Platform for Growth

Platform for Growth

PKA designs and implements a scalable infrastructure that delivers high levels of performance and availability for Zethcon’s hosted software.

In today’s hypercompetitive, nonstop business environment, a highly reliable IT infrastructure has become critical to success. This is particularly true for service providers who host applications and provide cloud-based solutions. Customers have come to expect “five 9s” availability from hosted solutions. Downtime is not an option.

Zethcon Corp. is committed to delivering that level of reliability to its customers. The Chicago-based firm offers its Synapse warehouse management system as a hosted solution — a popular deployment model that’s now used by more than half of its customers. Zethcon needed to make some technology upgrades to ensure a high level of uptime as its hosted environment continued to grow, and turned to PKA Technologies for help.

Chris Oechsel, CEO of Zethcon, had met Peter Katz, CTO of PKA, many years earlier, and remembered that Katz is an experienced enterprise architect. Oechsel asked him for help in designing and implementing an environment that would meet the high-availability requirements of Zethcon’s customers.

“The growth we’ve been experiencing had put stress on the infrastructure that was supporting our hosted application,” Oechsel said. “A couple of years ago we had experienced a few problems with our shared storage, and Peter was kind enough to share his thoughts as to where the industry was headed, what we should be doing and how we could get there.

“Then late last year we began to recognize the need to take a fresh look at our data center architecture. Peter came onsite here in Chicago and educated us about technologies that would give us greater stability, reliability, support, uptime and performance. Together, we embarked on a project to create a high-availability platform.”

Enterprise-Class Solution
Zethcon had been using Dell and HP rackmount servers and older, tier-2 storage from NetGear. Oechsel and his team were concerned about the stability of the storage arrays and had purchased Dell EqualLogic arrays to replace them. However, there was lingering doubt that the Dell solution would meet customer requirements.

“We were having a hard time accomplishing what we needed to do — that’s when I reached out to Peter,” Oechsel said.Katz flew to Chicago to meet with Oechsel and brought in local Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) representatives as well. They explained why Zethcon needed to rethink its infrastructure from the ground up, with enterprise-class hardware at its core.

“Peter and the folks from HPE came in and educated us about what kinds of solutions are available,” said Oechsel. “Based upon that initial meeting, Peter designed an architecture using servers and storage arrays that are appropriate for what we’re doing today and will give us the scalability needed for continued growth.”

The PKA/HPE team designed a new environment based upon an HPE C7000 blade enclosure capable of hosting up to 16 HPE ProLiant BL460c Xeon Gen9 servers. In addition, Katz specified a high-performance, ultrareliable storage-area network based upon an HPE 3PAR 8400-series four-node storage array. The new HPE hardware was delivered in March 2016 and members of PKA’s engineering staff flew to Chicago to install it. After two days of onsite configuration work, the new solution was up and running.

“The equipment we’d been using did not have the stability, redundancy or performance that we needed,” Oechsel said. “The HPE solutions that we’ve implemented have all that and are enterprise-level in terms of uptime. At the same time, Peter was sensitive to the economic side of things. He helped us leverage some of our existing investments and created an environment that we could scale as large as needed without having to make that huge investment initially.”

Looking Ahead
Synapse is a cutting-edge warehouse management system with features such as tasking and labor management and flexible deployment options for wireless devices. Suitable for any warehouse, it also includes billing, multi-client functionality and customer-specific processing for third-party logistics providers.

“Our customers are primarily logistics and warehousing service providers, many of whom operate 24×7, all over the world,” said Oechsel. “It’s a real-time, online transaction process application that’s mission-critical to our customers.”

Zethcon has already migrated key customers to the new HPE environment, with great results, and can readily add more HPE blade servers and expand the storage array to support continued growth. By engaging local HPE engineers and providing a knowledge transfer during the implementation process, Katz helped ensure that Zethcon could manage the infrastructure over the long term.

“Peter brought a full team of people. Because we’re in Chicago and Peter’s staff is in New Jersey, he thought it was important to bring in local HPE support resources that we could leverage on an ongoing basis,” Oechsel said.

“Locally, Chase Henderson is our HPE account rep and Scott Wilson is our representative who specializes in storage. They have been very helpful, not only in the initial project but also in educating our customers as to the significant upgrades we’ve made. We’ve already had several meetings with customers at our data center, and Chase and Scott have been available to answer any questions they may have.”

Through thorough assessment and significant expertise in enterprise data center architectures, Katz and the PKA/HPE team designed and deployed a solution that will serve Zethcon’s needs over the long haul. The company now has a platform on which to support the mission-critical needs of its customers, build new solutions and services, and continue its steady growth.

Read the White Paper – Architecture and technologies in the HPE BladeSystem C7000