Harris Farm picks new kit for online growth

Harris Farm is pairing up with IBM for its new IT infrastructure and upcoming Sydney delivery service.

Fruit and vegetable retailer Harris Farm is looking to expand its business online, and has upgraded its IT infrastructure with new IBM gear.

With 23 outlets across Australia, Harris Farm only started taking IT seriously three years ago, replacing a 25-year-old retail system with a Microsoft Dynamic ERP offering. The retailer is already running old IBM equipment, but with its plans to tackle online in a big way, it needed to move onto more enterprise-scale infrastructure.

Harris Farm has been running a small-scale online store for the Mudgee and Dubbo area, where residents can make their selections through a website, and the produce is delivered to a retail partner for pick-up.

The company wants to take this concept farther, with a home-delivery service for the Sydney metropolitan area, and the new IBM Flex System will facilitate this.

"We really needed to beef up the infrastructure to really cater for new business demand," Harris Farm CIO Simon Maizels told ZDNet. "Instead of just having normal ERP functions, we're putting in a new pricing and promotions system, automatic stock replenishment for dry groceries, and we're sticking our toes into online."

The IBM Flex System will be customised and installed by IT services firm Hands-on Systems, and will include an IBM Flex System Enterprise Chassis, two IBM Compute nodes, and an IBM Storwize V7000 storage unit.

With its old IBM set-up, which included a storage area network (SAN), Harris Farm was running out of storage space, which meant that a lot of the backups were failing. The new system allows for real-time data compression, which will reduce the retailer's data footprint by 80 percent, according to IBM. The company can also repurpose its old storage system.

Harris Farm has yet to decide whether it wants to host its Sydney metropolitan area online store internally on the new IBM infrastructure, or use the plethora of external hosting offerings.

"The infrastructure we're building here will be more about business analytics and intelligence, which will help with merchandising decisions so we know which products we should sell online, as well as in our retail stores," Maizels said. "We have already done a brief pass of that, and we culled 1,500 products that people just weren't buying.

"If you think about that in-store, that's 1,500 locations we can now put things that people want to buy to better meet customer expectations."

The IBM Flex System is set to be delivered to Harris Farm by mid January 2013. The retailer is also expecting to launch its Sydney metropolitan delivery online store in 2013.