Victor Nastenko, Leroy Merlin: We build the company platform, and it imposes huge requirements to IT
Victor Nastenko, the head of department IT platform of directorate of DOMI, Leroy Merlin, in an interview of TAdviser told about features of upgrade of IT infrastructure of the company and the reasons of the choice of the hyper convergent systems.
That IT - the core of any successful business, is much told and written. What means this thesis for you personally, in terms of daily work?
Victor Nastenko: There is a phase of active transformation of business, and this thesis is really relevant. For me it is a call which it is necessary to answer every day. The different systems which technical creation and maintenance is in an area of responsibility of IT departments participate in implementation and support of business processes. And as more and more different areas of life of the company are digitized, we should take part practically in everything. Everything that does to IT, – for business.
In 14 years, from the moment of emergence in the Russian market, Leroy Merlin grew to one of the largest retail networks of self-service in the field of repair and construction. In what success secret? The role of innovations based on IT is how big in it?
Victor Nastenko: The main secrets of success - the correct business concept which cornerstone the "low prices every day" model and also corporate culture which stakes on employees and their development is. In fact, long time of IT performed the supporting function, we went to IT on "beaten path" and all attention was concentrated on providing basic IT services.
The market and the culture of consumption are actively transformed, it is not enough to offer only goods, the client is interested in a full range of services: an opportunity to purchase goods or service via any channel and so that the level of service at the same time was equally good.
We build the company platform, and as you represent, it imposes huge requirements to IT, certainly, loading increases, we need to adapt and change methods and approaches every day. It is important that all this occurs not because it was wanted by someone in the company: consumer market changes, the role of the retailer in providing final service to the consumer changes. In a modern paradigm of retail of IT purchases the much bigger importance.
Still back we were practically not taken by development a couple of years, and now in each direction of the company there is a refactoring of the existing systems, transition from the monolithic systems to micro services.
Generally, there are more and more innovations, every day.
And what functions of your division?
Victor Nastenko: The division which I direct provides to the product commands focused in the directions of business, a technology platform. These are data transmission channels, computing powers, data storage infrastructure, infrastructure services, a certain software, support of databases, practice and the DevOPS tools. Based on our technology platform IT services also form, the business applications and microservices which are of value for the end user are developed.
2018 the Leroy Merlin company purchased premises of network of hardware stores of "K-reception". What calls did you face with respect thereto? What specific problems were solved in this project by your department?
Victor Nastenko: In general there were many calls for the company: both workforce recruiting, and alteration of premises under the Leroy Merlin standards, and the organization of logistics, and many other things. As for problems of the IT platform, the IT object architecture was changed, consolidation of infrastructure on two specialized platforms meeting special regulations and the requirements is performed. Due to this centralization problems of creation of special premises and presence of service staff on each of objects were removed. The main complexity concerned project deadlines: 2 - 2.5 times less than shops, normal on start of IT infrastructure.
Victor Nastenko: Yes, the architecture endured quite serious changes. And in respect of creation of communication channels, in respect of some other a component. Two years ago complete upgrade of internal infrastructure of all objects was carried out. It concerned also the scheme of creation of network, replacement of active equipment, creation of the general domain space, processing of a management system for configurations and many other.
Changes are not complete, they continue. There is enlargement of the central part, convergent infrastructure which would be in the future simpler to be scaled is under construction. The matter is that historically each shop has own server capacities which require periodic replacement or upgrade, and it raises the price of both the minimum threshold of entry, and costs for maintenance. In case of centralization of infrastructure the controllability and utilization of resources increases that positively affects cost optimization, creates an opportunity for easy scaling.
Tell, please, in more detail about centralization of IT infrastructure.
Victor Nastenko: We have an indicative project in North-West Region. In St. Petersburg Leroy Merlin is provided by twelve shops, including unopened points, own IT set of each of which included 3 HPE ProLiant servers and storage system of the initial HPE MSA level until recently. On each certain platform on this infrastructure the server applications were unrolled. In development of infrastructure, for the reasons which I already specified we made the decision to consolidate infrastructure. We invested in communication channels between all distributed platforms and a telecommunication node (TKU), i.e. the topology like "star" turned out, took out applications which were hosted in each separate shop, on the central platform earlier. Communication channels with high capacity allowed users to work comfortably with applications of shop as if they are located locally.
This "carrying out" gave the chance in the principle to refuse a server framework, firewalls and other equipment already on 8 of 12 platforms, 4 in the course of transition, and we are going to complete migration in the 1st quarter 2019. In DPC HPE SimpliVity cluster with additional computing nodes where just and migration of virtual machines from all remote platforms was carried out was set. Virtual machines by quantity and the consumed resources did not become less: they were just consolidated in one place, thus we considerably increased utilization of resources. Especially we highly appreciated advantages of the solution HPE SimpliVity in the following: in all 8 shops there were rather similar data, and the deduplication function which is built in SimpliVity squeezed all these data approximately up to the capacity of 2 shops, i.e. almost by 4 times. At the initial choice of the solution we compared the cost of deployment of infrastructure in classical option for all shops and implementation of a hyper convergent cluster of SimpliVity on the central platform: the second option was cheaper, including, and in terms of initial investments. Especially attracts in such solution the fact that in need of deployment of the opening shops we should not install the equipment, we will just deploy virtual servers on the existing platform, and in need of adding of resources we will just add so many SimpliVity nodes how many it will be required to us, without stopping services.
How long this project was implemented?
Victor Nastenko: Installation of HPE SimpliVity was performed at the end of summer of 2018.
In addition to the built-in function of deduplication what else advantages this hyper convergent system has?
Victor Nastenko: As I already mentioned, convergent infrastructure is more simply scaled and more simply is controlled. In it there is also its main advantage for us. The Leroy Merlin network grows, the number of data with which we work increases, additional services are developed – it requires resources too, including, infrastructure. The issue of scaling by the principle of "pay-as-you-grow" is relevant for us, more than ever. SimpliVity is the solution tested, well replicated which combines functions which are usually performed by set of servers, SAN networks, storage systems, software of backup, tape or disk library. For March, 2019 this solution completely corresponds to our requirements for problems of consolidation of branches.
Why HPE? What influenced the choice for benefit of solutions of this vendor?
Victor Nastenko: SimpliVity is not the first product of Hewlett Packard Enterprise in IT infrastructure of the company. I already mentioned that the classical set for separate shops includes the MSA ProLiant and DWH servers also of production of NRE. Positive operating experience of other products of this vendor became the important factor which influenced making decision on inclusion in IT infrastructure the NRE hyper convergent system. Of course, their reliability is important for us, first of all. Besides, not the last value has availability of the technical support provided by service network HPE not only in Moscow and St. Petersburg but also in regions. All solution providers have similar not. With implementation of the solution we were helped by the partner of HPE – company 4x4.
Company 4х4 was involved in implementation only of this project, or Leroy Merlin cooperates with it on a permanent basis?
Victor Nastenko: We interact in the direction of architectural researches regarding server IT infrastructure, design of systems, selection of solutions. As for the project about which I told, at a decision-making stage specialists 4х4 helped us with development of architecture and also with conducting testings which lasted 2 months on a demo equipment.
In conclusion of a conversation: what most relevant problems should the IT department solve in the next one or two years?
Victor Nastenko:There is a lot of such tasks, here some of them:
- Transition to hybrid infrastructure (hybrid cloud).
- Transition to providing services: other divisions have no time for detailed immersion how technical services work, they should be clear, simple in use, are reliable, measured and available.
- Creation and providing platform of containerization.
- Providing CICD tools and the practician of DevOPS for all product commands.