First Technology Western Cape Transform Lona Group's Technology Environment with VMware vSAN.

New hybrid cloud environment helps agricultural group to harness a single view of its business from the farm to the packhouse, cold storage to export.


The Lona Group is a large-scale agricultural group engaged in the farming, packaging, cooling, export and supply of fresh produce and branded and healthy foods with its head office in Cape Town South Africa, and operations nationwide. Partnering with First Technology Western Cape, the Lona Group has transformed its technology environment with VMware vSAN, to put a cloud-centric infrastructure in place that significantly improved the visibility and management of its operations and remote sites.


Mobilising agriculture for digital

Lona has grown consistently both organically and through acquisitions and is one of the top five citrus exporters in South Africa. But growth resulted in disparity in its systems as acquisitions meant its IT infrastructure was stretched, reaching capacity and made up of a series of cobbled-together structures that resulted in a segmented environment.

“Our exponential growth meant our IT infrastructure could not support the business needs. But we knew there are no one-size-fits-all answer to our challenges as farms face connectivity issues, packing facilities need an on-premise server in the event of downtime and our export and cold storage businesses need to be always on. So the sun never sets on operations,” says John Gray, ICT Executive at Lona.


“We are not a small business but were operating with the mindset of one, so we had to change. Fortunately, we view IT as an enabler, so we set out to digitise, modernise and automate our environment.”


After an extensive evaluation of options, Lona looked to the cloud, but neither AWS nor Azure would give it the data sovereignty it required. It had also defined four non-negotiables, namely reliability, redundancy, security and sustainability, which the solution had to cover. So it turned to long-term IT partner First Technology Western Cape to assist it in setting up a private cloud on VMware vSAN linked to a Teraco data centre and connected through an SDWAN.


Seeding business growth

This hybrid cloud architecture runs entirely on a VMware vSAN software-defined storage environment. It is configured using the VMware vCenter Server Appliance, ensuring the group has complete management of the infrastructure nationwide. Given the connectivity challenges of the remote Packhouses, First Technology pioneered the development of a VMware vSphere Remote Office Branch Office (Robo) HCI solution.


After defining the platform, it would use, Lona also set out to template its HR, financial and production operations. A templated approach allows the business to roll out a standard technology framework to new companies it acquires so that security is never compromised, and consistency is maintained. It is also the easiest way to ensure that technology is always aligned to its business strategy.


“We started small with adding maybe 70 users to the environment, which quickly scaled to almost 300 users, and we haven’t even used 40% of the environment. We can now scale to 500 users, and we won’t even have to add any additional hardware or software. This wouldn’t have been possible without VSAN,” Rob Gunning, Group IT Manager at Lona.


To read more click on the downloadable Case Study below.

Lona Group Modernises Agricultural Suppl
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