Trucking and Logistics Company Goes and Grows with Hybrid Cloud

Canada’s Kriska Transportation Group plugs into hyperconverged infrastructure as a service to expand and turn cargo delivery data into a competitive edge.

By Tom Mangan

By Tom Mangan June 29, 2021

Trucks never stop rolling for Kriska Transportation Group. Logistics data from the company’s tractor-trailers have become as critical as fuel in the era of e-commerce. Customers no longer wait days for paperwork to confirm their order arrived. Instead, they want to know the location of their shipment throughout each trip. Tracking, analyzing and making this data readily available is now an essential part of the business, driving Kriska’s IT team to rely on cutting edge hybrid cloud technologies. 

“We're a 24-hour shop,” said David Bergeron, Kriska’s IT director, in an interview with The Forecast by Nutanix.  “Data is a big part of our business. We can't afford downtime. Even taking a one-hour outage to patch systems hurts our business.”

The third-party logistics market in Canada is expected to grow from $1.58 billion in 2019 to $3.01 billion by 2027, according to a report published by Allied Market Research. These logistics companies provide specialized services such as inventory management, cross-border hauling, door-to-door delivery and packaging of products.

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Kriska is a Canadian trucking and logistics firm that employs 1,200 people and keeps 800 tractor-trailers moving back and forth across the U.S.-Canada border.

“We use a multitude of applications to manage the life cycle of the delivery of that product,” Bergeron said.

Their trucks have data tracking technologies with GPS location information. Drivers carry tablet computers to log deliveries, document cargos and track locations. Technology tracks truck locations. Digital systems manage dispatching and rerouting. Information tech helps Kriska make better, timely decisions and makes the company more competitive in the marketplace, according to Bergeron.

“Now it's all about data,” he said. “Everybody wants data. It's a huge aspect of trucking profitability.”

Data systems need to be fast enough to collect data, manage and make it accessible in real time.

“Everybody wants to know where their product is,” he said. “You buy something from Amazon, you're tracking it two seconds later to find out where it is, right? It's no different when shipping an entire truckload of product. Customers want to know where their products are, so we have more touch points between systems.”

IT Growing Pains

Over the past few years, the company has moved to an hybrid cloud IT approach to improve performance, scalability and manageability while reducing downtime risk.

“The hybrid cloud infrastructure as a service from Zycom has been a game changer for us,” Bergeron told Supply & Demand Chain Executive, which covers the global supply chain.

He said it’s allowing IT to scale up to support merger and acquisition growth activities.

“Since implementing our solution with Zycom, KTG has acquired and integrated four companies into the group 75% faster, with 25% of the effort required to do so in our previous IT environment.”

Fighting downtime requires a sound disaster-recovery program, which lives or dies in the failover-testing phase. Bergeron’s IT team learned that the hard way in 2019, when a data center failover failed and caused an extended outage to the business.

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“The disaster-recovery solution at the time was to move data off-site, which is best practice, but we were bringing our systems, data and workloads online on someone else's hardware,” Bergeron recalled. “That didn't work out as planned. We were down for several days before we could get the right amount of workloads to support our business."

Several days of downtime is big trouble in the data-hungry trucking business. As the company bounced back from that incident, Bergeron got busy finding a better way to keep Kriska’s systems online.

After weighing multiple options, Kriska zeroed in on a hybrid IT infrastructure that merges private and public cloud technologies strategically to strengthen their growing business. Bergeron told The Forecast about the challenges that convinced his company to take the hybrid cloud route.

Modernizing IT to Grow the Company

Bergeron explained that acquisitions have expanded Kriska from four companies when he started working there in 2016 to 11 companies in 2021. In a fast-growing organization, IT systems cannot merely keep pace with the needs of an always-on trucking industry. They also need speed, agility and scale. The conventional three-tier data center isn’t a good fit for that model.

A cloud-first approach helps many fast-growing firms adapt to this challenge. After all, hyperscale public cloud services can deliver all-but-infinite computing resources in tight time frames. But cloud-first isn’t for everybody, as Bergeron learned while he and his team consulted with Terry Buchanan, vice president and general manager for digital transformation at Zycom Technology Inc, the system integrator and service provider that helped Kriska modernize its IT architecture. Zycom’s work with Kriska was awarded Top Supply Chain Projects Award for 2021 by Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

Zycom provides private and hybrid cloud capabilities powered by Nutanix, a pioneer in hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI), which uses software to virtualize servers, storage and networking. HCI makes data centers scalable and easier to operate across private and public clouds.

Lessons of that earlier failed failover guided Kriska to a new way of thinking about the cloud. Buchanan’s team weighed all their options and recommended HCI as a service. 

“When we went through the needs analysis with the team at Kriska, it became clear that data replication in and of itself wasn't good enough,” Buchanan said. “That led us very quickly to our Nutanix-as-a-service platform because we could seamlessly replicate virtual server workloads from site A to site B wherever that was going to be, using built-in software that Nutanix offers out of the box.”

These dovetailed with Kriska’s high-growth business needs.

“With the HCI-as-a-service solution from Zycom, we're able to scale up on demand and fast,” Bergeron said.

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Kirska’s acquisitions can now happen rapidly, potentially in 60 days or less, and more cohesively. 

“All of a sudden, now we have two companies to integrate,” he explained. ”I pick up the phone and call Zycom, and within three to four weeks I've got new nodes installed.”

That gives Kriska the tools to thrive even amid the massive complexity of merging two companies’ IT systems. It also pays off in dealings with the executive suite. 

“When I'm sitting around the table with the executives and we're talking about the growth we've seen in the business, IT has always been a step ahead because we're able to scale IT in a nimble way,” Bergeron said.

Finding the Right Path to in a Hybrid Cloud Infrastructure

Zycom’s core challenge was to design the optimum hybrid cloud environment for Kriska. 

“Not all use cases point to public cloud,” Buchanan said. “Kriska has a lot of predictable workloads that run 24/7. It's easier to cost-contain those on a private cloud infrastructure with Nutanix than it is to put it into a public cloud.”

Krista’s requirements included robust virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), ample flexibility for server virtualization and a backup solution that met ambitious disaster recovery objectives.

All those demands could pile up expenses quickly on major hyperscale cloud services. Buchanan’s team found they could trim over 40% from public cloud costs by strategically implementing Nutanix tools in a private cloud running HCI as a service. These savings freed Zycom to deliver a comprehensive suite of cloud technologies to Krista.

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Bergeron conceded that his cost model has not changed much since the move to HCI-as-a-service. But he’s gaining everything he lacked in the old three-tier architecture: scale, speed, flexibility and reliable disaster recovery. 

“In terms of the budget itself, let's say it hasn't changed significantly — but the service offering is exponentially better,” Bergeron said. 

Moreover, Zycom’s HCI-as-a-service helps Bergeron stay focused on higher priorities. 

“Not worrying so much about my infrastructure gives me time to focus on those things that are going to give us a competitive edge in the transportation business,” he said.

“My guys can spend more time focused on staying ahead in terms of security and cyber risk. 

By all means it’s a business enabler for us. It allows IT to ensure that we have the right capacity, scalability for growing the business. We're here to grow the business. I'm here to make sure that we can grow the business and we're not a bottleneck. With Nutanix HCI as a service, we can crank that up anytime we want and stay ahead of the game.”

Tom Mangan is a contributing writer. He is a veteran B2B technology writer and editor, specializing in cloud computing and digital transformation. Contact him on his website or LinkedIn.

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