Grupo Éxito is Latin America’s largest retailer, with more than 2,000 stores across the continent. Founded in Colombia in 1949, it was originally a textile firm which has since branched out into groceries and other goods, as well as travel, insurance, gas stations and shopping malls.

To serve these various businesses within Colombia, the group has a corporate data center housed in a multipurpose building. This delivers all the organization‘s business activity - except certain strategic services that have been outsourced.

retail grupo exita tall right
– Thinkstock / Ciaran Griffin

Technical limitations

The installation covers 450 sq m, of which 220 sq m is white space, divided into two zones, with a total of 54 racks. The total load power is 185 kW, 110 kW of which feeds the IT load. The electrical system has 2N redundancy, while cooling has an N+1 topology. The current PUE (power usage effectiveness) stands at 1.68.

With most of its corporate services delivered from this data center, which was built in 2001, the group was facing technical limitations that threatened to affect its daily operation.

Distributed monitoring infrastructure was inefficient and was not adequately controlled, and problems were emerging in the data center’s power management and cooling capacity. “We were very reactive when dealing with this kind of difficulty,” said Juan Carlos Ochoa, analyst and data center manager at Grupo Éxito.

In November 2015, the company began a three phase project to deploy a DCIM system which would allow it to “be more effective in monitoring all infrastructure and mature in managing the data center,” said Ochoa. Seven months after the start, the company is seeing efficiency gains begin to show.

The Group’s data center infrastructure was far from being adequately monitored, but some steps had been taken four years earlier, with the implementation of a management system. The new DCIM was kept separate, and a future integration of the two applications was planned.

Clear goals 

The retail company wanted clear goals, and planned that early results from the first phase would generate support and ensure the implementation would continue, said Ochoa.

The first step was to evaluate DCIM solutions, a process which took five months. The choice was not about the provider with the most financial muscle, but the company which met actual needs, said Ochoa: “You have to understand what you need and what the market offers.” Ochoa declined to name the chosen solution.

We will evaluate which path to choose: integrate IT management with the DCIM or build a hybrid option with the two solutions

Juan Carlos Ochoa, Grupo Éxito

Once it had chosen a solution, the first phase included monitoring the electrical system - the power generators, UPS, the PDUs. The cooling system is 100 percent monitored, as are the environment and physical security.

In the next two years the remaining two stages will be addressed. The second phase will include monitoring fire detection and suppression systems, which uses the agent Inergen. This phase will improve reporting and drive deeper into the monitoring infrastructure, covering power quality, transformers, access control, and so on.

The third phase will address the integration with existing systems at the facility, such as CMDB and the management system. “At this point we will evaluate which path to choose: integrate IT management with the DCIM or build a hybrid option with the two solutions,” said Ochoa.

retail grupo exita tall left
– Thinkstock / Ciaran Griffin

Breaking down silos

In the project, IT departments and facilities are working together to achieve better integration and break with the typical data center silos. As Ochoa said: “both facilities and IT participated in the preliminary analysis of the project, and are an active part of the implementation and are indispensable.”

Although the project is at an early stage of deployment, improvements have already been measured. The cost savings are difficult to estimate, but the system has already foreseen equipment damage, avoiding major investments or outages.

“In the refrigeration equipment an alert let the maintenance personnel identify damage to a valve, which was repaired promptly,” said Ochoa. The benefit here is hard to measure in money, but it avoided severe damage.

Temperature and humidity are measured precisely and parameters can be adjusted dynamically, achieving savings from the efficient use of air conditioning.

In short, even before full deployment, the DCIM solution has boosted Grupo Éxito’s efficiency projects and helped with management challenges.

This story appeared in the April/May 2017 issue of DCD magazine. It was originally published in Spanish on Translation by Peter Judge