Coop Group is a leading retail, wholesale and food production company based in Basel, Switzerland. While its large retail business focuses on the Swiss market, the company’s wholesale business operates across Europe. Coop Group employs 91,000 people, runs almost 2,500 retail stores, and generates annual revenues of CHF 30.2 billion (US$32.7 billion).
Fresh food is at the heart of a balanced and varied diet, and making sure high-quality produce is always available on store shelves and online is a key challenge for Coop Group. Managing a complex, fast-paced supply chain at scale requires advanced logistics processes and quick decision-making.
Efficiently handling the logistics around its 14 distribution centers is central to the retailer’s success. To ensure that customers can get essentials such as fruit, vegetables, and bread fresh every day, Coop relies heavily on data analytics and sophisticated forecasting — even including factors such as local weather conditions to optimize distribution and maximize freshness.
“Our goal is to deliver the right amount of produce at the right time in the perfect quality to the right retail locations,” says Coop Group’s Head of IT Storage and Monitoring, Christian Hässler. “That’s critical to keep our customers happy and grow our revenues. When dealing with fresh food, reliability is paramount. We cannot afford any delays. Our processes have to run smoothly, every day.”
To ensure timely logistics processes and smooth food deliveries, Coop Group monitors IT performance closely. Recognizing that data volumes were growing massively, the company decided to take a proactive approach and expand its data storage infrastructure.
Ensuring Reliable and Fast Operations
Coop Group extensively evaluated multiple vendors before selecting a new central infrastructure based on Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) 5500 with 1.5PB all-flash storage capacity. “Hitachi Vantara offers a very powerful, reliable and mature system architecture at a very good price,” says Hässler. “We had worked with Hitachi Vantara before, and we knew that we could count on their support team to keep our business running smoothly.”
The highly consolidated storage solution drives a wide range of workloads. The Hitachi VSP 5500 delivers low latency to support the company’s 30 mission-critical SAP applications, which run on IBM® Power Systems servers. The virtualized environment uses IBM PowerVM® to run SAP ERP and Oracle Database on the IBM AIX® operating system and SAP S/4HANA and SAP HANA on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP applications. In addition, the Hitachi VSP 5500 also runs a large-scale VMware vSphere environment that supports approximately 3,000 virtual machines. All data is mirrored to a secondary data center using Hitachi Universal Replicator (HUR) software to ensure high availability and business continuity.
The IT team worked with Hitachi Vantara to migrate its data to the new storage infrastructure seamlessly. “Hitachi professional services helped us move all our data in the background during normal business hours, with no impact on end users,” recalls Hässler. “Hitachi Global-Active Device technology enabled this gradual migration strategy, which helped us to reduce business risk and maximize performance for our customers throughout the process.”
Coop Group also deployed Hitachi VSP Unified Storage for NAS G600 and G400 with all-flash, for fast and simple file access and shared drives. As part of the standardization, the company is also using Hitachi VSP G350 arrays to reduce complexity and increase reliability in its 14 distribution centers.
For audit-proof archiving with OpenText software and storage of high-resolution product and marketing photos, Coop Group relies on Hitachi Content Platform (HCP). Furthermore, Hitachi VSP G900 and HCP are crucial to the company’s backup and recovery processes.
“To boost our protection against ransomware attacks, we have set up a 3-tier backup architecture,” explains Hässler. “First, we do a backup to disk on Hitachi VSP G900 to ensure short recovery times. Then we move the data to HCP to strengthen security and protect against attackers who might attempt to overwrite or encrypt data and backups. Finally, we transfer our business data to tapes for another layer of security.”
Delivering Rapid Supply Chain Insights
Today, Coop Group benefits from the high reliability and performance of its new infrastructure, which helps to maximize the availability of its most important business applications and provide reliable customer service at all times.
The improved storage performance is especially important for the company’s large SAP Business Warehouse application. Analysts rely on the ability to generate and update reports quickly to finalize orders every day. “Speed is critical for our forecasting and logistics,” says Hässler. “Thanks to the fast execution of our complex analytics tasks, we can minimize wastage of fresh food and maximize sales.”
The new storage systems show their true value whenever Coop Group needs to restart an instance: Very fast data throughput is key to getting its huge 16TB systems back online. The company can restart SAP HANA within 30 minutes, minimizing impact for staff and customers. Coop Group also accelerates backup and restore processes by enabling rapid data recovery from disks.
“What really sets Hitachi Vantara apart from other vendors is the seamless and simple collaboration,” says Hässler. “Working with Hitachi Vantara is just very easy, there are no complicated processes to get in the way. We’ve built trusted relationships with excellent engineers who know our environment very well. Hitachi Vantara is very flexible when it matters—for example, giving us quick access to temporary infrastructure if we need to handle unexpected performance challenges.”
For monitoring and optimization, Coop Group used IOportal, a service provided in cooperation with Hitachi Vantara partner peaq GmbH. The package includes regular reviews and in-depth analysis, which help Coop Group to plan its storage strategy cost-effectively and learn about the latest best practices from peaq’s expert consultants.
Hässler concludes: “Together with Hitachi Vantara, we have simplified and standardized our infrastructure by following a single-vendor storage strategy. These reliable and cost-efficient solutions help us keep our shelves stocked and deliver the freshest produce to our customers across Switzerland. This increases our sales while helping our customers maintain a balanced diet.”
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