Orix puts Android, iOS app development into gear

Follows implementation of new ERP and disaster recovery systems

An Orix staff member collects data on some of the fleet vehicle range. This information will be added to the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

An Orix staff member collects data on some of the fleet vehicle range. This information will be added to the company's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

Fleet leasing company, Orix, is set to create smartphone applications for Android and iOS, following major enterprise resource planning (ERP) and disaster recovery (DR) projects.

Orix infrastructure manager, Raymond Beddie, told Computerworld Australia that the apps will be made available to customers to record trip information online using their smartphone while on the road.

"They'll also be able to access information such as servicing of their fleet and be able to report accidents," he said.

The company plans to develop the apps in the next six to 12 months.

In 2010, the company implemented a new server hardware platform to support business growth as it manages vehicles and other hardware assets worth over $1 billion.

Working with its IT service provider, Dataweave Oracle Solutions, the company migrated its customer database from IBM to a Linux-based Dell server platform, which meant improvements in software licensing, migration project planning, and disaster recovery (DR) planning.

Beddie said the company shifted its customer database to Dell because of "significant cost savings".

“We moved away from IBM because of the physical cost and in terms of the Unix-based Oracle licensing model that our databases are built on, it was always weighted against large capacity IBM machines,” he said.

“The savings meant we could buy additional Oracle licensing.”

While Beddie said it was difficult to determine a return on investment (ROI), the migration had meant his IT infrastructure staff of six were no longer tied up repeating IT processes that could be automated.

“Things have improved in terms of performance of the system and we used to run material overnight refreshes,” he said.

“These used to take six hours to complete but when we moved to the Intel Dell platforms on Linux, they took two hours.”

Using an ERP system meant that the company can report information it holds such as monthly transaction records to customers.

“All the information was there, we just couldn’t access it because there wasn’t enough processing time to pull out the information for a customer,” Beddie said.

“For example, you think about the number of fuel transactions on our fleet is astounding, it’s around five million transactions per month.”

The company has also virtualized a large amount of its infrastructure using VMware following a restructure in 2006. The company previously had 120 physical servers and was now down to 20 physical servers with 75 virtual machines. For Orix, this has meant savings in power and cooling costs.

While virtualization has brought benefits for the organisation, Beddie said there are no plans to shift services into the Cloud at this stage.

“Being a financial institution, we’re always nervous about the Cloud in terms of where does the data reside and how we control that [data],” he said.

“It’s something that we continually look at but we’re not prepared to put our toe in the water and commit to a Cloud solution.”

In addition, because the company already has invested in IT infrastructure such as the ERP system, he said there was "no real dollar return" for Orix in moving some services to the Cloud.

Dataweave has also helped Orix implement a DR offering with automatic backup to a co-location data centre located in Sydney last year.

While Orix has had a DR plan since its inception in 1986, over time Beddie said it wanted to be more agile and get IT systems up and running again quickly.

"We used to go down the route of renting [DR] equipment and if there was a disaster, we would spend a week rebuilding the servers from scratch," he said.

Since the DR implementation, Orix has also launched a report generator called EnviroMotion, which creates vehicle carbon footprint reports, with estimates of C02 vehicle emissions based on manufacturer specifications, fuel usage and distance travelled.

Social media has not been ignored either as the company recently set up its own Twitter account in order to interact with business customers.

“We’re still working out how that fits in with the business model as we put out a lot of information on the Orix website," Beddie said.

For example, in website sections such as the customer centre, there is a Green vehicle guide calculator that works out how much the vehicle is going to cost the customer in terms of emissions.

Orix employs 15 IT staff, with six of those based in the infrastructure team, and has been working with Dataweave for the last three and a half years.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags smartphonesAndroiddisaster recoveryiosERPenterprisemobile appsApple iOSOrixRaymond Beddie

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