Did you feel it? Did you feel the shifting of the earth? Did you hear it? Did you hear the rumble so loud you could feel it in your bones? What? You missed it? What were you doing on Saturday night January 10th that you missed it? By now, my friends in SoCal are asking each other, “What? Was there a quake on the 10th? Must have been so small I slept through it.” Well, you can rest easy, because no, you didn’t miss another earthquake. What you missed was a seismic shift forward in technology, well at least a seismic shift forward in the way technology is delivered for my organization.
On January 10th, we completed a journey that we started five years ago (in some ways it started long before that), and we finished it a year ahead of schedule. We have succeeded in taking an 80 year old organization and migrating its architecture to one that is 100% cloud-based! (OK, those purists out there will dispute my math of 100% and perhaps even my definition of cloud, but stick with me).
2014 (plus the first 10 days of 2015) saw the completion three major steps on this journey. The year started with our implementation of Recovery-as-a-Service (RaaS), modernizing our disaster recovery processes and providing a Recovery Time Objective (RTO) of under two hours and a Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of...get this...THIRTY SECONDS! (Insert legal disclaimer here “our experience may not match your actual results SLA’s do apply”). Too good to be true? We’ve done it!
The next step was the migration of the head-end of our network to a Tier 4 data center on the east side of town. We have had a hub and spoke network topology for a number of years, however, the hub was our headquarters building. Far from a Tier 4 data center, we had a server room (read glorified closet), no raised floor, cooling provided by a single Lieber unit, water-based fire suppression (ok we fixed THAT three years ago), and no backup power supply. Now, our headquarters building is just another of 70+ spokes on the network.
The final step we took on January 10th, was the migration of ALL our production and test servers and data storage arrays into a private cloud hosted by an Indianapolis-based tech company. The task was incredibly complex. Imagine...taking apart your car...shipping the pieces to another location...and then putting it back together again...AND have it all work when you are done...AND not disrupting your family's transportation needs during the move. THAT is basically what the team accomplished. They moved 75 Servers, over 200 applications, several THOUSAND device addresses and 15 terabytes of data, all on a Saturday night.
What does our company gain from these efforts? In short, agility and elasticity. First agility...ANY new project going forward will no longer require the lead time to order a server, configure the server and deploy the server. This step now takes...minutes...TALK about agile! We no longer have to replace the servers every 3 or 4 years...taking capital and taking months of IT’s time to plan, order, and execute an upgrade. We no longer have to upgrade the server operating systems, or our middleware software. That frees up our staff to work on projects that provide more value to Goodwill, like the call tree for retail Home Pick Up, or the mobile devices for nursing, or our data architecture project that will provide improved reporting, data analytics and insights.
Elasticity? What does that mean? That means as we continue to grow we do not have to stair-step the infrastructure to keep pace; buying more capacity than we need to ensure the capacity is there when we do need it. This is the typical approach to infrastructure because the lead time to deploy capacity is so long. Now, for us, it is moments. Conversely, if we ever had to shrink our infrastructure footprint, it only takes a phone call...no contract negotiations, no selling off of assets...just a phone call.
Where we are today is unique among most other non-profits and the majority of for-profit companies. We are in a fantastic position for the future. A set of amazing accomplishments by an amazing team of IT professionals! In my 35+ years of IT work, I have never seen anything like it. I have seen data center moves that took days to complete (and the business was down during those times), I have seen at least one case where the entire move was canceled because it was deemed too costly and too risky to do the move after all was said and done. It is truly an honor and a privilege to work with this group. I thank them for a great job. I thank the organization for the freedom to execute such forward thinking strategies.
I know I have used the analogy of journey to describe our path of the last five years, and I know, a journey of this sort is never really complete. There is still plenty of work ahead. It is an exciting time to be in IT. The impact we can have on our businesses is profound. Over the course of my next several posts, I will lay out the path we have followed to get here. What worked, what didn’t. Why we even started on this journey to begin with. The series, “Amplify Your Value” will explore our five year plan to move from an ad hoc reactionary IT department to a Value-add revenue generating partner. Next up? “To Get Where You Are Going...You Have to Know Where You Are!”
We could not have made this journey without the support of several partners, including, but not limited to: Bluelock, Level 3 (TWTelecom), Lifeline Data Centers, and CDW. (insert legal disclaimer #2: mentions of partner companies should be considered my personal endorsement based on our experience on our projects and should NOT be considered an endorsement by my company or its affiliates).
Jeffrey Ton is the SVP of Corporate Connectivity and Chief Information Officer for Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, providing vision and leadership in the continued development and implementation of the enterprise-wide information technology and marketing portfolios, including applications, information & data management, infrastructure, security and telecommunications.
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