IT Weapons for Cloud Computing Solution

Each year, our sister publication Computer Dealer News hosts the Channel Elite Awards to recognize IT Solution Provider for their innovation, leadership, and commitment for creating value for their customers. As Canada’s leading IT channel publication, CDN invited solution providers to submit their best work to nine different categories for 2013’s awards. Here, we present the case studies these award nominees put forward to us. Find out who the big winners are on Sept. 11 when CDN presents them at the CEA Awards Gala.

Learn more about CDN’s Channel Elite Awards 2013

Nominee: IT Weapons from Brampton, Ontario

Cloud Solution description

We revolutionized the IT operations for our client, a confectionery producer; in 2012 IT Weapons migrated them away from legacy systems running on aging equipment “on-prem” with no DR capabilities to a cutting edge 100% Private Cloud-based infrastructure – with true High Availability and DR readiness– for VDI, networking, security, extended end-user support and more. Here’s a quick snapshot: Over 100 users in 2 locations: Their head office and their manufacturing facility. They also have over 40 mobile sales folks who are active across Canada. 27 servers moved off their aging, unstable On-Prem equipment into the IT Weapons Cloud (data, applications, Citrix hosts, Microsoft Great Plains, Exchange etc…) They purchased a few new servers to run On-Prem that act as their DR failover site in case there is ever any issue at the IT Weapons Data Centres. Hundreds of end point devices (laptops, tablets, routers, switches) monitored and managed by our NOC. We provide managed print services to both their locations (using Smart Print) Redundant inbound and outbound content filtering and managed Security services (with virtual security appliances – using our new partner Fortinet). Redundant VGP – private telecommunication (Fibre) links from their offices to the ITW Data Centre. All their network traffic routes through our facility Full LAN and WAN design and ongoing management of all their network connections and traffic. Intelligent Software Defined networking and load balancing with virtual Citrix NetScaler appliances. Citrix XenDesktop VDI for all users in both locations – allowing for seamless and secure remote access to desktop and application resources from any device in and outside the office. A dedicated BlackBerry Enterprise Server and a range of mobile device management tools for their mobile users. The client now has a fully enabled mobile sales force of over 40 reps, able to access their customer data, productivity apps, email, presentations etc… without being tethered to a desktop with a VPN connection or their office desk. They are more agile and faster to respond to customer needs “in the field.” While we don’t have precise figures that illustrate an increase in sales based on the technology we provide them – the feedback from their CFO has been extraordinary. They now have fixed cost that remains stable and predictable month to month and they no longer need to budget for contingencies like a broken server, a flooded data room etc… We look after the “plumbing” and the hardware refreshes, and the software patching and we provide the client with ongoing strategic recommendations about what kinds of new technology they might want to bring into the fold as they grow and their user demands evolve (i.e. more tablets for their field reps, mobile devices in the office using wireless access resources, BYO initiatives etc…).

What type of cloud architecture was deployed and how were these decisions made with security in mind?

As above – using our pooled Data Centre resources (virtual platfroms running on V-Sphere, Hyper-V, and XenServer) and our enterprise-class cloud storage – all running in our 4 Canadian DC facilities – we created a software defined, partitioned private cloud environment for the client’s IT systems. True Infrastructure as a Service for all their networking, VDI, application, and data systems. We also deployed managed security services and intelligent, dynamic load balancing with virtual appliances (Fortinet Fortigates, Ctrix NetScalers) for security and high-availability. The reference architecture we use for our private Cloud clients is the result of 8 years designing and deploying these systems for enterprise clients. The award winning IT Weapons consulting teams are the backbone and point of escalation for all Private Cloud implementations.

How does this solution push the boundaries of a typical cloud computing solution and qualify as innovative?

We operate 4 state-of-the-art and highly secure Data Centres across Canada. We are Canada’s only IT service provider that jointly holds SAS-70/SSAE-16 accreditation, a fully ITIL certified Service Desk and NOC staffed day and night, and also holds designation by the Controlled Goods Program of Canada for the management and storage of data related to National Security and Defence. Innovation, efficiency, commitment to repeatable, transparent operations and processes are built in to the architecture of our Private Cloud offerings. And the investment we made to maintain these accreditations and certifications sets IT Weapons apart when it comes to end-to-end IT service delivery and data protection. We don’t just provide SLAs and guarantees for service and uptime – we have independent auditing, attestation, and accreditation from these internationally recognized bodies. SSAE16 SOC 1 Type II certification Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements (SSAE) No. 16, Reporting on Controls at a Service Organization, are a widely recognized auditing standard developed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). A service auditor’s examination performed in accordance with SSAE No. 16 (also commonly referred to as a “SSAE16 Audit”) is widely recognized, because it represents that a service organization has been through an in-depth audit of their control objectives and control activities, which often include controls over information technology and related processes. In today’s global economy, service organizations or service providers must demonstrate that they have adequate controls and safeguards when they host or process data belonging to their customers. ITIL v3 Certified NOC ( ITIL is the most widely adopted approach for IT Service Management in the world. It provides a practical, no-nonsense framework for identifying, planning, delivering and supporting IT services to the business. The ITIL best practices are currently detailed within five core publications which provide a systematic and professional approach to the management of IT services, enabling organisations to deliver appropriate services and continually ensure they are meeting business goals and delivering benefits.

Why was this type of cloud solution the right choice for this business case?

The enhancements to their operational efficiency and strategic outlook cannot be overstated. The client was referred to IT Weapons by our vendor partners; they were looking for a high-performance IT organization with a strong managed services practice and leading Citrix certification and expertise. As last year’s Citrix Partner of the Year and (at the time in 2012), we were Canada’s only Citrix Platinum partner- IT Weapons was a great choice. We met with the client’s IT Director and CFO in early 2012. They had been using another well-known Canadian MSP to look after their on-prem servers, network, and application delivery infrastructure and had grown disillusioned with broken SLAs, reactive support without strategic guidance and a previous investment in Citrix VDI technology that was being grossly underutilized. They faced a common struggle for mid-market organizations: they were running their IT systems with legacy software that was growing unstable (for example, they were running Microsoft Exchange 2003 for their email – nearly 10 year old software). What is more, the aging equipment was near catastrophic failure without warranty protection. Guidance on how to invest strategically and upgrade their systems wasn’t part of the scope of their existing agreement with their previous, break-fix MSP – so they were essentially walking on a tight rope. They needed urgent care and advice before downtime became true disaster. They were stuck on a break-fix reactive support treadmill and faced with a growing list of Capital expenses for new hardware and software. By migrating their systems into the IT Weapons Cloud, they get away from the old model and can forver avoid “owning” the equipment and so being ultimately responisible for new investments, upgrades, disasters etc… IT Weapons now manages all those things and they enjoy the economy of scale we achieved by building a reference architecture designed for true enterprise performance – but with a manageable fixed, simple monthly fee setup.

How was the success of the system measured and what were the results?

Keeping in step with the trends toward mobility across all industries, the client had a growing remote workforce (both sales and management) but didn’t have any real VDI capabilities for these remote workers to access desktop and application resources(beyond email) when they weren’t in the office. Pressures from a growing tech-savvy workforce that was demanding cutting edge technology resources to aid in productivity and attract younger talent to their teams. As above, enabling the remote and mobile sales force has had a tremendous impact on the client’s ability service it’s own customers. Delivering sales presentations, submitting orders in the field, and more. On the operational side, having freed up their internal IT resources to service their team in new ways to help enable their various business units with more strategic initiatives has been a boon for them. Their IT operations are certainly much more resilient now – with a proper DR strategy in place and redundancy and high-availability built into virtually every aspect of their computing and networking infrastructure.

How did the design and implementation of the solution break new ground for you as a solution provider?

We have built a truly homegrown, all Canadian Private Cloud infrastructure that organizations like our client can tap into as they would a large public cloud provider. Whether they want to maintain their own servers on site and use ITW for off-site data and server replication for Disaster Recovery and Business Resilience, or a client wants to outsource their IT systems completely to avoid CAPEX spending – we now have the resources to accommodate that in a 100% Canadian owned and operated Cloud infrastructure. It’s safe to say that we revolutionized the IT systems for our client’s multi-province operations. We’ve helped them eliminate the vast majority of their capital expenses and provided them an enterprise-class infrastructure with high-availability and DR readiness they couldn’t have achieved on the old CAPEX or traditional managed services model for delivering IT Services. In addition to the industry leading technical expertise and innovation that that underwrites the reference architecture of the ITW Cloud (as above) – our approach to the migration process away from their old systems is unique. We’ve performed over 150 successful data centre moves – physical and virtual. We have a team of over 30 highly certified consultants IN ADDITION TO our 25 Managed Services team members who look after the operations of our NOC and Service Desk. Having a large consulting teams look after the high-level design, the initial client system assessments and infrastructure auditing before the migration into our Cloud is something that makes ITW different.

How does the solution further your client’s green or environmentally friendly plans?

As with any cloud-based solution – when an organization chooses to stop “owning stuff” and move to a true service model – they eliminate the need to power On-Prem equipment and gain the efficiencies of virtualized data centre resources in high-efficient data centre facilities.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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