. A broken Microsoft Exchange server with 2GB of RAM constantly swapped out to the hard drive for extra memory. The main server room overheated, sapping the equipment's power and life expectancy.

There were also unmanaged 100-mbps ethernet network switches, a no-name firewall, and one overloaded uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Staff had no idea if data was backed up, and they wrote over unlabeled tapes that were already full. An old PBX phone system wouldn't even transfer calls to other locations.

The Solution

Argus had some nice pieces, such as the IBM blade chassis and blade servers that we continued to use. We wanted to upgrade the rest of their IT infrastructure. To limit interruptions and expenses, we staged roughly five mini-upgrades and test periods over six months, sometimes after work hours.

We had Argus buy both Thecus N8800 and QNAP TS-809U-RP iSCSI Network Attached Storage (NAS) units, which consolidated storage while increasing and distributing space among servers. Argus eventually bought a Dell EqualLogic PS5000E iSCSI SAN (Storage Area Network server)--a must-have component for any VMware environment--and we migrated the Thecus and QNAP for backup use only.

We expanded the three blades to 16GB of RAM, and turned them into VMware ESX v4 servers using the iSCSI NAS systems. Then we converted the physical servers to the virtual environment.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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