Harris Farm uses 3G backup for sales

Harris Farm Markets revealed today that it has been using Juniper Network equipment in its branches for the past nine months as part of an IT systems upgrade to provide redundancy in the event of a main network link failure.

Harris Farm Markets revealed today that it has been using Juniper Network equipment in its branches for the past nine months as part of an IT systems upgrade to provide redundancy in the event of a main network link failure.

(Credit: Juniper Networks)

Harris Farm needed a low-cost backup to ensure that its shops' EFTPOS transactions, which now make up a significant portion of its sales, could continue if there was a disruption to a store's terrestrial telephone line.

"3G was the obvious choice. Telstra came to us to do the 3G and the terrestrial together, but that was just not cost effective enough, so we elected to stick with our terrestrial WAN partner, which is Soul, or TPG, and look at Telstra's 3G," said Harris Farm Markets CIO Mark Hudson.

Harris Farm examined some Cisco equipment to see if it would be suitable for enabling a 3G failover, given that it already had Cisco equipment throughout its stores.

"Cisco has an option which had a 3G bridge option, but it was a separate piece of hardware, it wasn't remotely manageable, it was expensive, it required its own AC power point and that sort of thing," he said, adding that a number of shops would require additional installation costs to ensure it could be powered.

"We shopped around to the extent that we got a price for all the Cisco gear through another preferred supplier, but [we found an alternative that] was cheaper by a mile and, I think, a better solution."

That better option was with Juniper, which Harris Farm had discovered through IBM, which it has worked with for over 30 years. In discussions around 18 months ago, IBM worked out costings for the project, recommending the use of Juniper equipment, which it currently sells. It set up a proof of concept, demonstrating it could failover to 3G and then back to a terrestrial line.

"The best thing was, their 3G bridge was a power over Ethernet device, which meant we had pretty much no installation costs because we've probably got network points near the [install point]," Hudson said.

He also said that across Harris Farm's 23 sites, it was $400 to $500 cheaper per site than the Cisco alternative. He estimated the total cost of the Juniper hardware to be between $120,000 and $150,000.

The sites now use Juniper SRX series services gateways for a network hub and to provide connectivity to Harris Farm's head office. The services gateways support point-of-sale devices over Ethernet and have been combined with Juniper's AX4111 wireless access points to provide support for handheld devices. The 3G redundant link is provided using a Juniper CX111 cellular broadband data bridge.

Harris Farm also carried out a major IT upgrade in 2009, replacing its 25-year-old retailing system.

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