Founded in 1969, A&R Logistics is the nation’s largest transporter of plastic resins – and on a mission to grow fast. Backed by US $1 billion in private equity, the Louisville, KY-based company is making significant investments to capitalize on an American manufacturing surge that has its biggest customers – the global petrochemical companies who make the resins – setting up shop and expanding operations in the United States.
No time for downtime
Downtime doesn’t fit into A&R’s plans – or into its customers’ production schedules. “We have 750 drivers on the road, from San Diego to Boston and everywhere in between,” said Rick Blanchard, A&R’s Vice President of Technology. “They need to know what products to load on their trucks, and where and when to deliver them. If a driver doesn’t show up on time with the right products, that can literally shut down manufacturing operations for hours, or longer.”
“When that happens,” Blanchard added, “typically we don’t get a second chance.”
So when A&R began experiencing unexplained, catastrophic power problems in its Chicago-area data center, the A&R team knew they had to act fast – and fail over their production IT environment to a high-performance disaster recovery infrastructure that would enable A&R to provide uninterrupted service for customers.
“Peak 10 answered emergency calls at 3 a.m., sat in 14-hour conference calls from Saturday night through Sunday morning, whatever it took. It was an incredible effort.”
The Right Call
In full crisis mode, Blanchard placed a call to Jeff Biggs, Exec utive VP of Operations and Technology at Peak 10, whom Blanchard had known for years. Biggs and his team walked Blanchard through Peak 10® Rec overy Cloud, a disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) solution. With Recovery Cloud, a company can implement scalable, flexible, secure, cloud-based disaster recovery, without changing its existing IT infrastructure.
Recovery Cloud uses Zerto replication technology to copy production data to the disaster recovery site, and to continuously replicate data as it changes to minimize data loss in the event of an outage or disaster.
“We run a highly virtualized VMware shop, so my first preference was to use vCloud Air for data replication,” said Blanchard. “But Peak 10 was so knowledgeable about Zerto and so confident in the technology, we quickly felt very comfortable with the Recovery Cloud solution.”
Within hours of this initial discussion, the A&R IT team and Peak 10 had an agreement, and began what A&R called the “torturous exercise” of working around its peak usage times to replicate 14 terabytes from its data center to the Peak 10 Recovery Cloud. And the Peak 10 team’s expertise, and shared sense of urgency, impressed A&R over and over again throughout the process.
“The Peak 10 engineering staff made themselves available all night, on weekends, you name it,” Blanchard said. “They answered emergency calls at 3 a.m., sat in 14-hour conference calls from Saturday night through Sunday morning, whatever it took. It was an incredible effort. We fully replicated the data center on the Recovery Cloud within five weeks of the initial call, which believe me was a phenomenal accomplishment. And our performance in the Recovery Cloud was equal to or even better than our previous production performance.”
Bulletproof IT at break-neck speed
Next, A&R began planning its failback to its production environment. But because the power problems in his data center persisted, Peak 1 0 proposed an alternative: Recreating A&R’s production environment at Peak 10’s colocation facility in Louisville, near A&R’s corporate headquarters. And once again, A&R was impressed with the speed, responsiveness and dedication of the Peak 10 team.
“One weekend Chris Simmons, Service Delivery Engineer, and Tony Eaton, Director of Service Delivery, of Peak 10 drove to the company’s Nashville data center in Franklin, Tennessee, picked up the server hardware we needed to recreate our environment, drove it to Louisville and had it set up by Monday morning,” said Blanchard. “This is the type of thing they did throughout the process.”
Finally, once the production environment was in place, A&R and Peak 10 set up disaster recovery infrastructure in Atlanta – again using Peak 10 Recovery Cloud.
The result: By July 2016, just six months after declaring disas ter, A&R – a rapidly growing company with a national footprint – had recovered to the cloud, reestablished its production IT in a colocation facility, and implemented a permanent remote DRaaS infrastructure.
“In the end this was a 14-16 month project that would have been tough to do in a year, and Peak 10 accomplished it in six months, at warp speed,” said Blanchard. “Think about it: We’re a $250 million dollar company that wants to get to a billion dollars within 5-10 years, and in six months Peak 10 built the infrastructure we’ll need to support that growth.”
A cloud partner for foul or fair weather
According to Blanchard, a company needn’t be in the depths of a crisis to benefit from a partner like Peak 10.
“I’ve never been in a situation like this one before, and most companies won’t ever see a similar situation,” he said. “But I have worked at other companies where we wanted to go to the cloud for production or disaster recovery, and either we thought we didn’t have the resources to do it, or we just didn’t know the next steps to take. Having a partner with Peak 10’s expertise, dedication, and ability to execute would have been invaluable at that time in my career, and it’s great to have them as a partner now and going forward.”