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Trek Bicycle Corporation
Trek Bicycle Corporation
Bicycle Firm Moves Retail System to Cloud, Expects to Save $15,000 a Month in IT Costs
Trek designs, manufactures, and sells high-performance bicycles. The most popular categories are mountain, touring, and racing bicycles. Based in Waterloo, Wisconsin, the company employs 1,600 people and has distributors in 65 countries. Trek wanted to move its Ascend retail management system to a cloud-based system to reduce support costs and make it easier to maintain. Trek chose Windows Azure because it offered full compatibility with the Windows development environment and separate infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environments. By reducing its reliance on external IT support and data centers, the company expects to reduce its IT hosting costs by $15,000 a month and has cut server upgrade time from 2–6 weeks to just two hours.
"We are extremely pleased with our selection of the Windows Azure platform. The capabilities, performance, scale, and cost enable the Ascend team to do more with less."
Trek was founded in 1976 with the mission to build the best bicycles in the world. More than 35 years later, Trek continues to lead the industry with its diverse range of race-proven road and mountain bikes, as well as a full line of urban and touring bikes.
A key component of Trek’s success is its commitment to its 5,000 independent bicycle retailers around the world. To support them, Trek offers Ascend, a retail management system that helps to manage inventory, place part orders, track work orders, and process customer purchases. Trek works with a data center provider to operate and support the Ascend services. Over time, these services required more servers and IT staff, both at Trek and at the data center, which increased support costs. Also, it would take 2–6 weeks to install a new server at the data center, which wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the scalability demands of the system.
By late 2011, the Ascend development and support team faced numerous challenges, including aging server hardware, rising data center costs, and IT staff that couldn’t keep up with support demands. Trek needed to find a way to reduce development and support costs and increase the scalability of the Ascend architecture.
The Ascend team considered cloud-computing solutions to meet its growing infrastructure and application modernization needs. After evaluating several solutions including Amazon, the Ascend team chose the Windows Azure platform and enlisted Skyline Technologies, a Microsoft partner with several gold and silver competencies, to help them with the migration.
Windows Azure provides separate infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environments. The Ascend team planned to use this feature of Azure to first move the existing Ascend workloads to the IaaS environment as virtual machines, and then later move them to the PaaS environment. Kenny Young, Practice Director for Skyline Technologies, says, “Trek has a very robust infrastructure, so its IT pros are often strapped for time. Trek hoped that the IaaS offering would get Ascend working on Azure quickly, and the team could engineer future versions of Ascend using the PaaS model.”
Adam Salvo, DevOps Manager at Trek for the Ascend product, says, “We wanted to spend less time managing servers and infrastructure and more time developing features that provide value to our customers, and we thought that Azure would make this possible.”
Even though the Ascend migration is ongoing, Trek has already seen benefits in reduced development and support costs as well as increased scalability.
Reduced Development Cost
The Ascend team found that the learning curve associated with Azure PaaS was small, similar to learning a new version of the .NET Framework or API. Existing development tools such as Microsoft Visual Studio just worked on Azure, and the team could easily move applications to PaaS. Moving Ascend workloads to IaaS was very fast and trouble-free. Young says, “Let’s say there was no IaaS offering in Azure; Trek would have had to rewrite the services on PaaS. That would have been additional overhead that the company now doesn’t have to recoup.”
Reduced IT Support Cost
Trek continues to improve its TCO by reducing the time and effort needed to support its Ascend infrastructure. Since the Ascend team moved its staging workloads to Azure IaaS, Trek has saved US$5,000 each month in data-center hosting costs. When the production workloads have been migrated to IaaS, the company will be able to eliminate its data center operations and save $15,000 each month.
Windows Azure easily scales to meet increased workloads and a variety of deployment scenarios, offering much needed flexibility for Ascend. Trek no longer needs to wait 2–6 weeks to upgrade server capacity at its data center; by adding virtual machines in Azure IaaS, Trek engineers can do the same job in just two hours.
The affordable price and simple, straightforward pricing model of Azure benefits Trek and its retailers. By adding the Azure subscriptions built into Ascend to Trek’s enterprise agreement, the company can provide discounted rates, unified billing, and a simple one-time payment for its Ascend service.
Windows Azure has made it possible for the Ascend team to focus on providing features that provide real value to customers. “We are extremely pleased with our selection of the Windows Azure platform,” concludes Salvo. “The capabilities, performance, scale, and cost enable the Ascend team to do more with less.”
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