NetApp Customer Clayton Companies on Keeping it Simple, Doing More with Less

Welcome to NetApp 360! Why don’t we start with telling our readers a bit about you and your company?


My name is Scott Milne I’m the Chief Information Officer for the Clayton Companies, comprised of Clayton Concrete, Clayton Block, and Clayton Sand. Since the early 1950's the Clayton Companies have been innovative leaders in the Concrete and Masonry industry. We’re committed to providing the best building materials and customer service in the industry, helping to insure our customers’ projects are successful. 


Can you tell us a bit about Clayton Companies’ IT infrastructure and the choices that you made?


Having been a happy NetApp customer for close to five years we were recently asked to re-examine our storage infrastructure and consider implementing alternatives from competing vendors as part of our due diligence in the decision making process. Simply put, we needed to determine if there was a more economical way to proceed with a much needed refresh.


I contacted our NetApp Sales Rep and explained that we needed a NetApp vs. “other” mid tier storage products education. Our Sales Rep quickly put together several very informative meetings with our reseller where we learned that in our market area there really wasn’t comparable products to what we already had with NetApp in a single box solution.


As part of our discovery process we were required to, and did meet with whom we felt was the other major competitive player in the mid-tier storage market. These meetings confirmed we had already made the best choice with NetApp long ago.


After careful evaluation, we realized that other vendors would require four or more different products to accomplish what NetApp was currently doing at the time with a single product. In consideration of the extra datacenter space needed, additional cooling, battery backup capacity -- and most of all, a need to learn several other product lines to be fully competent in the proper management, it was decided that we would be compromising on too many fronts to move away from what had proven to be a great partner over the years. We decided to refresh with the new FAS3240’s and a FAS2240 for our DR location, in the end, not compromising just gaining features and even better GUI integration via NetApp OnCommand.


The longevity of our first NetApp solution designed by Voyant Strategies, Inc, a NetApp partner, has been crucial to our business, proving itself time and again when called upon. The confidence gained with our original NetApp purchase made the decision to contact Voyant Strategies for a refresh a no-brainer.  I can’t say how happy I am with the new purchase. The performance is awesome; the learning curve was “zero”.


Since our IT department consists of only three people, we require a system that’s robust, simple to understand and manage. NetApp has been the perfect solution for us. We were able to leverage the knowledge we already invested in for our current system when moving to a new technologies without needing to change our storage solution, learn a new management tool or increase the size of our data center. This can’t be said with any other vendor solution.


What tangible business benefits has your company received?


In October 2011, we completed the deployment of our enterprise resource planning software (ERP). Utilizing NetApp FlexVol, Snapshot, SnapManager and SnapMirror we estimate that the deployment was accomplished at least four months faster than it would have been with another storage vendor saving the company approximately $150,000 - $200,000 a month in the busiest months of the project. 


The first question asked by management when the new ERP solution was proposed was the impact it would have on staff and hiring requirements.  NetApp efficiencies have helped us avoid any staff increases and maintain a very small IT team, with only one person needed to manage the storage needs for close to 700 employees while doing many other tasks. In addition, management of the NetApp storage solution is so easy that I can access the system to expand a Volume or a LUN in less than a minute via my iPhone with NetApp OnCommand. Believe me when I tell you, the need to expand things on the fly happens often when you’re building an ERP system!


What advice would you offer other CIO’s in the mid-market?


It’s been my experience that most CIO’s are concerned with two things: cost efficiency and the ability to quickly backup and restore. Our NetApp storage environment is about 30TB and growing very rapidly. With NetApp, we have been able to cost-effectively and safely manage our data so the company can focus on providing the best services to our customers. My advice for CIO’s is to take a look at what NetApp can offer: ease of management, data protection and enterprise level technology at a midmarket price point.


Scott Milne is the Chief Information Officer at Clayton Companies and has been in this position since 2007. Prior to working at Clayton Companies, he was the CEO at APV Electronics. You can connect with Clayton Companies via Facebook: