How do we deliver nearly 130 dedicated server models?
With a new range of servers released at the beginning of 2014, OVH has put a strong emphasis on customisation: the customer can choose RAID type and associated disks, the processor, RAM, etc. The web hosting provider has optimised its internal processes, from its relationship with providers to the way it manufactures its servers, to ensure that fast server delivery times. Six months on, here is the low-down with two key figures in the server production process, Jean-François Pillot and Maxime Delemarle.
Until early this year, OVH offered four ranges of servers to its customers. All of them were assembled on OVH production lines and then installed in OVH datacentres. Since then, the number of models has multiplied. Servers under the OVH brand are split into six highly-customisable ranges: Enterprise, Hosting, Infrastructure, Storage, HPC and Big Data. And for the web hosting provider, who manages the server hosting chain from start to finish, staying on top of the game is essential.
Re-evaluating relationships with suppliers
To build a server, OVH needs components from the four corners of the world. To be able to produce almost 130 dedicated server models in the shortest time, lead times absolutely must be met. The company has therefore re-evaluated its relationships with suppliers to become an OEM (original equipment manufacturer). “When components leave the factory, manufacturers now reserve stocks for us (allotted stocks), enabling us to protect our supply chain and to set specific arrival dates for goods in line with the production plan”, said Jean-François Pillot, Purchasing and Production Manager.
As a result, OVH has been able to improve its stock management and be more responsive. “If demand exceeds our stock of a particular server model, we can order the necessary parts and receive them in 24 to 48 hours”, explained Jean-François. The supply chain is adapted to our huge range of products. The last advantage - and not the least for a company focused on innovation - is OVH’s privileged relationship with its suppliers that enables the web hosting provider to test out new technologies prior to commercial release and to offer them to their customers as soon as they are officially released.
What’s happening in concrete terms?
Today, production continues following the “lean” philosophy, to minimise stock holding and optimise short-term production costs. “We’re studying demand and determining the “blockbusters” - the most common server models”, explained Maxime Delemarle, Production Workshop Manager. “We then manufacture blockbusters for each of the six ranges of the OVH brand - they are made up of a processor, a motherboard, RAM and hard disks.” Once built, these standard servers are tested at production stage and then sent to datacentres. It’s at this point where they will be customised with components chosen by the customer – RAID controller card, additional hard disks, etc. – based on the late stage customisation principle. Once components are installed, the servers are tested again and then delivered to the customer. “We’ve gained a lot in terms of time and money through this way of working. As equipment is only installed on a server if the client wants it, we don’t have any unused equipment”, Maxime added.
The OVH teams also took advantage of the release of new server ranges to set up an exclusive rack system, HORI (for horizontal), designed by OVH. This system enables the web hosting provider to optimise the transportation of servers to Strasbourg and Gravelines (datacentre in Northern France). Previously, servers were built in Roubaix and then transported in lorries to faraway datacentres. “Now, racks are fully pre-equipped and can be deployed in plug-and-play: network and power cables, watercooling, etc.", Maxime explained. "Everything is already set up in Roubaix, and the servers are already tested. Once safely arrived, the racks just need to be connected to the datacentre, and they're up and running!” Maxime raved.