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Tesco sourcing team cherry-picks DR software in cloud

Carol Ko (Computerworld HK) | Sept. 30, 2013
How a 10-person IT team in Hong Kong secures corporate data for the world's third largest sourcing organisation

The super lean IT team of Hong Kong-headquartered Tesco International Sourcing has opted to secure its most valuable corporate asset—data—in the cloud.

Tesco International Sourcing (TIS) is the world's third largest sourcing organisation. Each year, it sources over US$ 2 billion worth of products to its mother company, the UK-based Tesco supermarket chain group. Outside the UK, Tesco's supermarkets span 12 countries including China, Thailand and South Korea—the latter has the largest store footprint after the UK.

Lewis Liu, IT manager, TIS, who heads a 10-people IT team, said the sourcing giant has yet to devise a comprehensive cloud strategy. "Tesco is keen to adopt the latest technologies to help drive business," he said. "At this moment, we don't have a complete cloud strategy, though we plan to have one in three years' time."

Though lacking a cloud roadmap, TIS has singled out three areas for possible cloud adoption: cloud-based disaster recovery (DR) for data protection; virtual conferencing for round the clock communication among office staff, store staff and business partners; and solutions that enable effective data transmission. At present, Liu is also looking into the possibility of adopting cloud-based productivity tool Microsoft Office 365.

For data transmission, Liu is researching a strategy to effectively deliver data, especially sales data that broadly comprise sales plans, pricing strategies, supply chain information, shipment schedules, product manufacturing schedules, ethical audit, as well as quality control.

As for virtual conferencing, Liu said, "Communication plays an important role at Tesco. We have implemented Cisco's TelePresence in 2012—the Tesco Group now uses over 170 TelePresence machines worldwide."

Protecting data in nine countries
With just 10 IT staff, Liu places high demands on its vendors. "Given the lean IT team, we need to be extra careful about selecting the most reliable tools, systems, software and partners," he said.

To supply goods for Tesco, TIS operates 10 sourcing offices in nine countries including Hong Kong, China, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Turkey and Egypt. And each sourcing hub runs its own servers to protect data in case of disaster "such as floods in Thailand and earthquakes in Japan and Turkey," said Liu.

He said that while Tesco has yet to experience disaster, an incident occurred at his former company in China. "It took us an entire week to recover the data," said Liu. "We purchased new machines and reloaded all the data onto the new servers, except for some tape failures that were unreadable."

From tapes to cloud DR
TIS used to approach DR the traditional way: using Hong Kong as a remote site for backup for all 10 hub offices. The firm conducted DR drills twice a year and simulated the effects of a fire outbreak on its Hong Kong office. "Previously, it took us more than one day to recover the Hong Kong site—there was huge room for improvement," Liu said.


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