MarineMax Gets Systems Storm-Ready

Case Study: CompServ helps a recreational boat retailer fix its disaster recovery system in time for the 2005 hurricane season.

In the wake of Floridas devastating hurricane season last year, recreational boat retailer MarineMax Inc., based in Clearwater, Fla., turned to local systems integrator CompServ Inc. to implement a new disaster recovery system in time for this years storm season.

With the help of CompServ and its business partner IBM, MarineMax has automated its disaster recovery and backup system, which before was a manual process—often an all-night one—to relocate its data to a remote site.

"When we experienced four hurricanes in a row and many long nights, we saw the value in automating solutions," said Brett McGill, vice president of IT for MarineMax.

"I cant afford to have team members working on equipment when they should be with their families or evacuating their families."

CompServ and MarineMax installed IBMs Tivoli Storage Manager, TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller and eServer BladeCenters to integrate, serve, back up and manage MarineMaxs data.

MarineMax has cut its backup time from 8 hours to less than an hour.

Key to the new system is SAN Volume Controller, which MarineMax and CompServ selected because it would allow the boating retailer to leverage its existing infrastructure, said McGill.

SAN Volume Controller allowed MarineMax to replicate between two EMC Corp. array models, which other offerings couldnt do.

"We were trying to deliver an architecture that would meet their technical requirements but would be vendor-agnostic," said Brett Hapke, vice president and chief technology officer for CompServ, also in Clearwater. "This would work with the EMC arrays but not tie them into a specific technology."

CompServ helped MarineMax with the implementation and testing, a process that took about five weeks over a two-month period.

The rollout was smooth, except for a few problems, such as interoperability between SAN Volume Controller, which is a relatively new product, and some of Brocade Communications Systems Inc.s newer fabric patterns, said Hapke.

But IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., and CompServ worked out the kinks with Brocade, of San Jose, Calif.

"IBM and Brocade really stepped up to work with us and MarineMax," Hapke said. "This is really one of the best examples I know of business partner and manufacturer teamwork on behalf of the client."

/zimages/4/28571.gifHow did disaster recovery plans fare against Hurricane Katrina? Click here to read more.

Another obstacle MarineMax had to overcome was that the IBM technology exceeded the companys initial budget.

"It speaks volumes for the MarineMax management that they saw value in putting this solution in today rather than trying to piecemeal build it over three years," said Hapke. "If you piecemeal build it, you dont get full functionality until youre done with the full process. If you go ahead and execute it in its entirety, you have functionality when its complete."

To help defray costs, MarineMax spread the investment out over three years, and MarineMax and CompServ are exploring other ways to leverage the new infrastructure for purposes other than disaster recovery, such as development and testing.

MarineMax, for its part, is reassured that its prepared for this hurricane season, as well as other disasters.

"Weve gained other benefits; were not just hurricane-proof, we now have a full disaster recovery plan," said McGill.

CompServ also helped MarineMax procure IBMs WebSphere Commerce- Express platform to build a new online sales channel for its customers. In addition to selling boats, MarineMax sells thousands of boating accessories and equipment. Before MarineMax implemented its new e-commerce site, www., customers could buy these products only at one of MarineMaxs 71 retail stores or through its retail catalogs.

In addition to opening a new sales channel for its customers, MarineMax was able to connect its Web site directly to its main distributor, Brunswick Boat Group, which also uses WebSphere.

This allowed for real-time online order entry and inventory tracking, which MarineMax predicts will result in savings of as much as 25 percent as a result of supply chain efficiencies.

For example, the technology can determine if a customers order should be sent from MarineMaxs stock or directly from the supplier.

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