Hudson's Bay Company

A BMC customer worries a merger would disrupt one of its key suppliers

May 25, 2002

4 Min Read
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Canada's largest retail outfit, Hudson's Bay Company, is steadfastly against the idea of the rumored merger in the works between EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) and BMC Software Inc. (see EMC Eyes BMC).

"I'd hate to see anything major like this happen," says Laurence Whittaker, Hudson's Bay's enterprise storage supervisor. "BMC is a good company to deal with; it's very customer focused. I'd hate to see someone else getting in there and messing that up." (See BMC Manages Retailer's Storage).

Whittaker doesn't have anything against EMC, specifically. It's just that Hudson's Bay's storage infrastructure is built almost entirely of IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) mainframes and Shark arrays. Whittaker and three other full-time storage administrators at Hudson's Bay manage almost 10 terabytes of mainframe disk and 12 terabytes of open systems storage among them. "We are definitely at the high end of the scale in terms of gigabytes per administrator," he says.

Under its current agreement with IBM, Hudson's Bay couldn't introduce another vendor's storage into its environment even if it wanted to, although Whittaker notes, "the IBM deal doesn't last forever." And the prospect of getting into the virtualization game to mix multivendor storage doesn't fill Whittaker with enthusiasm. "Virtualization doesn't work as well in the Unix world today as it does for NT, and it's pretty expensive," he says, although it is something he is keeping an eye on.

Growth in new storage capacity at Hudson's Bay has slowed down considerably this year. The firm was increasing its capacity 200 percent each year during the mid to late 90s, but Whittaker expects that growth rate to drop to between 50 percent and 70 percent this year. "We are trying to contain it and keep things manageable," he says.Among its three retail businesses -- the Bay Department Stores, which is like Macy's; Zellers, more like Kmart; and Home Outfitters, a home dcor supplier -- Hudson's Bay is the fifth-largest employer in Canada with 70,000 staff, 600 of which are IT personnel. In addition, Hudson's Bay in March 1998 acquired Kmart Canada, which included 112 stores, 59 of which had to be converted to Zellers stores.

Managing this kind of IT operation with an "extremely tight budget this year has been interesting, to say the least," Whittaker says. "We had to find a way to get as much gas out of the storage resources we already have without having to buy more."

First, Whittaker required a reporting tool that would enable him to centrally administer the entire storage environment instead of logging in to every server individually to see how the storage was behaving. He also needed something that would work across mainframes, AIX, and Windows NT servers to proactively manage the storage, i.e., provide alerts for when certain processes start to go awry. "The aim was to avoid putting out fires that erupt out of nowhere by catching the problem before it becomes an expensive disaster."

Hudson's Bay already uses BMC's systems management software, so Whittaker says it was a natural extension to use its Patrol SRM (storage resource management) product. "The two are integrated, and our systems software people already know these products, so it was easy for me to go to them with Patrol SRM," he says. "Plus, we needed ease of delivery and good support, as we are a lean shop."

Whittaker didn't consider any other vendors. He says he attended a BMC user conference recently and listened to the company talk about the integration of its storage products with its systems management. "They seemed to get the whole picture, and when you are under the gun to make a decision quickly, that's what you need." He also says being sure of which direction his supplier was headed was a major factor in his decision. "A lot of the startups I talk to are thinking of this as I speak to them, which is a little disconcerting."Building strategic relationships with just a few vendors is a complete shift in focus for Hudson's Bay, which until three years ago had almost every IT vendor under the sun in its shop. "To have one or two vendors that can help out with the total picture has been better for us," Whittaker says. "It's not the least-cost option. Then again the weeks, sometimes months, of delay in negotiating with multiple vendors wasn't cost effective either."

He managed to get Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), IBM, Microsoft Corp.

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