adidas takes a kick at single-server integration

With its European and U.S. offices contemplating a worldwide SAP AG implementation, sports apparel and equipment supplier adidas-Salomon Canada has been busy touting the benefits gained from its single-server consolidated environment using IBM Corp. technology.

adidas-Salomon is the second largest manufacturer of sporting goods worldwide. According to the Toronto-based firm, the Canadian operations just happens to be the only adidas-Salomon subsidiary in the world that houses its various brands — from tennis shoes to TaylorMade golf products — under one roof.

This obviously presents unique challenges, said Paul Leone, vice-president of supply chain, IT logistics at adidas-Salomon Canada, as the firm was seeking an consolidated IT environment that could handle the various supply chain applications used by each brand division. The Toronto-based firm is currently running core data processing applications on IBM’s eServer iSeries technology and announced this week a migration to a new eServer iSeries 810 server.

Leone is currently spreading the gospel about its consolidated IT infrastructure to the other locations. According to Leone, as a percentage of net sales the total cost of ownership of its IT system stands at 1.1 per cent, less than half that of its global locations.

But it wasn’t easy as the challenge was to marry the technology with the business process, Leone admitted. “One of the challenges with integration is that you want bang for the buck very quickly.” Barry Pow, eServer iSeries product manager at Markham, Ont. based-IBM Canada, noted that in Canada, server consolidation is a growing trend in the SMB space. SMB organizations should study issues such as application environment status and what OSes are supported.

These types of organizations typically lack large IT staffs or budget, Pow said, thus a server consolidation strategy can result in systems that are both easy to manage and cost effective.

“We were an integration guinea pig,” admits Leone about the company’s single-server strategy. Instead of maintaining multiple independent (Dell) servers, the lone iSeries server is responsible for the backend and operational warehouse management applications, Leone said, along with the adidas-Salomon Canada Web portal which enables its retail clients to track inventory in real-time. The firm is only in the midst of the push to the Web, based off of the iSeries platform.

Customer can essentially track order status from the warehouse to the stock rooms 24/7. Having downtime isn’t an option and so far the company hasn’t had a warehouse ask to reboot the system, Leone said. In other adidas-Salomon locations those sorts of problems happens once a week, he added.

While other global locations run multiple apps and multiple servers, all of adidas-Salomon Canada’s supply chain systems — including purchase orders, order management, warehouse management, financials — are connected on the iSeries. “We’re a big believer in looking at our computer room and making it as simple as we can, not just because it’s easier to maintain and keep track of but really from an application standpoint,” Leone said. “ When the majority of your apps run on one server, then the ability to interface those apps are so much simpler.”

The firm’s U.S. operations recently completed an SAP implementation that includes adding technology such as EDI components. Other worldwide locations may follow suit and standardize on the one technology.

“We did all that in the mid-90’s,” Leone said.

“Our challenge is to continue getting value from the toolset that we’ve built” and show the other locations that this environment works, Leone said, adding the adidas-Salomon’s setup has become an international model of sorts for the company.The iSeries 810 server environment includes 5 integrated (xSeries) servers, logical partitioning for two partitions (production and test environments). The beauty is the two partitions is that they are completely replicating in that whatever is done in the real world can be done in the test environment as well, Leone said.

Future plans include adding ftp tools, an internal sales portal and implementing Linux to the iSeries, Leone said. “We’ve got tools and systems in place that are far beyond our global capabilities,” Leone said.

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