Premier Farnell is a global distributer of electronic components with operations in 36 countries, across EMEA, the US, and APAC. Oracle Database, Middleware, and Applications, provided business critical functionality to Premier Farnell and for over 10 years the business had been running multiple Oracle Databases on commodity Intel servers and shared storage.

In 2018, Premier Farnell found it difficult to troubleshoot issues, due to their complex architecture and geographic sprawl. The hardware used was reaching the end of its useful life, performance was not optimal and improving customer experience was becoming an increasing challenge.

Database backups (and restores) were taking up to 24 hours and pricing changes could take over 48 hours to process.  In addition, the age of the hardware was starting to limit their upgrade paths for software. Maintenance windows for database work were becoming longer and longer, leading to extended periods of unavailability for some of their core systems.

Hardware support costs, on many of the six years’ plus systems, was becoming expensive.  Oracle database licensing across many systems were also expensive and Premier Farnell identified an opportunity for savings, by consolidating the number of Database servers to Exadata.

“Premier Farnell engaged with Explorer to perform an Architecture Review of their current systems and to seek guidance on options to meet the business’s technical and operational objectives.  Explorer was chosen due to their many years of experience with Oracle database and Oracle products and their excellent reputation within the Oracle User Group community.” – Steve Wright, Head Of Platform Engineering

The findings from an Architecture Review identified a clear and obvious requirement for modern infrastructure and to simplify the Database deployments via consolidation.

“As the majority of environments were Databases, Explorer recommended Exadata and ZFS Storage to drastically improve performance and provide a scalable platform that can accommodate massive data growth aspirations. Furthermore, Exadata provides a consolidated datacentre footprint with less moving parts to monitor and maintain, therefore generating further operational efficiency potential for Premier Farnell” – Jon Lingard, Sales Director, Explorer.

Explorer provided Premier Farnell with various workshops, and sizing/configuration proposals, and was able to translate many of the complex nuances of Exadata to simple solutions, without expensive implementation service costs. This demonstrated some early value for Premier Farnell and justified engaging with Explorer for this requirement rather than Oracle directly.

“Explorer coordinated all the technical and commercial aspects of dialogue, with Oracle, to simplify our engagement with Oracle and we found Explorer extremely easy to deal with – transparent, thorough and cost effective.” – Steve Wright, Head Of Platform Engineering

Once the final design and configuration was agreed, Explorer provided all the logistics and professional services for a smooth implementation and successful migration to the new stack.

The benefits of Exadata and ZFS, compared to the previous infrastructure stack included:

1 The Oracle database licenses could be consolidated from many disparate systems to the Exadata platform – a large cost saving opportunity
2 Performance improved considerably, leading to shorter maintenance windows and increased availability of databases
3 Improved performance of data loads and changes to price files meant that the business could be more flexible with the volume of change needed to support customers
4 Backup and restore operations reduced from 3.5 hours to less than 30 minutes. 24-hour backups are expected to reduce to around 3 hours.
5 Price loads that were taking 50 hours on the old hardware, now take less than an hour to complete, without any code changes, on Exadata.
6 Respond to business changes in emerging markets

“The Exadata Smart Scan feature has been the main factor in reducing price load times without any change to program code.  The high-performance storage, with its flash cache, means IO performance is dramatically improved for the databases.  The ZFS storage appliance that was also implemented and, along with Exadata, has helped reduce backup and restore times considerably and even helped reduce the size of the backup files due to the native compression of the ZFS.” – – Steve Wright, Head Of Platform Engineering

 As Premier Farnell have hundreds of thousands of products, with many different price breaks across many regions, the challenge has always been how to handle mass changes to prices and products across a weekend.

“Previously, these changes would overrun to the start of a new week and cause loss of revenue, but now, the business can perform many more price/product changes than  previously and in a fraction of the time, leading to the business becoming more agile in addressing the needs of our customers” – Steve Wright, Head Of Platform Engineering

With regards to availability, it is estimated that Premier Farnell have avoided over 20 hours of unplanned outages and reduced planned outages, a significant improvement when compared to the same time periods year on year, with the previous infrastructure, improving their customers web experience in a fast moving reactive market.

Premier Farnell and Explorer now plan to implement Exadata as part of their global strategy  for web performance enhancement and improvements in stability and to roll out the same local deployment to the US and APAC regions and incorporate Oracle Cloud Services to complement the Exadata deployments running on premise.

Oracle Management Cloud is an attractive system monitoring platform for Premier Farnell and to get deeper insights and capacity planning, from our Exadata deployments. We’re currently investigating OMC with Explorer and their OCEAN methodology for Hybrid Cloud adoption” – Steve Wright, Head Of Platform Engineering

“Premier Farnell is an absolutely fantastic customer for Explorer and they clearly value our expertise, specialised focus on Oracle, our ability to get the job done on time, and to budget. This is another great example of a customer trusting Explorer to do the same, if not better job, than Oracle directly at a much lower price point whilst delivering an overall better-value outcome for the customer”. Jon Lingard, Sales Director, Explorer.

Oracle Infrastructure

Oracle’s portfolio of infrastructure solutions covers both on-premise and cloud technology. In a world where more and more organisations are looking to the Cloud for new infrastructure environments, it’s actually Oracle’s on-premise infrastructure technology that continues to make up the vast majority of Explorer’s customer deployments in 2019.