Few people understand the importance of a solid foundation as well as those in the construction business. That's why Cashman Equipment, a Caterpillar Inc. dealership, is making big changes to its business-technology infrastructure and applications over the next year to deliver financial information, work orders, and other data to employees in real time.
The provider of heavy equipment is looking to move its AS/400-based enterprise-resource-planning system, developed in the mid-1980s specifically for Caterpillar dealerships, to SAP. At the same time, Cashman is testing Linux-based versions of Hyperion Solutions Corp.'s business-intelligence software to see how it stacks up against Windows versions the company already runs. The company also is rolling out about 450 PCs, many running the open-source StarOffice suite of desktop applications, and 20 servers to support the new software.
"In order to meet our own goals and forecasts, we have to have the most current data and turn that into information that we can use to be competitive in the market," Cashman IT director Bill Glassen says. "The heavy-construction industry has been more of a relational environment, where you make your sales based upon your relationship with your customers."
Glassen has been investigating Linux as a way to keep desktop and server costs down over time. By the end of the month, he plans to use a server running Red Hat Linux to test new versions of Hyperion's Essbase products, including Analyzer and Reports. Cashman already has Hyperion applications on a dual-processor Dell PowerEdge server running Windows 2003, but Glassen says he's looking to improve the system's stability.
The cost of the Hyperion software and Intel-based hardware is the same for either operating system, and Glassen says he doesn't expect an enterprise version of Red Hat to be much less expensive than Windows. The real savings will come down to uptime, he says. The Windows system has to be rebooted regularly, which means Glassen has to have a technician attend to the server, an expense of resources he's hoping Linux will help him greatly reduce.
Cashman's IT department uses Hyperion software nightly to access data from the company's financial, service-order-tracking, and other applications; place that data into a multidimensional database for analysis; and send the analyzed data to a browser-based reporting system so employees have access to it the following morning. Glassen's goal is to make this data available to the company in real time.
By the end of March, Cashman will upgrade to the latest version of Hyperion's Analyzer software on Windows. In early 2005, it will deploy Web-based interfaces to Hyperion that let users analyze data in a number of ways. By that time, Glassen will also have made a decision between Linux and Windows.