Pyxis Corporation

Parallel Is Premature

Just as a child outgrows shoes, a company outgrows the small IT systems that carried it during its early years. Pyxis Corp., a seven-year-old manufacturer of automated medication and supply dispensing systems for health care providers, based in San Diego, recently faced this issue. It needed a system that would synchronize all company divisions with consistent information.

"Right now we have piecemeal systems," says David Nebo, business application manager for the $200 million, publicly held company, which ranks among Fortune's top 10 growth companies. There is one system in contracts, a different one in manufacturing and a third in manufacturing, and sales and distribution have had virtually nothing. "They couldn't support our growth and didn't talk to each other," says Nebo. "We needed to take a step up, and the next logical step was into a Unix environment."

The company decided to keep its LAN but add several Hewlett-Packard Unix servers to build an enterprise solution. On top of that will be Informix's OnLine Dynamic Server as the database engine and the R3 accounting and business software from SAP America of Philadelphia. Pyxis opted for four HP 9000 servers: one for the database, two for applications and one for the development group. The Novell LAN will remain for file and print sharing. "We wanted an integrated solution for the corporation to handle current requirements and all future growth and expansion," says Nebo.

The company database--about 5GB in size--currently resides on a NetWare server. Nebo figures the new database server will handle 40GB to 50GB, which leaves Pyxis room to grow. But the company's not moving to parallel processing yet. Both the HP Unix server and the Informix software are capable of it, but Nebo doesn't figure Pyxis is ready. "Parallel is a migration path. That's one reason we went that way," he says. "It provides us with the infrastructure to move to that arena if we need it." Nebo expects to roll out the entire new system before the end of this year.

The company retained consultants Ernst & Young to assist with implementation and added six people with Unix and database skills to its existing seven-person IS staff. "We're having key individuals on the systems side and the apps side go off and take training, then come back and train staff," says Nebo. "To get people in here with the experience level we required is cost-prohibitive. Trying to train everyone is very expensive. We're taking a bit longer on the learning curve, but it pays in the long run by training people on staff."