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Seagate® Technology, Inc. is a leading provider of technology and products enabling people to store, access, and manage information. The company is the worlds largest manufacturer of disc drives, magnetic discs, and read-write heads, an innovator in tape drives, and a leading developer of Enterprise Information Management software.
Every manufacturer is challenged with accurately forecasting demand and adjusting prices to anticipate and respond to market fluctuations. With nearly two-thirds of the 86,000 employees at Seagate in manufacturing, the company counts on information from internal sales staff, OEM partners, and distribution partners to closely manage prices and correctly forecast demand to ensure that products are profitable and manufacturing resources are used efficiently.
Serving Up Sales Applications
Seagate delivers 15 client/server applications to its own internal sales force and to external OEM and distributor partners to support its forecasting, quoting, and order management activities. There are up to 1,000 users in the extended audience for these applications including sales, management, sales support, OEM customers, and distribution partners. Internal intranet users are delivered applications for sales planning, sales forecasting, information on distributor programs and promotions, and more. External partners use the secured extranet to obtain applications that access credit information, check on shipments, get current pricing, and help them conduct business with Seagate. OEM sales account for 7080% of Seagates revenue, which makes it critical for the company to closely interact with these partners and manage the relationships.
The IT group at Seagate delivers applications to both the Seagate sales force, who is primarily using laptops occasionally connected to the companys intranet, and OEM and distribution partners, where Seagate has no control over the workstations used. According to Joe Peichel, Sales and Marketing IT Systems Architect, this means the company has to take a platform-agnostic approach to developing the applications. "The lack of control over the users platform is one of the reasons we chose Java, and subsequently why we chose Castanet. This approach allows us to include a broader user community than electing to do something for specific platforms, like using Win32-specific tools."
The Seagate applications provide database connectivity from the client and access the corporate data centers. By implementing this access through specific and direct database connections to the central warehouses, Seagate is able to provide the requested information without allowing general access to Seagates corporate network. Moreover, Castanet supports SSL for security-enhanced delivery of information that satisfies both the users need for timely and accurate data and the companys requirements for network security.
Delivering with Efficiency and Elegance
With on-going improvements to existing applications and constant development of new tools, the methods used to distribute and update the applications required careful consideration. "I didnt have the staff to get into the media distribution business, and I couldnt afford to spend my days duplicating diskettes or figuring out how to build an installer," says Peichel. By using Castanet for application distribution and management, Seagates IT developers publish applications and updates to centralized servers that host Castanet Transmitters. When users subscribe, the Castanet Tuner on their desktop or laptop downloads the latest version and then automatically delivers updates any time the application is run.
Seagate relies on Castanet to ensure that users are not required to wait for long downloads every time they access an application. With Castanet, applications are automatically downloaded in the background without requiring user intervention. Castanets differential updating saves a significant amount of network time as well as minimizing the use of network resources. When new patches or updates of an application need to be distributed, Castanet sends only those bytes that have changed instead of downloading the entire application from scratch. Peichel states, "Nobody else delivers the granularity of update capabilities that Castanet provides. This is an essential feature for ensuring our users dont have to endure long download times. Multiply these download times by the number of people worldwide and thousands of hours of extranet time are eliminated."
Client-side system resources are also a consideration. Seagates sales force is equipped with laptops generously configured with disk and memory, but these resources are heavily utilized. And in the case of OEM partners, the configuration of client machines is not able to be mandated by Seagates application requirements. Castanet ensures that disk space is optimized and download time is further reduced by the ability to identify and appropriately share files duplicated among the applications. For Seagate this means that a single set of Java class libraries are correctly shared on the clients, thereby reducing both the footprint required and downloading delays.
Maintaining Market Leadership
By developing a wide selection of applications for keeping its sales staff and partners up-to-date on stock, inventory, pricing, and sales volumes Seagate has significantly improved its sales process. Easy-to-use interfaces and direct connectivity to critical information has replaced days of phone tag. Access to competitive pricing and the tools to develop accurate forecasts is leveraging the effectiveness of sales efforts, improving OEM and partner relations, and helping Seagate maintain leadership in the volatile storage media market. And by using Castanet to deliver and maintain its Java applications, Seagate is able to focus on developing even better tools to support these critical activities and effectively respond to marketplace demands.Reprinted with permission from The Aventail Corporation