U.K. Retailer Updates Infrastructure to Support Growing Food Business

Marks & Spencer migrated to a high-performance Hitachi Vantara storage solution to improve overnight batch processing and ensure its vast inventory of food items are delivered and replenished on time every day. As a bonus, the new system has cut operational costs in half.

  • August 3, 2023 | Author: Susan Biagi
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Marks & Spencer is one of the U.K.’s iconic high-street brands. With more than 850 stores across the U.K., it boasts combined sales of £10.3 billion (about $13.14 billion), more than half of which comes from food sales. M&S customers expect good customer service and high-quality, high-value products to be readily available.

Spurred by growing sales, M&S frequently introduces new foods, as many as 1,000 new items in a single year. One of its fastest-selling desserts, the Belgian Chocolate Jaffa Sphere, sold more than 170,000 units in six weeks. It’s a lot to keep track of, especially during peak season. To ensure customer satisfaction and product availability, M&S needs fast reporting and accurate restocking information.

Night Moves

Daily sales data from each store is reported and analyzed overnight. Replenishment orders are sent to suppliers by 5:15 am, so they have enough time to deliver goods and stores can restock shelves before customers arrive. As sales increased, the nightly assessments began to take longer, edging up against the supplier deadline. Any glitch in the system could stall the batch processing and delay or halt replenishment orders. Adding to M&S’s woes was its large, complex IT infrastructure. It was difficult to manage and was driving up operational costs.  

M&S needed to minimize its risk. The IT team determined that updating and simplifying the data storage and management systems could improve the overnight batch processing and decrease operational costs. The team also wanted to increase total capacity, improve performance, and reduce device acquisition costs.

High Storage Performance from Hitachi VSP

After carefully weighing its options, M&S chose to deploy two Hitachi Vantara Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) G1000 systems with Hitachi Accelerated Flash and the Hitachi Command Suite. The two VSPs would replace multiple devices, deliver high storage performance, and provide scalability.

The next challenge was the safe and secure migration of data without disrupting business operations. The M&S team worked with systems integration partner Tata Consultancy Services and Hitachi Data Systems Global Services to migrate M&S’s entire storage workload to the new system. Together they moved 750 TB of data accessed by 6,000 virtual machines and 180 IBM AIX logical partitions. The six-month project was completed on time, within the budget, and with no business interruption.

The storage simplification has been a success. The new VSP G1000 systems have reduced overnight batch times by 35 percent, giving M&S and its suppliers some breathing room in determining and delivering replenishment orders overnight. The consolidated system also cut the storage footprint by 75 percent, which saves power, cooling, and data center space. The end result has reduced storage-related operational IT expenses by more than 50 percent.

Find out more about Hitachi’s Storage Platforms.

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