Mainfreight bucks trend and consolidates to NZ

Software now available in .Net, which has enabled it to be relocated in New Zealand

Mainfreight is consolidating its data processing in New Zealand in a move that CIO Kevin Drinkwater describes as going against the trend.

Mainfreight’s major system, for international freight forwarding, had been run in Melbourne previously. “That’s because it was written in Australia, in FoxPro. We bought it as a package and we had to run it there,” he says.

But the software is now available in .Net, which has enabled it to be relocated in New Zealand.

Mainfreight had also run Exchange out of Melbourne but for some years most applications had been run from New Zealand, Drinkwater says.

Its developer partners locally are Sandfield Associates — Mainfreight was Sandfield’s first customer in 1989 — and Designer Tech.

Financially, the consolidation to one datacentre has been boosted by Mainfreight’s construction in Auckland of what it calls a new “super site”. This is a 200,000 square foot (18,580 sq m) building, tailored to meet “green” options.

“As a company, we started recycling at least 10 years ago,” Drinkwater says. “We’ve looked at energy efficiency in building the new datacentre, which we think uses up to 20% of the total power usage of our 20-acre (8 ha) site.”

The options for a modern datacentre in New Zealand were renovation, co-location, or building. The latter was chosen as the most cost-effective, with a low impact, turn-key solution and because it could be located with the IT team.

“It would have cost up to $500,000 to get the old datacentre ready,” Drinkwater says. “We looked at the full equation and it made much more sense to build from scratch.”

Work on the datacentre began around last Christmas and completion is expected before the end of August.

“In February, we began implementing SQL 2005 for all systems,” Drinkwater says. “That’s kept our testing team fully busy but to date we’ve had no problems in converting from SQL 2000.”

The timing was also designed to coincide with leases running out on IBM equipment. Mainfreight has replaced IBM with Hewlett-Packard server C-class blades and DL series servers.

“We felt the HP blades were more dense and better,” Drinkwater says. “We also felt more comfortable with HP services because they provide spares in New Zealand whereas with IBM you have to wait for delivery from overseas.”

Mainfreight entered into a contract with infrastructure specialist APC. “It was our first instance with them,” he says. “The key was that they could provide a one-stop shop.”

The company is unusual in that it doesn’t apply return on investment (ROI) as a criteria. “We have a ready, aim, fire philosophy,” Drinkwater says. “What we’ve done has worked successfully in the past — if it feels right, we weigh it up then do it.”

Melbourne will be retained as a disaster recovery site, along with a managed DR site at Telecom’s Mayoral Drive premises in Auckland.

The company’s most recent annual revenue was more than $965 million, 50% of which came from offshore. Annual spend on information technology is more than $13 million.

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