Farmers Cooperative sows growth with IBM BladeCenter

Published on 26-Oct-2011

Validated on 02 Jan 2014

"I was looking for a solution that could give me maximum uptime, maximum throughput and maximum performance for the bottom dollar. For me that was the IBM BladeCenter S, the IBM BladeCenter H and the IBM System X3550 M3." - Wayne Kinyon, information technology infrastructure lead, Farmers Cooperative Company

Customer:
Farmers Cooperative Company

Industry:
Wholesale Distribution & Services

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
Database Management, IT/infrastructure, Automation, Energy Efficiency, Enterprise Modernization, High Availability , Infrastructure Simplification, IT Life Cycle Management , Networking, Optimizing IT

Overview

Founded in 1881, Farmers Cooperative Co. (FC) is the largest farmer-owned agricultural cooperative in Iowa. With headquarters in Ames, FC serves over 5,500 active members across a vast trade territory covering more than 3 million acres of farmland. With $1.1 billion U.S. in revenue, FC members are served from over 60 locations across the state by more than 700 employees.

Business need:
FC needed to bolster its increasingly automated IT environment with improved performance, storage and reliability across a highly distributed infrastructure.

Solution:
FC implemented a solution that includes two IBM® BladeCenter® S chassis, a BladeCenter H chassis, BladeCenter HS21, HS22 and HS22V servers using Intel® Xeon® processors. The implementation also includes an IBM System x® 3550 M3 server and an IBM System Storage® DS3400.

Benefits:
The IBM solution improves performance across the enterprise, saves physical space and reduces energy consumption, and increases reliability in demanding operating conditions.

Case Study

Since its founding in 1881, Farmers Cooperative Co. (FC) has grown to become the largest farmer-owned agricultural cooperative in Iowa. With headquarters in Ames, FC serves over 5,500 active members across a vast trade territory covering more than 3 million acres of farmland. With $1.1 billion U.S. in revenue, FC members are served from over 60 locations across the state by more than 700 employees.

FC exists on the premise that if a group of people with similar goals get together, they can achieve more than any one of them could on their own. To that end, FC’s main goal is to help its members by offering competitive products at the economies of scale needed to successfully compete in a global agricultural marketplace.

Sprouting technology needs at FC

Over time, the role of technology has grown significantly in agribusiness in general, and at FC in particular. From FC’s data center in Ames to the array of thin clients running at feed mills, the role of IT is more important than ever, explains Wayne Kinyon, information technology infrastructure lead at Farmers Cooperative Company. To put it in perspective, Kinyon says the amount of shared storage has grown from 36 gigabytes to 17 terabytes in the nine years he has worked at FC.

“We work with farmers to get them what they need, when they need it,” says Kinyon. “The reliance on IT is getting larger to keep track of the bookkeeping and to do the levels of automation that we do. We also allow our farmers 24-hour access to our website so they can get their crop out of the field or get feed for their livestock whenever they need it.”

FC faced some unique challenges to support and bolster their IT infrastructure in a cost-effective manner. The equipment had to function reliably in often cramped and dirty operating conditions at automated feed mills, where feed and grain is processed for use in various agricultural applications, such as hog feed. Kinyon also needed to be able to remotely monitor and support this complex infrastructure, which is spread across a large geographic area, with a staff of just four IT employees.

“There was no dedicated computer room when a lot of these places were built, so space and environmental conditions are very limited,” explains Kinyon. “And because the drive time from one end of our territory to the other is anywhere from four to six hours, you can’t just send somebody out on the road for maintenance—it doesn’t work. We have to do more with fewer bodies.”

A diverse crop of IBM solutions

After a disk failure on FC’s legacy systems led to significant downtime at one of their feed mills, Kinyon began exploring ways to provide better support and minimize downtime across the enterprise. Kinyon and his team ultimately decided to couple the power of IBM BladeCenter solutions with virtualization technology to meet the demands for automation, performance and reliability. The resulting solution includes three generations of IBM BladeCenters running in two BladeCenter S chassis: BladeCenter HS21, HS22 and HS22V.

“The BladeCenter H is the core of my computing environment,” Kinyon says. “I have virtualized the majority of our environment and things have performed far better than what other vendors were suggesting with physical boxes.”

Rounding out FC’s computing environment is an IBM System x3550 M3 and an IBM System Storage DS3400. The System x solution monitors server uptime, disk, memory and processor utilization, as well as packet capturing and tracking. Adds Kinyon: “The System x3550 M3 has been a rock solid performer for our network monitoring.”

Benefit of IBM solutions growing fast

The results have not only maximized uptime; they’ve boosted performance while minimizing energy consumption in a very limited physical footprint. Using the optional BladeCenter S Office Enablement Kit with contaminant filter has enabled that particular solution to operate in dusty, temperature-challenged feed mill conditions while remaining quiet enough to function near a desk.

“The BladeCenter S literally has been running for nine months. I’ve had no down time, no outages. It’s been great,” Kinyon says.

FC is also taking advantage of some advanced features contained in the Intel Xeon processors, such as Hyper-Threading Technology for increased throughput and flexibility. Coupled with IBM Tivoli® software, Kinyon says the solution has enabled Kinyon to backup the entire storage environment to an IBM TS3200 Tape Library in about eight hours instead of the previous 24 to 26 hour window.

“Our end users have noticed nothing but performance and speed increases as we keep beefing up our data center,” says Kinyon. “But with our new solution, we don’t suffer data loss due to laptop failures or desktop failures.”

Raising awareness through centralized control

On the software side, Kinyon is exploiting the power of virtualization by using VMware to remotely manage the infrastructure. Kinyon also uses the Microsoft SQL Server to compile detailed information about feed mill operations, from the ingredients used in every batch of feed that is processed, to what ingredients were fed to what hog, where it came from and when the feed was manufactured.

The net result is an IT operation that does exactly what Kinyon needs, now and into the future.

“I was looking for a solution that could give me maximum uptime, maximum throughput and maximum performance for the bottom dollar,” says Kinyon. “For me that was the IBM BladeCenter S, the IBM BladeCenter H and the IBM System x3550 M3. They’ve given me the most processing power and options that I could look for in a system. It’s everything I wanted and more.”

For more information

Contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit us at: ibm.com/systems/bladecenter

For more information about Farmers Cooperative Company, visit: www.fccoop.com

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
BladeCenter HS22V, BladeCenter S Chassis, Storage: DS3400, Storage: TS3200 Tape Library, System x: System x3550 M3

Software:
Tivoli Components

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2011 IBM Systems and Technology Group Route 100 Somers, New York 10589 U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America October 2011 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, BladeCenter, System x, System Storage and Tivoli are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml Intel, Intel logo and Intel Xeon are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Microsoft, Windows, Windows NT, and the Windows logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. Other company, product and service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Offerings are subject to change, extension or withdrawal without notice. All client examples cited represent how some clients have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. The information in this document is provided “as-is” without any warranty, either expressed or implied.