Robert Heath Heating powers more flexible, strategic operations

Supporting business growth with IBM systems

Published on 19-Feb-2013

"IBM technology is really helping us to run a much better business, and to support more dynamic, efficient ways of working that create greater value for the company and our customers." - Kristian Ellmore, ICT Director, Robert Heath Heating

Customer:
Robert Heath Heating

Industry:
Energy & Utilities

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Solution:
IGF, IGF: IT Financing - IBM HW, IGF: IT Financing - IBM SW, Business Integration, Business Resiliency, Energy Efficiency, High Availability , Virtualization, Virtualization - Server

IBM Business Partner:
Manor IT Sales and Solutions

Overview

Robert Heath Heating specializes in providing domestic and commercial gas heating installation, repair and maintenance services to social housing, serving more than 100,000 properties nationwide. Founded in 1979 by Robert Heath, the company has grown to become one of the leading independent gas heating contractors in the UK.

Business need:
As its operations expanded, Robert Heath Heating wanted to deliver high-quality service to more customers and improve operational agility, all while keeping tight control over costs and resources.

Solution:
Virtualized IBM® System x®3650 class servers offer the flexibility needed to support a growing business. Smart IBM Systems Director software helps to lessen administrative burden on IT staff.

Benefits:
Reduced IT administration effort by 75 percent and cut energy consumption by 20 percent. Improved flexibility helps the company to deploy new services more rapidly and support more innovative programs.

Case Study

Robert Heath Heating specializes in providing domestic and commercial gas heating installation, repair and maintenance services to social housing, serving more than 100,000 properties nationwide. Founded in 1979 by Robert Heath, the company has grown to become one of the leading independent gas heating contractors in the UK.

Meeting the challenges of growth
As business at Robert Heath Heating continued to boom, rising customer numbers were putting greater pressure on the company to handle service requests more efficiently, driving the need for improved operational flexibility and efficiency.

Kristian Ellmore, ICT Director at Robert Heath Heating, explains: “Our success has largely been built on delivering top-quality service to customers, and it is vital for us to maintain this high standard as the company grows. When it comes to an essential service such as heating, customers are quick to run out of patience if there are delays, meaning that we need to respond to their demands as rapidly and effectively as possible.”

Supporting smooth operations
At Robert Heath Heating, technology plays a central role in guaranteeing the smooth running of operations. The company has spent many years building up a bespoke enterprise resource management system, which underpins all aspects of its gas servicing, maintenance and installation business. Ensuring that these business systems operate reliably is a top priority for IT staff – Robert Heath Heating cannot afford to be held back by slow system performance or downtime.

“As the company expanded, we began to experience some growing pains within our IT environment,” notes Kristian Ellmore. “We were running a mix of outdated hardware systems, with multiple services running on different operating systems. This restricted us to a one application per server model, which really limited our flexibility and scalability. On top of that, performance was starting to decline, and we were dedicating more and more time to resolving issues and making sure that the machines simply kept running.”

Trusting in IBM technology
With many of its systems nearing end of life, Robert Heath Heating took the opportunity to upgrade its entire server infrastructure, and approached long-term service partner Manor IT Sales and Solutions for guidance in selecting a solution.

“We looked at a number of options and IBM quickly emerged as the front-runner,” says Kristian Ellmore. “Bringing in a technology leader like IBM gave us everything we were looking for, from top performance and scalability to reliability. Being backed by a company like IBM gave us a lot of confidence – we knew that if there was ever an issue, the support would be there when we needed it.”

Collaboration with IBM Global Financing helped sweeten the deal: Robert Heath Heating was able to acquire a complete solution at competitive rates, with a flexible, cost-effective funding plan.

Robert Heath Heating chose to implement the IBM System x3650, a performance-optimized server that offers top reliability and availability for mission-critical workloads. All business systems now run on IBM System x, from the Cisco Unified Communications products for call center operations to the company’s email and web services.

Dynamic, virtualized infrastructure
The company initially deployed two IBM servers, and its landscape has since grown to include 14 System x3650 class servers, which are virtualized with VMware vSphere. Virtualization enables Robert Heath to break away from the one-application-per-server model, and run applications in virtual servers hosted on a single machine.

Additionally, adding more capacity is much quicker and easier for IT staff, since a new server is immediately virtualized and can be used to host applications within hours. The flexibility enabled by virtualization has transformed the company’s ability to sustain business growth and meet changing demands.

Kristian Ellmore remarks: “Our investment in IBM has opened up possibilities and opportunities that simply weren’t available to us before. For example, we recently deployed a new remote working solution, which we were able to get up and running in just four weeks, without provisioning any new equipment. The level of flexibility that we have gained through virtualization has made us so much more agile and allows us to better support the business as it grows.”

Making management easier
To simplify the management of its IBM systems, the company uses IBM Systems Director software. Built-in automation capabilities and comprehensive management tools help to proactively detect and avoid problems, and reduce the administrative burden of routine maintenance.

“With IBM Systems Director we can monitor and manage all of our hardware components from a single console, and check on the health of our systems from any location,” states Kristian Ellmore. “We hardly even need to visit the server room any more, as the software does most of the work for us.”

The improved ease-of-management enabled by Systems Director software means that IT administrators can support more workloads and servers with fewer resources.

Kristian Ellmore elaborates: “Our overall maintenance and support effort has been reduced by at least 75 percent. We have gone from having two full-time employees looking after a smaller system to spending less than 30 minutes a week on system maintenance for the much larger landscape.”

Cutting energy consumption
Robert Heath Heating has also been able to reduce its power consumption with IBM Systems Director Active Energy Manager™. The software measures, monitors, and manages the energy and thermal components of hardware platforms in use at the company. By offering a single, real-time view of energy usage across IT systems, the solution is helping administrators to control energy usage more effectively.

“While we now run more servers than before, we have been able to reduce our energy consumption by 20 percent, thanks to the visibility and control provided by IBM Systems Director Active Energy Manager,” explains Kristian Ellmore.

“As a company, we recognize the value of green technology – we promote renewable energy options to many of our customers, and have invested in solar photovoltaics ourselves. With our new IBM servers using less energy, we have actually been able to directly offset power consumption in the data center with the energy generated from our solar panels, which is a huge benefit.”

Streamlined hardware support
Solid support from IBM helps to ensure that any questions or issues are resolved quickly and effectively. By taking advantage of IBM Electronic Service Call (ESC+) – a problem submission facility that allows customers to place and monitor hardware service requests online – IT administrators have reduced the time they spend on logging support requests.

“IBM Electronic Service Call is an incredibly productive tool that makes life so much easier for us in the IT department,” says Kristian Ellmore. “We don’t have to go through the hassle of spending ages on the phone with a call-center operator. We just have to report the fault, and IBM is typically able to provide a solution within an hour of receiving the service request.”

Building a better business
With smart IBM server technology and software driving more flexible, reliable operations, the IT department has been able to take on a more strategic and proactive role when it comes to supporting the business.

Kristian Ellmore concludes: “Now that we are no longer occupied with low-level systems management, the entire focus of our IT operation has been realigned to enable more strategic initiatives and help drive the company forward. IBM technology is really helping us to run a much better business, and to support more dynamic, efficient ways of working that create greater value for the company and our customers.”

Products and services used

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

Hardware:
System x, System x: System x3650 M3

Software:
IBM Systems Director Active Energy Manager, IBM Systems Director for System x

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013 IBM United Kingdom Limited PO Box 41, North Harbour Portsmouth Hampshire, PO6 3AU Produced in the United Kingdom February 2013 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, IBM Systems Director Active Energy Manager and System x are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. IBM and Manor IT Sales and Solutions Ltd. are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor Manor IT Sales and Solutions Ltd. makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. It is the user’s responsibility to evaluate and verify the operation of any other products or programs with IBM products and programs. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided.