To improve control and monitoring of IT systems at its retail locations, Pick n Pay deployed SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service. The solution provides proactive management and total control of an extensive POS estate.

The Challenge

Pick n Pay operates a large retail network, which consists of hypermarkets, supermarkets, pharmacies, and convenience stores. In an increasingly competitive environment, it is vital for the company to maximise operational efficiency and enhance the customer experience while keeping costs low. In order to achieve this, the company must ensure that its business-critical systems are built on a solid, reliable IT platform.

The IT team at Pick n Pay found that its existing point of service (POS) system was not delivering the high levels of flexibility, scalability and manageability that it required. The company was running one POS system for its clothing stores and another for all other operations, which further increased the complexity of managing its retail systems. “Previously, we were using a Linux-based operating system, but it did not offer us the level of management that we required and it was not regularly maintained,” said Wesley Grisdale, Business Process Owner of Point of Sale Infrastructure at Pick n Pay. “We wanted to move to version that had a more corporate approach to support, and that offered better control over our retail systems.”

“SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service makes it simple to monitor and control our extensive POS estate. As software deployment and maintenance are largely automated, we are able to spend less time on routine operations and can dedicate our resources to more business-critical tasks. In this way, we can deliver even better service to our customers.”

SUSE Solution

Pick n Pay felt that it was crucial to select a POS solution that provided centralised management as the key aspect of its design, and believed that SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service represented the best fit for its needs.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service is designed specifically for retail environments, and combines the operating system base of SUSE Linux Enterprise with extensions that facilitate the creation of a POS managed client solution. A typical architecture includes one central, directory-based administration server, which manages all branch servers and stores the master operating system images. The branch servers provide the infrastructure for deploying these images to the POS terminals, which can be cash registers, self-service kiosks, or even computerised petrol pumps.

“With SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service, Pick n Pay can create a central operating system image that is then deployed to its POS clients in the field,” said Martin Coetzee Technical Director at MarkeTech. “Before, they had to send out a dedicated IT administrator to manage OS rollouts and upgrades for individual branch servers. Now, everything is managed from a centralised point of control.”

Pick n Pay worked with MarkeTech Technology Group to design and implement SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service. The company is using the solution’s imaging suite to create and deploy client images for a wide variety of POS devices. Additionally, it has built a number of customised POS images with the help of the KIWI toolset.

To date, Pick n Pay has completed a rollout of SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service at its 64 clothing stores, and has begun deploying the solution at its various supermarket branches. It plans to have all of its retail locations standardised on SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service by the end of 2012.

The Results

The SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service solution provides Pick n Pay with a central, more accurate view of its entire IT estate. “We used to work quite blindly in the past, as we were never certain what software was installed where,” said Grisdale. “We now have a guaranteed way of knowing exactly what version each terminal is running, which is a massive help when it comes to updates and maintenance.”

Pick n Pay also benefits from improved management of its POS systems. “For us, the platform’s centralised management is its main asset,” said Grisdale.

SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service offers a low total cost of ownership by eliminating licensing costs, so Pick n Pay only pays a yearly subscription fee for maintenance and support services. As the software is not tied to a specific device, the company can re-purpose existing hardware to run the application, eliminating the need for costly investment in new machines. Additionally, Pick n Pay has been able to take advantage of the unique benefits of Linux, such as reduced hardware resource requirements, flexibility and open design, while also gaining the support and control offered by a maintained and enterprise-proven SUSE solution.