The import auto industry provides distribution services for automobiles manufactured in both Europe and Asia. Most successful international automakers have expanded to provide an extensive presence in North America, as most have populated manufacturing plants in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
The activities that surround the distribution of products within the U.S. have provided a rich datacentric set of activities that has prompted leading-edge data centers in the U.S. Because the automakers' IT organizations' data centers have had to address data-processing activities on an international level, they have consistently been ahead of many other U.S.-based companies in their abilities to handle data on an international basis as well as becoming involved with leading computer technologies. In addition, government regulations exacerbated the amount of the data these companies must collect, analyze, and address.
Although the international aspect of these companies requires that specific additional data center issues be addressed, they must also deal with the basic systems of business in terms of reporting, tracking, and analyzing data. What makes the auto industry unique in many respects is the various sources of revenue that it derives from its products, much of this transparent to the consumer. Key among these activities is the sale of parts products, service contracts, and the increasing amount of technical support provided to dealerships. Many of these are reflective of the increased technological advances within the automobiles themselves . In addition, warranty products and services must be tracked and accounted for. For example, each time a warranty claim is presented and processed within a dealership , the manufacturer pays for the service, parts, and support. Although these activities are not restricted to just the auto industry, it does set the foundation for a set of required information that means that an extremely large amount of receivables be managed by the U.S. distribution companies. This necessitates a synchronized transaction between dealer , distributor, and manufacturer to resolve.
The results of all these operations and interactions make this industry an extremely datacentric and data-sensitive enterprise. The composite collection of IT organizations within the U.S. that represents these companies has become the key user and consumer of high-end computer systems and technologies. However, in many cases these organizations must work in tandem with headquarters data centers in both Europe and Asia. This requires the U.S. data centers to implement or become compatible with a strategy that has been developed outside the United States. Working with the levels of autonomy, each of the U.S. data centers has laid the foundation for the tactical types of technology trends they can justify and implement. This issue has both advanced and stifled some of the most productive trends within these data centers.
This case study discusses the activities surrounding the analysis, justification, and implementation of a storage area network (SAN) to support a major restructuring of key application systems within a major international auto distributor in the United States. The company was advanced in its installation of state-of-the-art mainframes and distributed systems. These systems supported the U.S. headquarters, parts distribution centers, and its extensive network of dealerships. However, the major applications supporting these areas lagged the rest of IT, with largely centralized systems without the necessary distribution of data from the mainframes to enhance or synchronize the data that existed on the distributed systems. Consequently, a consistent and timely analysis of the key areas of the enterprise remained problematic .
This evolved as the company executives mandated more data to analyze portions of the business-key among these are parts, service/warranty, and sales lines of business. They placed hard requirements to the IT executives to facilitate the development of and restructuring of current data warehouse applications into a more responsive set of data marts as well as a corporate data warehouse that provides relationships to the key revenue indicators of the company.
The industry's IT area had been restricted by a static budget for the last two years as the auto business has tried to stabilize its operations and financial positions . IT employs 350 personnel, with an additional 50 to 60 contractors employed at any one time. Within this organization, the technical support area has 35 personnel, with enterprise storage administration being supported by one full-time and one part-time systems programmer. This small contingent works to administrate and support storage operations in conjunction with the assigned mainframe systems programmers and UNIX and Windows systems administrators.