The CERT Group is the UK’s largest independent provider of logistics and distribution services, generating revenues in excess of 65 million, and with a leading position in the wines and spirits, and battery and portable lighting sectors. CERT aims to be the ‘leader in improving supply chain performance through the provision of integrated supply chain services’, increasing efficiency and adding value for brand owners, retailers and consumers.
In late 2002, the decision was taken to move to a thin-client CITRIX based infrastructure both to reduce the cost, and increase the effectiveness, of CERT’s deployment of information communications technology across its four operating divisions – Octavian, CERT Logistics, Supply Chain Solutions and CERT Distributors.
Brigitte Bell, CERT’s ICT manager, had identified that her team was overstretched, spending their time fire fighting IT issues at service centres across the UK. It was felt that a CITRIX thin client infrastructure would resolve this issue, enabling the lean IT team at CERT’s headquarters in Hoddesdon to manage a greater proportion of problems remotely, and freeup time to focus on strategic initiatives to enhance overall group supply chain efficiencies.
While CERT operates on a distributed basis with service centres up and down the country and a national distribution network, the business applications that manage the company and its activities are hosted both at head office in Hoddesdon, and by CERT’s IT consultants, PWL, at Liverpool. Clearly, the role of the data network is critical, linking the physical assets of CERT across the UK with the applications that ensure the business divisions operate efficiently.
With the move to CITRIX, bandwidth on CERT’s existing frame relay network, which was provided by BT, required upgrading. Rather than purchase additional bandwidth, BT suggested that Brigitte Bell could enhance the operational efficiency of her team still further by moving to BT IP Clear. Deploying BT IP Clear reduced the cost-of-ownership by removing another layer of complexity for CERT. It cut out, at a stroke, the requirement to pre-configure and manage the router and point-to-point connections associated with traditional data networks.
This is because IP Clear, BT’s secure IP Virtual Private Network service, provides any-to-any connectivity, being offered on a ‘connectionless’ basis that allows companies to scale networks simply and, like CERT, take advantage of distributed hosting. As well as enabling the new CITRIX infrastructure, IP Clear allows CERT easily to extend their mission critical supply chain platform, Powerforce, to third party hauliers and distributors.
Damian Cox, business IP specialist, BT, designed the new IP Clear network for CERT, and implementation began in early 2003. It was vital for the additional bandwidth to be in place prior to the move to CITRIX, which was being undertaken for CERT by another company and is scheduled for completion in April 2004.
The new IP Clear network links to CERT’s main data site at Hoddesdon, which hosts both office desktop and supply chain applications. CERT’s mission critical application, Powerforce, is hosted by consultants at their Liverpool computer centre on separate geographically mirrored IBM RS6000s. Using IP Clear, the Liverpool site can switch rapidly to the consultancy’s back up facility at Runcorn in the event of an unforeseen disaster.
While CERT’s head office site is linked to IP Clear via an 8MB private virtual circuit (PVC) configured over a 34MB Cellstream Metro link, the bandwidth utilised by CERT’s other UK facilities reflects the size of each installation. For example, CERT’s Octavian facility, which at one million square feet is the UK’s largest public wine cellar, has a 2048k connection.
Other CERT locations have connection speeds ranging from 256k at Beaconsfield, 512k at Rotherham, and 1024k at Leicester. In total BT IP Clear connects eight CERT sites and two application provider sites, excluding partner distribution centres.
CERT opted for BT’s fully managed IP Clear service for the same reasons of efficiency. Since BT has responsibility for the network up to and including the router, the IT team and CERT can focus on managing their mission critical supply chain suite of applications. Furthermore, CERT’s service level agreement commits BT to ensure 99.9 percent availability, with faults resolved within a 5-hour timeframe.
Since IP Clear uses BT’s MPLS core network, which is owned, managed and maintained end-to-end by BT, security and reliability is ensured. In fact, security is equivalent to that provided in traditional virtual private network (VPN) services from BT. As well as being secure, CERT is able to use IP Clear’s differentiated Classes of Service to ensure mission critical applications have priority over FTP traffic. IP Clear also provides an option to converge voice and data applications in the future.
Implementation of the BT IP Clear network was completed over a weekend in August 2003.