Where would a logistics service provider like trans-o-flex be without a functioning IT infrastructure? trans-o-flex specializes in the transportation of pharmaceutical products and other sensitive, important goods where temperature-controlled distribution is imperative. At peak periods when trans-o-flex vehicles are loaded, up to 7,000 users access its logistics applications. Needless to say, it is of vital importance that business systems are always up and running and communicating with each other correctly.
Up until 2018, the company operated its own data center on company premises in Weinheim, Germany but over time, the requirements for security, reliability, and performance could no longer be met. As a result, trans-o-flex looked to update its solutions and ultimately developed a hybrid cloud strategy, tested this set-up and implemented this new data center solution all within a year’s timeframe. Today, the heartbeat of trans-o-flex’s IT is safely hosted at an e-shelter data center in Frankfurt with the Proof Of Concept (PoC) of this solution validated at the Innovation Lab.
Detailed IT-supported planning and process controls are necessary criteria for success. The requirements for IT reliability and performance are always high and especially so in industries such as logistics, pharmaceutical and life sciences. And this is precisely where trans-o-flex had reached its limits. The data center on the company premises could no longer meet enhanced security and disaster recovery requirements. A corresponding cloud strategy that was mapped out could not be implemented from Weinheim due to the lack of adequate network connections and because it would have been prohibitively expensive. For Stefan Fuss, Head of System Architecture at trans-o-flex IT-Service GmbH, the solution was obvious. Rather than operate a data center on the company’s premises in Weinheim, trans-o-flex would look for a suitable colocation provider in nearby Frankfurt with direct access to the necessary Internet nodes and cloud access points.
Trans-o-flex logistics. Photo courtesy of trans-o-flex
A Solution is Developed
As a result of positive experiences from previous projects, trans-o-flex turned to e-shelter, which could provide all the physical and technical data center infrastructure solutions along with attractive pricing. Part of the trans-o-flex’s overall colocation requirements was to transfer its entire data center infrastructure from Weinheim to space within the e-shelter data center. A disaster recovery concept was also required for emergencies. One initial option for trans-o-flex was to have the mirroring of all the applications, including Oracle databases. However, this option would have doubled the licensing costs. The alternative consisted of hosting all of the systems on standby in the Oracle Cloud. In the event of an emergency, the corresponding connections could be activated automatically, and additional resources (CPUs) would then be put into operation.
Given the scope of the decision and potential risks, Stefan Fuss opted to play it safe and test the solution first but within a live operating environment. Ordinarily, trans-o-flex would have had to lease and configure servers and connections individually, resulting in a huge expenditure of time and money and without any guarantee of success. e-shelter, however, was able to offer a quicker and cost-saving alternative by providing its Innovation Lab, located within the same data center. The Frankfurt T Innovation Lab has more than 150 partners and over 60 start-ups who make their products and services available to customers. These partners are also available to advise, collaborate, and help implement new solutions. For trans-o-flex, the Innovation Lab provided the ideal point to launch a Proof of Concept trial. The company was provided with Oracle Real Application Testing licenses. It also leased a Dark Fiber connection from the e-shelter data center to the Oracle Cloud and set up all its production databases in the cloud. After clearing all the initial work involved for design, setup, and implementation, trans-o-flex could then proceed to analyze the behaviour of the applications within the Innovation Lab along with the behaviour of the databases. Stefan Fuss was delighted with the results: “Once the Dark Fiber connection was up, the results were really impressive. There was no noticeable difference when systems at e-shelter were communicating and working with our own data center. With latency of just over 1 millisecond to the cloud, we’re talking almost real-time.”
After successful tests in the summer of 2018, the go-live followed in December 2018. On the practical side, the disaster recovery concept was put to direct use where trans-o-flex used the Oracle Cloud for two and a half weeks. During this time, IT was relocated to Frankfurt and put into operation there. As Stefan Fuss explains: “Collaborating with e-shelter was straightforward right from the start. We quickly had a slot in the Innovation Lab, were provided with all the support you can imagine, and our IT has worked smoothly since it was commissioned.”
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