Founded in 2007, Whitebox Retail Logistics provides logistics services to retail distribution and e-commerce businesses in Singapore. Whitebox primarily markets these services to small and medium businesses including clothing and furniture retailers, and has optimized its fulfillment model and processes accordingly. For example, its warehouse features shelving designed for small items such as shoes, handbags, and air purifiers, rather than large pallets. Whitebox, which began with just two customers, has experienced significant growth over the last decade and now provides services to 30 customers.
Early on, Whitebox started its IT operations by running production servers, storage, networking, and associated systems internally while outsourcing other infrastructure to external providers. However, this approach proved cumbersome when the business developed a system that enabled customers to gain real-time visibility of their inventory and orders. This project entailed integrating the new system with backend systems, marketplaces, and e-commerce shopping carts. “One of the issues we faced was moving versions of our applications from development to demonstration and live server environments,” says Walter Wong, director of Whitebox. “We were regularly delayed by issues such as incorrect server settings or insufficient RAM.”
Wong estimates these problems increased development time for the applications by about 20 percent. Furthermore, dealing with vendors was time consuming and laborious even when requesting minor performance adjustments or configuration changes. “We had to communicate using technical terms we didn’t really understand and this further impeded an already slow process,” says Wong.
The infrastructure model also did not meet Whitebox’s performance requirements. Team members managing the infrastructure would have to wait up to 30 seconds each time to download inventory data, well in excess of Whitebox’s near-real-time requirement. Multiplied across several customers, these slow downloads would cause inefficiencies that resulted in delays of up to an hour, compromising performance and customer service.
With Whitebox preparing for expansion into additional Southeast Asian markets, Wong and his team realized the business had to adopt a new infrastructure model to support the company’s real-time inventory system and backend systems, such as SAP Business One business management software and an Oracle warehouse-management system. The business needed an infrastructure provider that could support its proposed growth, minimize costs, and meet stringent availability and performance requirements.
Whitebox researched cloud-service providers but realized it needed expert assistance to select the right provider. The business decided to engage Amazon Partner Network (APN) Consulting Partner Cloud Comrade. “After a review, we determined Cloud Comrade best understood our needs and had experience with the SAP systems in place at our business,” says Wong. “Cloud Comrade then advised us that Amazon Web Services was the best fit for our infrastructure requirements.” Cloud Comrade’s review included detailing the Amazon Web Services (AWS) functionality that Whitebox realized could meet its needs for at least the next five to 10 years.
Cloud Comrade migrated Whitebox’s enterprise workloads, including SAP Business One, .NET, and the Oracle warehouse-management system, to an AWS architecture that incorporates Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances and Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), with data stored for backup and disaster recovery in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES) is used to automate the distribution of email notifications to customers and other relevant external parties. Cloud Comrade completed the project in 2015.
Working with Cloud Comrade and using AWS has allowed Whitebox to gain agility that was impossible with multiple vendors providing servers and associated IT infrastructure. “We can now replicate our existing real-time inventory system to new markets in less than two weeks,” says Wong. “This would not have been possible in the previous data center.”
Cloud Comrade also delivered the technical expertise and responsiveness that enables Wong and his team to focus on the business rather than infrastructure issues. “Cloud Comrade has been very proactive in engaging with us and ensuring we don’t run into a wall,” says Wong. “They also provide a single point of contact, minimizing the time we have to spend on these tasks.”
Whitebox has also reduced its infrastructure costs by more than 30 percent while maintaining performance and availability levels as the business scales to meet its target of 200 customers. Team members can also now download inventory information in less than five seconds for processing and sending to customers, eliminating delays and inefficiencies that could potentially compromise the Whitebox service. Availability levels are approaching 99.999 percent for the inventory-management system, the warehouse-management system, and the enterprise-resource planning system.
“We can now be sure that critical functions managed by SAP Business One—such as consolidated month-end billing—will not be compromised by infrastructure outages,” says Wong.
Using AWS also enables Whitebox to spin up appropriately sized development, testing, and production servers within minutes and to create consistent environments in order to minimize the risk of new applications not working properly when sent to production. The business has been able to reduce development cycles to less than five days instead of five weeks, gaining the ability to add new features and functions to existing systems and deliver new applications in time to seize market opportunities.
Whitebox is now well positioned to grow into new markets such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Wong sees working with AWS as a competitive differentiator as the business expands from Singapore. “With AWS, there is that association and the belief that you are a credible company that is prepared to invest in good infrastructure,” says Wong. “Cloud Comrade has met its promises around service and support, and we have peace of mind and confidence in the future.”
- A Standard Partner of the AWS Partner Network (APN). Cloud Comrade provides a range of professional cloud IT services, from strategizing and designing to deploying and managing applications.
- For more information about how Cloud Comrade can help your company build and manage your AWS environment, see Cloud Comrade’s listing in the AWS Partner Directory.
Learn more about how AWS can help your business applications.