IT Weapons Inc.

Note: This client wishes to have their company name remain confidential, so for the purpose of this posting, they will be known as “Company X.”

Provide a brief description of the Solution?

Company X is a global asset manager focused on property, renewable power and infrastructure assets with over $100 billion of assets under management. They employ thousands of people worldwide under various subsidiary business units. They have been experiencing massive growth for several years and needed to rethink the way IT services were being delivered to their business units worldwide. The cloud computing architecture we designed for Company X is one of our consulting team’s most ambitious consulting projects to date, and the impact is global. Nearly every aspect of our team’s innovation and expertise developed over the past decade was tested on this tremendous project. With major offices in Toronto and New York, their IT teams were struggling with a shared services model of IT systems. They faced the typical IT challenges of multi-site organizations when it comes to amalgamating and integrating new organizations/sites into the corporate technology systems for email, applications, data storage, etc. However, a few things make their situation unique. First, their sheer size and geographical distribution posed regular financial and system administrative challenges. Secondly, there has always been a huge elasticity with their holdings. There is a steady cycle of buying new assets, acquiring new staff on the one hand, and selling assets, removing the system demand of many users at a time (this sentence needs tweaking). Their IT team had to find economical and efficient ways to accommodate their regular scaling up and down. Company X was facing all saw all the challenges that virtualization and server-centric computing traditionally fix. With virtual resources in a centralized Data Centre, the general understanding these days is that an organization’s IT team can accommodate scalability up and down by provisioning virtual servers. That is precisely where IT Weapons first engaged the IT team at Company X many years ago, when BF decided to amalgamate their disparate IT teams into an independent business unit; we’ll call it Company XT. Company XT was then responsible for delivering IT services to the other business units and billing them accordingly. Company XT became a team of over 100 people distributed worldwide (although the majority of their team members are in New York and Toronto). At the beginning of 2009, Company XT was operating primary DCs in Toronto and New York. As a result of a large corporate push toward global expansion, they were then given the task of establishing and integrating various regional DCs in Western Europe, South America, Australia, and a fully operational disaster recovery DC in New Jersey planned for 2010-2011. As Company X grew, the IT team would add new infrastructure components according to the demand of each business unit. So while the IT team was an independent unit, their teams and assets were divided to look after the various other Company X business units. They ended up with sub-teams dedicated to each business unit. For example, at their main DC, they had various VMware VirtualCenter management systems running, with various people responsible for each. So, despite the fact that the system assets and teams were logically centralized, they were still operating on an asset-centric model, where people’s expertise cross-cut one another and many resources were being under-utilized. In 2009, it was time to rethink the way they were delivering, budgeting, forecasting, and planning their IT services. The plan was to get Company XT to think and operate like a 3rd party managed services provider. With IT Weapons’ help, Company XT is becoming a streamlined, singular resource pool for all of Company X’s business units. We helped them standardize their infrastructure, enabling them to bill out to the other business units according to their demands and usage (rather than according to the equipment purchased, etc.). We helped their team reorganize and focus their expertise according to the infrastructure layer rather than focus on a specific Company X business unit. They would have singular dedicated teams for virtualization and storage across Company X, dedicated teams for application delivery and Windows infrastructure, and dedicated teams for networking. With this reorganization, capacity and systems management was truly centralized, allowing Company XT to become an internal utility-like company distributing metered IT services to the rest of the global enterprise. Essentially, IT Weapons gave Company XT the tools to become a world-class private cloud computing IT provider … essentially mimicking our cloud services. The most important change that we made was to help Company X rethink the over-arching philosophy of how they should be delivering IT to their enterprise. We analyzed every site, every Data Centre, and looked at their organizational structure to see how they operate and determine which changes would have the most impact. In 2009 we helped Company X realize cost-savings of well over $500,000.

Describe what elements of the cloud computing architecture were deployed in this solution, such as private vs. public cloud, how those decisions were made, and how security concerns were factored into the project design and implementation?

Since we were helping Company XT develop a private internal cloud architecture and reorganize how they deliver IT, the security risks were no more than they would be for any other Data Centre model of delivering IT services. They already had a world-class network and system security, with firewalls, secure access for users, etc. What really makes this a remarkable Cloud Computing solution is the way Company XT fundamentally changed their operating philosophy to ensure that the services are delivered from huge central virtual resource pools and metered according to usage. With the number of physical servers already housed in Company X’s Data Centres, many of the physical resources required to run the cloud were already in place. IT Weapons’ job was to help them reorganize their teams according to IT infrastructure layer, standardize the equipment configurations and system architecture across the enterprise. Once a standardized back end was developed, they could employ the same sophisticated management and monitoring tools that MSPs like IT Weapons use to keep track of performance capacity, usage, and costing.

Describe what makes your cloud computing solution unique or innovative, and how you pushed the boundaries of a typical cloud computing architecture in designing and implementing this solution for your client?

To think that a small consulting team like ours could tackle a global enterprise project like this is unheard of. We were essentially trying to replicate the technology architecture and business processes that made the IT Weapons Cloud successful, but on a massive global scale. Since every aspect of our consulting team’s 10 year history went into the development of our own Data Centre and cloud-based managed services practice … this project pushed our team to new levels of system design and expertise. We are confident that no other IT consulting company in Canada could pull this project off in less than a year (as we did) and with such success at generating a clear ROI and new operating philosophy for a global enterprise.

Discuss why a cloud computing-based solution was the right choice for your client in this business case, rather than a traditional IT architecture?

The simple answer is that Company X would continue to lose money and face a growing number of system administration challenges if they continued to operate on their old model. The overarching principle we helped Company XT to realize is that when one organizational unit is in charge of delivering IT services to the other units, they need to operate like a managed services provider if they want to ensure profitability and efficiency.

Describe the business need this solution was expected to fill for your client, and how this solution has meet or exceeded those expectations. What measurable metrics, such as reduced costs or other efficiencies, can be provided to support the customer’s return on investment?

On the business side of things, Company X’s information and technology executives still needed a better way to get reports, plan, and forecast for system capacity and performance. With all the IT system assets divided across the various business units, plenty of resources were being under-utilized. For small organizations, underutilized resources are not such a big deal. But for Company X, consolidating a portion of their server workloads properly would save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. The problems they faced were: Capacity management – Storage, CPU, RAM, networking resources; The Company XT team had trouble determining the capacity of what they have versus what they need (demand forecast). Infrastructure provisioning – For the various development, testing, staging, and production environments under Company XT’s watch, it was taking far too long to provision and too complex to manage. Technology Obsolescence – Outdated hardware and software versions were no longer supported by the vendor or they were running older versions which were inhibiting the implementation of business applications or end user device integration (E.g. MACs). Lack of Monitoring Tools – They had inadequate network and server based tools to monitor and manage the wide range of technology they had globally. INF Resource Utilization/Cost Model – Given their existing system, it was difficult to know what system or service was using what resources (CPU, Storage, RAM) and how to cost it out for proper financial forecasting, etc. The IT Weapons consulting team examined every element of Company X’s system: Storage Infrastructure Virtual Infrastructure Server Provisioning/Lifecycle Client / Remote Access Monitoring / Alerting / Reporting Backup / Disaster Recovery Once the analysis was complete, we put together a road map to help Company XT transform their operations. Modeled largely on how we at IT Weapons built our own Cloud infrastructure over the past couple years, we provided Company XT a range of solution advice to build the cloud out and begin delivering metered services to the rest of the enterprise. To illustrate the impact on Company X, consider the results of our virtual infrastructure and application delivery assessment and the resulting implementation. Company X had over 100 aging Citrix servers responsible for delivering the enterprise’s applications to its users. To replace the physical servers and run Citrix XenApp, would cost well over $1 Million. By standardizing on a single HP hardware platform and consolidating the server workloads with virtualization technology, Company X stood to save tremendous money. We performed a comparative analysis between VMware vSphere and Citrix XenServer technology to standardize their virtual application delivery infrastructure. It turned out that the consolidation ratio with XenServer was better than the VMware product. The basic XenServer package is free, but given Company X’s demands, they would have to purchase some system management tools to administer such a large application delivery server farm. With the newer, higher performance HP servers, we were able to achieve a sever consolidation ratio high enough that Company X was able to simply decommission dozens of servers; the equivalent of 7 racks in their Toronto Data Centre. The cost of operating 7 racks in a Data Centre over the 3 year life cycle of a server is over $630,000. The cost of all the new hardware and software licensing to deploy XenApp on XenServer running on only 36 host servers was $510,000. With the $630,000 they saved by eliminating the 7 data centre racks, this entire project will pay for itself in less than 3 years, with an additional $120,000 saved. The ROI is incredible. And this is just one instance of the cost savings enjoyed by Company XT by standardizing and upgrading their IT infrastructure with IT Weapons.

Discuss how designing and implementing this cloud computing solution challenged or broke new ground for you as a solution provider. How did it differ from other cloud computing implementations you have done, and what new challenges were faced by your technical and sales staff?

The challenges were tremendous, our team of 44 people took on the ambitious task of redesigning an enterprise’s IT systems into a cutting edge private cloud architecture for a giant, 100 billion dollar global organization. We were operating on a scale never before seen by most IT firms in Canada.

How does this solution further your customer’s green or environmentally friendly plans?

The global server consolidation efforts that the backbone of this solution are preventing the emission of hundreds of tonnes CO2. Likewise, as they move closer toward a fully cloud-based model of operations, the requirement for desktop devices goes down, leaving room for energy efficient workstation components.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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