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Tag Archives: Cloud Infrastructure

Successful IaaS Deployment Requires Flexibility & Alignment

Alex SalicrupBy Alex Salicrup, IT Transformation Strategist

When the CEO of a global food retailer announces his goal to triple revenues in five years, the IT organization knows it’s time to step up its plans to overhaul the IT infrastructure.

That’s just what happened in a recent customer engagement where we helped the IT organization automate provisioning, eliminate the need for a significant increase in headcount, and enable a new service provider approach to support their software-defined data center.

The engagement started off with a very aggressive, short interval, cloud service implementation plan. But halfway through the engagement we had to quickly pivot when the CIO accelerated a major service offering commitment to the business. Because of that course change, this engagement is a great example of why an IT organization’s journey needs to build toward an agile infrastructure and cross-team alignment to ensure success—even in the face of unexpected change.

The Goal

The IT department was eager to adopt an IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) model to support its transformation for two key reasons:

  1. It would help keep IT operations humming as the company continued to expand and innovate.
  2. It would showcase the IT team’s strategic value by improving IT services to other organizations.

We first worked with the customer to establish their end-state vision, complete with a timeline that would allow employees to learn the new technology and gradually get comfortable with the ITaaS approach. The client also chose to start by introducing Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) through a pilot to automate provisioning. Four weeks into the engagement, the CIO made the announcement.

A key business unit had been preparing to roll out changes to the company’s public website and needed an infrastructure platform for their testing, development, and QA efforts. Although the business unit’s IT staff was looking at a external cloud service provider’s infrastructure platform, the CIO stood firm: The pre-launch testing was to be conducted on the new IaaS foundation currently being built.

The original plan to gradually build project momentum instantly switched to a full-out sprint. The new plan was to execute on multiple project points simultaneously, rather than one step at a time. This is where our program design that combines organizational with technology development to meet the desired end-state IT transformation was key.

While we addressed the requirements for the new infrastructure, the customer’s IT infrastructure team continued to develop new functionality for the service offering, which would provide additional capabilities on top of the core infrastructure offering. Knowing success depended on a close partnership with the IT team, as well as buy-in across the business, we implemented a series of three workshops, wrapping up with a clear plan to move forward.

1. Organizational Readiness Assessment

Our team began by interviewing leaders in 30 functional areas of the IT business to score the retailer on its current level of efficiency, automation, and documentation. The areas with lower scores showed us where we needed to make improvements as we created the new infrastructure.

2. Organizational Readiness Discovery Sessions

These formal meetings with the retailer’s management team helped us reach an in-depth understanding of how the business unit operated its IT business, technically as well as operationally. After each concentrated session, we crafted a summary that outlined progress and achievements.

3. Validation Sessions

Conducted in parallel, these provided an opportunity to share observations from the previous sessions and compare notes. This also allowed the internal IT team to provide recommendations and alternatives early on and contribute to the decision-making process for next steps.

4. Validation Report

Finally, we presented a roadmap and plan for what we would build and how it would be done.

Simultaneously, we focused on integrating the organization’s diverse provisioning technologies using the findings from our readiness assessment. To get the company closer to its goal—to shorten provisioning from 10 weeks to 10 minutes—we needed to free IT from its current method of manually inputting information into one system at a time, one step at a time. After outlining a plan and identifying process areas with opportunities for automation, we successfully integrated directory and collaboration applications, security tools, and all of the IT management systems with a compressed schedule and minimum hiccups.

This project was particularly satisfying. Given the scale and the time pressure, everyone was in sync—including the customer. And it reminded me that with careful assessment, planning, and socialization, along with a flexible mindset, IT can adapt to rapid changes—from outside or inside the business.

Alex Salicrup is currently VMware’s Program Manager for the IT Transformation Programs effort at a major global food retailer. He has more than 17 years experience in the IT and telecommunications Industry and has held an array of positions within service providers. Read more insights from Alex on the VMware Accelerate Blog.

4 Key Steps for Successful Infrastructure Implementation

By Martijn Baecke, VMware Senior Consultant

As a follow-up to the infographic Bret Connor posted last week about the ways VMware Professional Services collaborate with clients, I thought I would share some tips from my experience working with a client. Whether you’re leading your own IT engagement or working internally, I hope this will help you start build a strong foundation for your next implementation.

The Client

This engagement was with a European ministry providing IT services to five government agencies, and needing to extend its reach to eleven. Its goal was to implement a single infrastructure able to deliver shared services where needed; however, its two data centers were already approaching capacity.

Our charter was to design the infrastructure for the ministry’s current needs—consolidating agencies into a single IT platform—while also developing a roadmap for migration to a cloud architecture in two years. Acting on the advice of VMware, the ministry decided to replace its aging hardware with blade servers, upgrade to the latest version of vSphere, and virtualize all major business applications.

1. Discovery

To understand where you want to go, it’s important to understand where you’re starting from. That’s why one of our first steps was to document in detail the ministry’s current architecture, along with business requirements, technical constraints, and other design parameters.

From there we were able to narrow in on a few key goals:

  1. Simplify data center management
  2. Automate important processes
  3. Improve resiliency
  4. Respond faster to shifting priorities

2. Research & Buy-in

Early on, we hosted several workshops to determine needs and characteristics according to stakeholders at every level—users, managers, directors, and above. Making sure to gather input from a broad cross section helps avoid late-stage direction shifts, and also helps gain buy-in for the chosen solution.

For more about gaining buy-in from the highest levels and finding someone to champion your cause, I recommend Samuel Denton-Giles’ excellent post from December.

3. Planning

Considering the goals of the IT organization as well as other ministry departments, we were able to help them plan both a near-term refresh and a longer-term roadmap to the cloud. The most significant high-level recommendation was to adopt a building-block architecture: a modular system sized to fit existing needs that could easily scale to match future demand.

4. Education & Hand-off

To help avoid vision drift after hand-off, we were careful to map each requirement that came up in the initial forum to a specific technology we helped put in place to support it. Our consulting team also shared best practices and technology standards with the ministry’s IT staff in presentations and informal discussions.

At the end of the engagement, the ministry’s IT managers had a much clearer understanding of how the cloud would impact day-to-day operations, from help desk operations and staff scheduling to management and training. Ultimately this helped the ministry’s IT staff approach its future cloud expansion with confidence, knowing they would avoid expensive, disruptive missteps.

Martijn Baecke is a Senior Consultant for VMware Professional Services in Northern EMEA. He has 10+ years experience in advising and consulting with large enterprise companies around IT infrastructure. He is a VMware Certified Design eXpert (VCDX #103) and you can find more insights on his personal blog, Think©Loud.