John Nicholls Group delivers continuously available business systems across branches.
John Nicholls Group
Data Centre Consolidation/Upgrade/Refresh Project of the Year
Entry Description
UK based John Nicholls Group is one of the leading independent building merchants serving both trade and the public across 5 counties. Theirs is a struggle that faces most mid-sized trading organisations - to deliver continuously available business systems across branches.

What exactly is novel about the process?
Key success faces are the longevity of Software-Defined Storage technology growing and scaling costs effectively. Rollback 8 years, John Nicholls were suffering from a creaking IT infrastructure that stretched the IT team. They became an early adopter of virtualisation to ring-fence their resultant VMware estate to provide Virtual Disks for their storage that would pool, mirror and serve disk blocks. They selected DataCore’s SDS solution as their software layer would give the much-needed storage performance but at fraction of the cost of proprietary systems and allow future usage of commodity storage.
“Where others have moved to solely e-trading, we have successfully grown our counter and phone business through increased personal interactions and extra service levels that face-to-face trading brings.” Says Cal. “But we live in a time sensitive digital age, so service has to be delivered with fast accuracy. DataCore now powers that performance.” Cal Letts, IT Support Manager, John Nicholls Group

How does the process break conventional fields in this area?
Rollback to install and SDS adoption into mid-sized organisations was viewed largely as an ‘alternate’ adoption path vs adding more hardware to fix lagging performance. DataCore’s performance advantage quickly materialised boosting the speed of data manipulation of SQL servers used for transaction processing. Bulk reads were conducted at lightning speeds and shielding users from known inefficiencies. “It was nothing short of a dramatic night and day increase in the before and after speeds on processing transactions with DataCore running at the backend.“ Cal recalls. “Somehow you learn to accept slow performance as a consequence of database crunching, but it’s not until it’s turbo charged – and in this case, by simply by adding a software layer to what’s already in place - that you question why it hadn’t been done sooner!”.
How did it go over marginal improvements beyond what was already in place?
Central management. No longer did IT have to physically manage devices or swap out disk drives. Instead, they quickly embraced thin provisioning allocating required disks on the fly. With heavy trading across the weekends and each weekday, the maintenance window was short and out of hours. With DataCore, IT could maintain and respond in the moment.

How did John Nicholls Group benefit from the DataCore approach?

Being truly vendor agnostic realised long-term Capex savings for John Nicholls and has extended the life of storage hardware that would have been deemed redundant.
“At the time the move to SDS in an environment our size was a big jump but with hindsight we couldn’t recommend another route. We quickly grasped that software was the future so we took the time to maximise our install and gain a great knowledge foundation for growth and successful use. Seven years on, we are still self-optimising and tweaking with confidence.”