VMware Cloud on AWS

Quality Bicycle Products Accelerates Migration to the Cloud with VMware Cloud on AWS

Quality Bicycle Products is the largest distributor of bicycle parts and accessories in North America, but like many famous startups, we had our beginnings in a garage. Founded in 1981 in St. Paul, Minnesota by Steve Flagg and Mary Henricksen, QBP has grown to become a market leader in the bike industry. We employ about 800 people, and your local bike shop is our number one customer. We offer more than 430 brands and 50,000 unique products to our retail customers and operate from four locations in Minnesota, Colorado, Nevada and Pennsylvania. As avid bicyclists, our founders have always put sustainability first—we’ve generated a substantial chunk of our electricity with solar for more than 20 years—so we’re proud to be a Certified B Corporation. We aim to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Meeting the cloud migration challenge

Managing a bicycle distribution business across four states demands robust IT resources. For years, we invested in and managed our own on-premises infrastructure with a colocation facility, but the writing was on the wall that we needed to move to the cloud. But we were, like many businesses, put off by the daunting task of refactoring applications that weren’t cloud native.

Sometimes you just need a push to get going, and that push came a few weeks after a major hardware purchase when we learned that our colocation partner had decided to get out of the on-premises IT business. Suddenly, we were faced with a 14-18 month window to make our exit. The rubber had to meet the road, and fast.

Initially, we considered turning to another colocation facility to lease hardware and services to support business-critical enterprise resource planning (ERP), warehouse management systems and e-commerce applications. But moving to new contracts with untested service providers would postpone the inevitable move to the cloud, which would enable us the ability to work with the agility and flexibility we needed to stay competitive. But redesigning any one of those applications for the cloud would take our developers months, if not years, to complete, all the while taking them away from other business-critical work. And our core application stacks are monolithic applications that need some traditional space for legacy components.

The fastest path to the cloud

VMware Cloud on AWS was the perfect way to migrate our mission critical apps, and accelerate our move to the cloud. We could move existing applications dependent on VMware technology into the cloud without refactoring. To say we were pleasantly surprised by the speed would be an understatement. We completed the initial migration in just three months. I was astonished by the portability, because within a few hours, I could move any VM to the cloud. Being able to be in the cloud and run our traditional apps as though they were still on traditional infrastructure was huge, and key to executing this project so quickly. We eliminated bottlenecks like latency and bandwidth restrictions with native AWS services like RDS, S3 and other services especially useful for our e-commerce teams. And we got the storage and compute we needed without impacting the application team’s development activities.

Though our exit deadline was 14-18 months, we started with 60 VMs and within nine months we were fully migrated. Today the environment hosts more than 200 and within a few months we expect to be at 250-300 VMs.

Agility, transparency and high performance

The most significant business impact we’ve seen by moving to VMware Cloud on AWS is improved agility, more transparency around costs and much better performance. We can produce reports and graphs showing the rationale behind the choices we make, such as piloting new projects and testing out new ideas from the business. We have seen tremendous gains in CPU, RAM and storage, too. VMware Cloud on AWS gives us the ability to scale compute and memory resources up and down as our needs change, which helps save costs. Our team can right-size the production environment dynamically throughout the year as business needs change. In the Spring, as people get their bikes out of the garage and start riding, we can scale up to meet that rising demand, and in the Winter, we can scale down as biking tapers off. 

Moving to the cloud allows us to pilot more projects to determine quickly is a new product will work in our environment and comply with QPB security policies. In the past, executing pilot projects was difficult because resource provisioning was more complex, more expensive, and demanded more time—as much as six months—which isn’t the speed we need to support the business. The ability to say “yes” to new ideas has dramatically improved our relationship with the rest of the business.

Moving to VMware Cloud on AWS has been a great decision for QBP. We overcame the challenges of our on-premises infrastructure with much less pain than we feared, and the being in the cloud has transformed the way we do business. Now if we see something good, we can get the good thing and implement it, and in a lot of ways, VMware has been that stable building block for us all along.

Learn more about how VMware helped Quality Bicycle Products move to the cloud with VMware Cloud on AWS in this video.