Case Study: Hot Doughnuts en Masse Require 100 Percent System i Reliability at Iconic Krispy Kreme

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Top-shelf companies constantly weigh their ability to improve business processes and guard hard-earned market share. If you're firmly committed to providing a product or service that's better than anyone else's (in this case it happens to be a doughnut), then you strengthen areas where weakness may impede success.

Krispy Kreme is committed to serving ultra-fresh doughnuts to its customers and stands behind the freshness of the 7.5 million baked goods it makes every day. As of the 2006 fiscal year end, North Carolina–based Krispy Kreme posted sales of $543.4 million, which is a lot of dough by anyone's measure. Given the pace of Krispy Kreme's expansion over the past decade, ensuring the continuity of its business systems is central to the attainment of this mission.

Krispy Kreme got its first System/38 in 1982. Now, it manages its wholesale operation with an EDI solution from EXTOL that runs on an IBM System i Model 520. This system serves roughly 400 users and supports remittance processing, accounts receivable, accounts payable, sales reporting, and many other functions.

Krispy Kreme sells its products in 293 store-factories, 90 satellite locations, and countless supermarkets throughout the U.S. and in eight other countries. According to Greig Radford, manager of System i Technology, "We have trading partners sending information to our EDI system all the time, and if it's not available, then we could have problems. This could cause a serious ripple in our supply chain that would hurt our wholesale operation." Krispy Kreme also relies on electronic billing to invoice its customers. This system can generate thousands of invoices for one big retail outlet per month, and delayed billing can seriously impact cash flow.

From its retail manufacturing facilities, Krispy Kreme delivers to other outlets only what each one can sell within a four-hour shift, and then it follows up with fresh shipments a few hours later as demand requires.

Radford needed to harden the company's systems so glitches of varying magnitudes would not interrupt its finely tuned manufacturing and distribution operation. With many contacts in the IBM System i user space, Radford spoke with a few colleagues who had direct experience with high-availability solutions. "Several people told me that HA was a gamble because it can be hard to implement and keep running, so I wasn't sure that I could even support this technology," says Radford.

Krispy Kreme's IT department is remarkably small for a company wielding as much brand clout as it does. Only 28 people manage the company's entire IT operation. "We just don't have the manpower that companies with big IT staffs have. We didn't have resources to put a person on an evaluation project for weeks or months on end," says Radford.

To reduce the impact that a software evaluation would have on his busy IT staff, Radford decided to look at his best option first. "I was told by one person that iTera HA from Vision Solutions was probably the most straightforward HA solution he had ever seen, so I decided to take a closer look at it."

Technicians at Vision Solutions' development and training facility in Salt Lake City, Utah, helped install the product on Krispy Kreme's production System i Model 520 and remotely on its 520 backup system. "The installation procedure is very straightforward because all you really have to do is provide access to your system and they handle it for you. It took less than an hour and a half, which I believe is incredible," says Radford.

Two technicians from Krispy Kreme then flew to Salt Lake City for three days of training. Vision takes an approach to training that gives iTera HA users a well-rounded understanding of the entire HA environment. Participants don't spend days configuring a hypothetical training system and then try to remember what they learned when they get back to their own systems. They configure their own machines remotely from iTera's training center, with the help of a knowledgeable mentor. Says Radford, "Vision's approach to training is really forward-thinking. We have been able to manage this system ever since then with a minimal amount of effort."

Krispy Kreme's backup machine resides in a separate building several miles away from the production computer. These systems are connected using 100MB of a 1GB Ethernet link.

At one point, Radford says, the link between the primary and backup system was down for 12 hours. "We had some PTF issues that were completely unrelated to the high-availability environment. When the line came back up, we had over 12 million transactions to replicate—lots of save files and IFS-type objects. Surprisingly, it only took three hours to get caught up, and we didn't have a single error."

Krispy Kreme has had iTera HA for only a short while, but it is committed to continually testing its HA environment and reducing the amount of time it takes to swap roles from the production system to the backup. "This is just a matter of good housekeeping. Each time we execute a switchover test from the production system to the backup, it take less time. I now know exactly how it works, and I have a high level of confidence in iTera HA. I definitely made the right decision."

About Krispy Kreme

Founded in 1937 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Krispy Kreme is a leading specialty retailer of premium quality doughnuts, including its signature Hot Original Glazed. Learn more at http://www.krispykreme.com.

Robert Gast reports on technology and business. He holds degrees in journalism and marketing and has lectured on technology at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Robert is Managing Partner of Evant Group and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Vision Solutions, Inc.
17911 Von Karman Ave.
Irvine, CA 92614
Tel: 949.253.6500
Fax: 949.253.6501
Web: www.visionsolutions.com
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