Bunnings: fast IT is just the beginning

After conquering the home and hardware market, Bunnings has turned its focus towards redeveloping its IT systems to its massive stock database requirements.

After conquering the home and hardware market, Bunnings has turned its focus towards redeveloping its IT systems to its massive stock database requirements.

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(Screws image by Martin Pettitt, CC2.0)

John Olszewski, Bunnings' group infrastructure and architecture manager spoke to ZDNet Australia at Oracle OpenWorld 2010 about the company's IT transformation progress.

When the Bunnings Group originally started improving its back-end in 2005, it had considered adding multiple server nodes to manage the business' IT traffic. Instead, it stuck with a single IBM box, speeding up the project's initial stages.

"It was the early days of RAC [real application clusters] and we weren't comfortable with the sizing limits of what we saw," he said. "We got one big box, which let us deliver the project fast."

However, Bunnings soon discovered the limits of its single-box plan.

"During our migration, our business was growing pretty fast ... we had some pretty interesting capacity issues," Olszewski recalled.

By early 2009 Bunnings had decided to break up the box, and pondered its next move by observing how other Oracle customers approached a similar problem.

A six-month project saw Bunnings' web and business applications move to a new Oracle-powered server cluster, leaving both online transaction processing and reporting databases on the old IBM box system. The move meant that Bunnings was able to respond to inventory queries at a sub-second pace.

"We were able to segment our workload demand with different tunable requirements," he said, which allowed the business to access one shared database for both central staff's reporting applications and all the wireless inventory management devices running in more than 220 stores.

"We were transitioning from a character-based system that used COBOL and Telnet, and it's pretty hard to get a web application to run that fast," he said.

Olszewski and his main counterpart work with a team of more than 200 IT professionals to keep data and communications running for more than 30,000 team members at over 270 business sites spread across Australia and New Zealand.

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