CalmCo BI Solutions is a Business Intelligence-as-a-Service (BIaaS) provider with a focus on the automotive industry. CalmCo’s main customers are car dealers, wholesalers, and importers. CalmCo extracts relevant data from a customer’s ERP system during the night and transforms the data into meaningful information to allow its customers to analyze their business on a day-to-day basis. CalmCo focuses on all aspects of the business including sales, aftersales, warehousing, and finance.
CalmCo started as a company that sold its solution with on-premise licenses. However, that purchasing model was more expensive and inflexible for customers that had to buy data warehousing and front-end software used by CalmCo. That is why the company decided to move to a cloud-based model. This would allow CalmCo to offer a more cost-effective solution and to avoid asking new customers for high upfront investments. It was a strategic decision that would ultimately make their offering much more attractive and viable, with the right cloud solution provider.
When CalmCo started to look for an IaaS provider, they evaluated Amazon, Azure, CloudSigma, and some smaller providers. One of CalmCo’s most important decision-making criteria was the price of SSD. At the same time, performance was not to be neglected. Hence, CalmCo did a performance review and a desk study. They discovered that CloudSigma had very high performance because all the SSDs were native. Then, CalmCo performed a financial comparison between the evaluated cloud solutions. The company discovered that if they wanted to have the same disk speeds, they would pay a lot more on Azure or Amazon.
“When we started looking for an infrastructure-as-a-service partner, we found CloudSigma to have the ideal solution for us.” -Wim Cos, Partner & CTO @ CalmCo
CalmCo was very happy with CloudSigma’s price per gigabyte. Thus, the only way that any of the other cloud providers could compete was by utilizing elastic cloud storage. This means going from hot storage to cold storage or from slow storage to fast storage. However, this ultimately makes everything much more complex.
“If the cost is really good, then you just stay there. Even though with the elastic storage one SQL server may use less resources for a certain period of time and so you would be billed less, we chose not to bust our head open about all these elastic cloud offerings where you have to really know your workloads. We just throw storage at it, it works and it is stable. It also does not crash, customers are happy and it is super fast.”Wim Cos, Partner & CTO @ CalmCo
Another aspect was that many providers CalmCo tested offered spinning disks with a bad performance rating. Therefore, when they were testing them, the system really lacked in performance and the end-user experience was not satisfying. The end users blamed the low performance on the BI solution when it was actually an infrastructure deficiency.
CalmCo built its cloud system from scratch to get new customers on board while existing customers kept using its old system. For the cloud infrastructure, CalmCo made use of the convenient OS templates from CloudSigma’s images library.
While setting up their cloud system, CalmCo was impressed by the 24/7 free technical support offered by CloudSigma. In the beginning, they experienced some hiccups with the back-end storage. Eventually, they were fixed with some upgrades in the cloud. CalmCo was also able to talk to CloudSigma’s CEO Robert Jenkin directly and reported he was indeed looking at how CloudSigma could stabilize the system more.
“In the beginning, there is always a little bit of a teething problem where you have to get to know each other but now it just works. It is that simple.” -Wim Cos, Partner & CTO @ CalmCo
During the setup and tests, CalmCo identified some limitations. For example, doing snapshots was not yet fully developed at the time. Also, the GUI was more suitable for developers than for end-users. Today CalmCo sees that CloudSigma has done a lot to improve both its feature set and user-friendliness. It is this responsiveness and constant desire to improve that keep customers like CalmCo using the CloudSigma platform.
In general, CalmCo’s customers lack IT skills and invest the bare minimum in IT. A typical car dealership customer of CalmCo would usually have one old server. This is especially true for small to medium-sized customers unable to upgrade their hardware very often. Even for brands with big SSD databases like EMC or Netapp a bi-annual storage upgrade is a great cost factor. Thus, such customers would also be stuck on older hardware.
When CalmCo developed their Citrix-based cloud offering and migrated some of their customers from on-prem to a cloud solution, they immediately started to receive amazing feedback from customers.
“Wow! The performance has increased so much, our dashboards are loading instantly!” –Wim Cos, Partner & CTO @ CalmCo
CalmCo recently did a demo on a live database for a customer that has an annual sale of 7,000 new cars. The customer has more than half a terabyte of storage. The customer just has to point at the dashboard and click and the effect is immediate. In terms of end-user experience, CloudSigma’s high-speed storage continues to make CalmCo’s customers really happy.
“Compared to other providers, CloudSigma is simpler and doesn’t lock you in with all the bells and whistles from the big cloud providers on the market. So, if you just need fast machines and good user experience, CloudSigma is the way to go.”Wim Cos, Partner & CTO @ CalmCo
Having a cloud-based solution enabled CalmCo to offer new value-added services built natively on top of CloudSigma. For example, CalmCo now offers an iPad app and a website interface which was previously not feasible.
As a result, CalmCo has been able to take control of all practical aspects of IT and simply give the business users the end-user experience that they want completely as a service. When there’s a problem, the business users contact CalmCo directly and CalmCo can offer support by taking over the screen seamlessly through Citrix.
In September 2017, CalmCo migrated from the CloudSigma Zurich cloud to the German cloud in Frankfurt. They pointed out as the major reason the new GDPR regulations implemented by the EU.
“We had to move back into the EU, which is just another thing CloudSigma allows us to do. On top of GDPR, the Frankfurt location is very interesting also because you have connections to other cloud providers on the backbone there.” -Wim Cos, Partner & CTO @ CalmCo
Currently, CalmCo is getting a lot bigger with 80 active customers and 180 C-level users on the cloud platform. These customers represent a market share of 45% in terms of new vehicles sold on the Belgian market. The company continues to enjoy steady growth supported by the high performance and stability of CloudSigma’s cloud.
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