Captain D's Weathers The Storm

When Sean McAnally, network manager at Captain D's Seafood, a Nashville, Tenn.-based restaurant chain, needed names of companies that could help him with custom servers for his ever-growing operation, he

May 14, 2005

4 Min Read
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When Sean McAnally, network manager at Captain D's Seafood, a Nashville, Tenn.-based restaurant chain, needed names of companies that could help him with custom servers for his ever-growing operation, he did what any tech-savvy person would do--he Googled it.

With more than 580 restaurants in 24 states, Captain D's employs a complex web of applications, including point-of-sale, drive-through and credit-card payment systems, as well as online commissary ordering, food-cost analysis and a Store Waste Attack Tool (SWAT) to help with cost efficiency. Captain D's also runs applications for customer satisfaction and training. All of these applications rely on central servers at Captain D's headquarters--making a high-performance, cost-effective database configuration vital to the restaurant's operations and success.

Captain D's had been relying on SCSI-based storage systems, but wanted to find a less expensive option that could provide the same performance and reliability.

"We needed to build several new database servers that were going to be hard-drive intensive," McAnally says.

Through McAnally's Google search early last year, he found out about ZT Group, a Secaucus, N.J.-based systems integrator focused on networking and storage solutions. Bear in mind, McAnally had called a few places from his Googling, but most couldn't talk the talk, or at least couldn't grasp the custom- server building that he was requesting. But ZT Group understood what McAnally was looking for--a more cost-effective Serial ATA (SATA) storage solution to run Captain D's high-performance applications--and like any smart solution provider, ZT Group did its homework about the seafood chain to find out more about the business."We were called in to help Captain D's with cost efficiency, as well as a faster-paced server solution that they wouldn't have to put a lot of money into," says Pat Wang, marketing manager at ZT Group.

To accomplish that, ZT Group started work last March to configure Captain D's SQL Server systems with Broadcom's RaidCore BC4852 eight-channel Raid controller cards. Captain D's purchased about 15 to 20 servers over a 12-month period, spending about $50,000 with ZT Group, Wang says. She adds that, going forward, the seafood chain also is looking to possibly replace another 25 to 35 servers.

The RaidCore controller also contains eight Western Digital SATA drives and offers online capacity expansion for on-the-fly growth--new disks can be added to an active array without taking the system offline. The controller also offers controller spanning, which lets a data array span multiple controllers and more disks for greater capacity and better performance.

"We certainly saved a lot of money by going with SATA instead of SCSI," McAnally says. While not sure of the exact amount, by putting as many as 10 drives in some servers, the percentage was much higher than it would have been in a two-disk box, he adds.

"The speed of the Serial ATA setups with Broadcom's RaidCore Raid Controller Card were comparable to the SCSI setups, so we decided to give it a shot," McAnally says. "Once we had the first one in place, speed was not a problem, so we continued adding more."Since then, Captain D's has been purchasing a few servers each month, with different configurations according to different needs, Wang says.

"Depending on the kind of server they want us to build, some servers might require one controller card, while some might require more," she says.

Minimizing Waste, Maximizing Labor

As an example of how Captain D's benefits from the SATA solution from ZT Group, its SWAT application creates "prep sheets" for each restaurant to forecast what types of food will be needed at 15-minute intervals on a daily basis. That way, the restaurant can thaw the right amount of food for the right amount of times, thereby cutting down on wasted food. The system also creates daily staff resource plans, scheduling the appropriate number of workers for various time periods throughout the day.

And with almost 600 restaurants running these sheets every 15 minutes, there is obviously a great deal of data. To get this vital information to both the corporate office and the franchise locations, the SWAT system depends on SQL Server Reporting Services running on a server utilizing the Broadcom RaidCore controller."The SATA drives are becoming more popular," explains Wang, adding that customers are generally impressed with getting the same performance as with SCSI for less. "That's becoming more and more attractive to customers looking to keep performance up and costs down," she says.

CRM Services Revenue Heats Up
According to a recent forecast by Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, an IT market intelligence firm, there is a renewed interest among end-user customers for services around Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

IDC research found that the banking, communications and media, and discrete manufacturing verticals in the United States will continue to lead the way in spending on CRM services.To be successful in selling CRM services, IDC points to four key things to keep in mind:
1. Deliver visionary incrementalist services.
2. Know the potential and applicability of Web services.
3. Facilitate business process outsourcing (BPO) through a standalone, managed service or partnership-led offering.
4. Unfold the potential of analytics and business intelligence through leveraging analytical CRM in relation to operational CRM.
Source: IDC

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