Customer Stories

Customer Spotlight: Northgate Markets

March 28, 2019
Seyi Verma

Druva recently interviewed Harrison Lewis, CIO of Northgate Markets. During this insightful Q&A, you’ll learn about his experience migrating the company’s business processes to the cloud and the recent Northgate Markets deployment of the Druva Phoenix data protection and management solution.

Q: Would you give us a quick overview of Northgate Markets’ business?

HL: Sure. Northgate Markets is several different businesses, the most visible being a chain of grocery markets in Southern California that specialize in fresh produce and prepared foods. Northgate Markets is family owned, and we try to support our community like a family, particularly the unbanked and underbanked. We also provide a lot of different services; things like insurance, loans, and even TeleMed.

Q: What does your IT environment look like?

HL: We’re supporting 40 retail locations with 7,000-some employees and managing very diverse data content, everything from retail marketing data to banking information. Data protection and archival is extremely important for us—and we need to comply with a lot of regulations. Our IT group is built around two data centers, one in Anaheim, CA and one in Mesa, AZ. Our data center environment is 99% virtualized with over 450 VMs, supporting applications using SQL, Windows, and Linux environments. We use a lot of SaaS services, and our goal is to leverage the cloud wherever possible to minimize our IT overhead, particularly infrastructure.

Q: Why have you adopted a cloud-first strategy for Northgate Markets’ business processes?

HL: It’s just common sense. Infrastructure hardware has gotten so powerful and complex, it’s beyond a small IT team’s scope to manage it, let alone all the licensing and such. And the really effective hardware setups have redundant elements, and that gets ridiculously expensive. We outsource functions that aren’t within our core expertise, and we let the SaaS providers worry about coordinating the software and hardware they need.

Q: What was your experience looking for a data protection and management solution?

HL: At first, it was very frustrating. We had a clear goal. We wanted a cost-efficient, scalable, flexible, cloud-native solution, delivered as-a-service, where we wouldn’t have to worry about our own hardware or deal with a multi-vendor approach. But it seemed like all the big-ticket approaches were some legacy software/hardware mix cobbled together. It really made no sense. They all seemed like a step backward and retrofitted for the cloud.

Sometimes it was two or three software licenses on top of a hardware component. Even looking at a product like Veeam with their huge market share, I was asking myself, “Why do I have to have visibility into all these different pieces?”

Q: You found a solution with Druva Phoenix. How was this different?

HL: I think the traditional players in the backup space came from legacy backgrounds, backing up mainframes on-premises, then trucking out tapes. Then they went to CDs and even flash storage arrays, but they never seemed to get away from this hybrid model with some degree of on-premises hardware. Druva was different because they’re born in the cloud. It’s a cloud-native solution that was never part of the legacy confusion.

Q: Beyond reliable backup, archival, and disaster recovery, were there any particular features you found surprising in Druva Phoenix?

HL: Definitely. We never expected it to be so simple to use. A big plus with Druva is that you always know exactly where you stand, what’s happened, what hasn’t happened—the logs and reporting are very straightforward and clear. If you get an error code, there’s always a hot link to find out what to do about it.

I think this is also part of being a cloud-native service rather than a cobbled-together product. The provider doesn’t expect you to manage software and hardware, the nuts and bolts of things. They just expect you to reap the benefits of a service that’s their core competency. Plus, you only have one point of contact versus dealing with multiple touchpoints, so if you ever find yourself in an emergency, you have one person to work directly with. Very simple.

Q: Anything else?

HL: The global dedupe performance was extraordinary, way beyond our expectations. We’ve seen a 3.4x data reduction in the cloud and we’ve been able to minimize bandwidth utilization for data transferred to the cloud because of the client side dedupe. We have some ambitious RTO/RPO targets, and Druva Phoenix doesn’t seem to have any trouble nailing those as well. And, after adding up initial and ongoing costs, we’ve saved over 60%—now that’s a bargain.

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