Batteries Plus Unites Google Cloud and Retail Operations
What happens when your trusted data center provider gives notice that it’s shutting down for good? Batteries Plus Bulbs faced that dilemma in 2017 when its data center host announced it was closing production and testing centers in 2019.
That left an important question to answer: Should they locate another on-prem provider, or should they move to a cloud computing infrastructure?
“This edict meant we had to find an alternative solution for hosting our applications,” notes Jason Thelen, Infrastructure Architect at Batteries Plus.
The company had already deployed Google Cloud’s G Suite workplace cloud collaboration solution, so life in the Google Cloud wasn’t unfamiliar.
“We had been G Suite customers in part since 2017 with organic growth through 2018 when we decided we wanted to do a full deployment across the company,” Thelen said, noting that the company formally migrated to G Suite in January 2019 with the help of Onix, its trusted Google Cloud partner.
But there’s a difference between workplace cloud collaboration tools and cloud computing infrastructure. That’s why Thelen and his team again turned to Onix to explore the benefits of migrating to the cloud.
Batteries Plus Bulbs is the nation’s largest and fastest-growing battery, light bulb and smartphone/tablet repair franchise. It has a large nationwide network of stores and also a strong online presence. That’s why company leadership knew they needed to ensure the same quality data security, accessibility and reliability that it had with its previous provider.
They also knew they wanted to kick those benefits up a notch to something even stronger in the retail technology arena. They started looking at the possibilities Google Cloud Platform could offer for such key applications as e-commerce, back-office operations at the stores, internal admin tools and several other applications.
From better customer engagement in-stores and online and reduced digital shopping cart abandonment to more streamlined internal operations, uniting Google Cloud and retail seemed like a logical next step.
It wasn't unfamiliar territory. The company’s corporate marketing department already had some experience using GCP, Thelen indicated. The team hosted several applications in the cloud and had become comfortable using GCP-native tools, particularly those around marketing analytics and the platform’s speech-to-text capabilities.
“Marketing’s success with GCP led us to move forward in the Google Cloud,” Thelen said. “It was appealing to use. We would be able to bring our own licenses and we also would be able to scale back our budget.”
Moving to Google Cloud
The success Batteries Plus had using Onix as its deployment and support partner for their 2017 G Suite migration made the decision easy when it came to selecting a similar partner for the move of 114 servers from an on-prem environment to GCP.
“Onix offered quite a few relevant services that would be advantageous to us and was able to walk us through a demo with a couple of our servers,” Thelen said. “The team demonstrated notable skill and knowledge, and we were comfortable with their capabilities and the tools they were bringing forward in the project.”
Those tools were a mix of AWS and Google Cloud solutions, AWS CloudEndure and GCP’s Migrate for Compute Engine (the tool formerly known as Velostrata), respectively. The combined Batteries Plus and Onix team fully explored all migration tools and realized both of these products had strengths that would combine for a smooth GCP deployment.
AWS CloudEndure addressed server criticality — and the fast and comprehensive project timeline of four weeks. CloudEndure continually replicates source machines into a staging area without causing downtime or impacting performance. This is true for all applications and databases running on supported versions of Windows and Linux OS.
“We could kick off our sync earlier and then sync deltas until we were ready to make the full cutover,” Thelen said.
To avoid latency issues, Migrate for Google Compute Engine supported the company’s daytime migrations for non-critical servers. The company could continue using its applications with this tool running in the background.
The combined power of these AWS and GCP tools took care of much of the migration’s heavy lifting. In fact, the Onix-led migration team was able to move the company’s 114 servers in a month, migrating anywhere between five to 10 servers a day.
“Cloud Endure and Migrate for Google Compute Engine were a powerful combination, giving us a great mix of solutions that met our needs,” Thelen said. “It was a win all around.”
Now that Batteries Plus is up and running in GCP, Thelen says he sees a notable increase in performance and availability across all migrated applications in Batteries Plus stores and at HQ.
“GCP was a good move for Batteries Plus,” said Onix Technical Project Manager, Jessica Banks, who managed the entire deployment. “They’ve enjoyed post-migration improvements in uptime as well as computing speed at their satellite stores, which access the applications stored in their new GCP environment.”
Thelen said the company also appreciates having access to Google Cloud’s newer hardware and strong networking capabilities without having to make capital investments on the Batteries Plus side of things.
“We used to go to great lengths each year to maintain an inventory of capital investments. Now it’s a non-factor,” he says. “Moving to GCP really streamlined our process. We have fewer renewals, too.”
Throughout the process, the Onix migration team guided Thelen and his crew through the new territory, from the initial planning stages to post-migration support.
“It’s really made a difference using Onix as a partner,” Thelen says. “Initially, we were thinking about all kinds of crazy things before we started working with Onix, including rebuilding environments, throwing them on a BUS and moving them to another onsite facility. Instead, we got solutions that were advantageous to our needs and timing. We were left with zero questions at the end of the migration.”