Chick’s Digs iSeries as Replacement for Windows Farm
September 20, 2005 Alex Woodie
Chick’s Sporting Goods used to rely on several Windows boxes to serve e-mail, among other applications. The MIS manager also used to work nights and weekends managing those Windows servers. But since consolidating those servers onto a single iSeries that runs Domino and its ERP system, the Southern California chain has joined the chorus of former Windows shops who are now signing the song of iSeries.
Founded in 1949, Chick’s Sporting Goods is California’s oldest sports retail chain, even if it’s not the largest. With 11 locations and 1,200 employees, the L.A.-based group is a solidly mid size company, with a mid size IT budget. It is also growing with the area, and has a plan to open, on average, one store per year over the next three years.
Up until a few years ago, Chick’s IT budget went toward a Windows-based network and a Unix-based merchandise management application. Despite the computerization, the company was forced to do some key operations manually, which meant lots of phone, fax and paper-based communications for things like sales forecasts and managing transfers.
Things started to look up for Chick’s when it upgraded its merchandising application to the Island Pacific Merchandising System (IPMS), which runs on OS/400. While the choice of platform was dictated by the application in this case, it turned out to be the proverbial foot in the door for OS/400, according to Mitch Kleinman, an executive with Computer Configuration Services (CCS), the Southern California reseller that supplies IT goods and services to Chick’s.
During that IPMS installation, CCS tried to sell Chick’s a Domino-based e-mail server that could sit on the same iSeries Model 820. Instead, the sporting goods company opted to stay on its current system, which included Microsoft Windows NT, Exchange 5.5, and Intel-based Compaq servers. The company had since upgraded to Windows 2000, which was required to support Windows Terminal Services, Kleinman says.
However, Chick’s had its share of difficulties with Exchange and the Wintel servers. “When our Wintel boxes were running Microsoft Outlook and Exchange, I spent many nights and weekends at the office trying to resolve hardware and software issues,” says Erin Diebold, the company’s director of MIS and accounting. With only two people on the IT staff, the Exchange servers were taking up too much valuable time.
In 2003, Chick’s decided to take CCS up on its offer to install a Domino-based e-mail system. CCS installed Domino on the iSeries, and provided 135 users located in stores throughout the state with access to the iNotes clients. Since then, the system has grown to support 150 users.
Chick’s iSeries is equipped with Integrated xSeries technology to support Windows Terminal Server, enabling Chick’s to deliver the Notes software over thin clients installed at store locations, and thereby avoiding the requirement to have Windows installed on all the desktops. “Rather than having 40 Microsoft-based PCs, and having to manage those with hard drives, power supplies, and backups, they chose the thin clients,” Kleinman says.
The company hasn’t looked back since the new e-mail and collaboration applications went live in late 2003. “With iSeries, our network is now far more reliable and secure, and much less of a headache,” Diebold says. “I’m very impressed with the iSeries. We don’t have downtime. I IPL the system once every quarter, if that. It’s just very stable and reliable.”
Diebold estimates that the move from Windows and Exchange to iSeries and Notes has resulted in close to a 50 percent reduction in administrative staff hours. The company has been able to maintain an IT staff of two people during a period of modest growth over the last few years. Diebold and Chick’s other IT employee provide the majority of administration for the iSeries and Domino network environment, and relies upon CCS for outside help from time to time.
Kleinman is not surprised that Chick’s could expand its business without adding more IT staffers. “You need to take the IT workers’ salaries into account when comparing those historically lower-cost systems with the iSeries,” Kleinman says. “It may cost $100,000 for an iSeries, compared to $50,000 to $60,00 for an Intel-based server. But you have to add in the overhead of people required to run the systems. That’s one of the reasons Chicks’ chose the iSeries. It just sits in the corner and runs. It doesn’t require a lot of systems management.”
Chick’s isn’t done consolidating its applications onto the iSeries. By the end of 2005, the company plans to move its human resources functions over to the OS/400 server. All of these applications will live together–quite happily, we’re sure–on a new eServer i5 Model 520 its is getting from CCS.
“It makes sense to run on the iSeries, instead of putting in more Windows servers,” Diebold says. “It was a deliberate choice [to consolidate Windows applications on the iSeries] and we’re going to continue to do that.”