Accidental Benefits

November 19, 2012

by Alex Osorio, Nexus Practice Manager, Data Center – End User Computing

Sometimes the best discoveries are those that happen by accident.  Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Fleming because he didn’t clean up his workstation before going on vacation in 1928.  For one of our customers, it was that his Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) had become a strategic corporate asset.  Here’s the story.

Our customer had a problem.  He’d found this specialized application for one of the corporate departments that would help them share information and collaborate more efficiently.  It would also help everyone to measurably increase their productivity.  But, after stirring up lots of excitement about the new application in the department, our customer realized that he was in a bit of a predicament.  The application only ran in a Windows 7 environment.  Everyone in the department used Windows XP.

Implementing this wonderful new application would mean new desktops and laptops with a new operating system for every end user.  Existing applications would have to be upgraded to the new environment and end users would have to be trained to use the new operating system.  Our customer sat down and calculated that the cost would be high and that implementing the solution would take nine months.

VDI looked like a good alternative.  So, working with our team, we put together a VDI solution that enabled our customer to roll out the new application in just sixty days.  Department members were ecstatic and our customer was a hero.  But, after a few months more, our customer discovered that his VDI implementation was doing much, much more for him than he’d expected.

  • It saved him lots of money – So much money in fact, that he was able to take those funds and invest them into a new storage and server environment that improved the performance of applications used by the entire company.
  • Software upgrades become a “snap” – With only one software image to manage, upgrades that had taken weeks in the past, took minutes instead.
  • Calls to the help desk were reduced by thirty percent – Users and technical support didn’t have to worry about the idiosyncrasies of the devices and applications anymore – and the calls went away.
  • It increased the security of corporate data – Access to corporate applications and data is provided only through a virtual desktop that is centrally controlled, and the company no longer had to provide laptops to contractors to ensure the security of the system.
  • It enabled the company to provide mobile access to applications and data – VDI made it simple to integrate mobile access for tablets and other wireless devices.

In fact, our customer was so successful, that other business units within the company came to him wanting their own VDI environments!

VDI was a pleasant surprise for our customer.  Initially, it was just a solution to a specific problem.  But VDI’s “accidental benefits” have transformed it from a tactical solution to a strategic corporate asset.


Mitigating the Risk of Compressed Timelines

August 28, 2012

– by Dale Hardy, VP of Professional Services

Driving home from a customer meeting this afternoon, it occurred to me that more and more, it seems that nearly every project we do for our customers has a very short timeline or compressed schedule.  Once a company decides to move forward and implement a technology that will help them expand market share, reduce costs, or improve the productivity of their personnel, they want to reap those benefits right away.

When implementing technologies for our customers that touch nearly every area within their business like Unified Communications, data center automation, storage networking, or security, we think it’s important for our customers to understand the potential risks of a compressed implementation schedule (that go along with the rewards).  Short timelines often rely on everything going “just right,” and as we all know, there is a very good chance that something can likely go wrong.

Project success is much more predictable along with risk avoidance when there is sufficient allowance in the schedule for discovery, planning and testing. When time is short, we collaborate with our customers to assess the potential risks inherent with compressed timelines.  Then, we to put together a joint action plan that balances the business’ needs against the risks we’ve identified.  For some customers, that might mean that we meet the target dates for critical locations, departments, or applications while slightly delaying deployments to non-mission critical areas.  For others, it might mean deploying the solution to all locations, but limiting non-essential system functionality to ensure system stability.  In any case, we believe that the most important thing we can do for our customers is to meet their implementation schedule needs without disrupting their business. 

We think our honest approach is the best one for our customers and their businesses, and they do too.  We recently received letters from three customers who thanked us for “doing the impossible” – meeting implementation schedules that even they believed couldn’t be met.  In reality, nothing can displace thorough project discovery and planning; however, our team was committed to  exceed our customers’ expectations while mitigating the risk inherent within compressed timelines.

3 Statistics to Make You Think – Round 3

November 21, 2011

This third segment in our statistics series will make you think again about the ever-increasing volume of data moving over your network. The cost of real estate, power and cooling (not to mention the environmental effects!) should be making us all take a closer look at the advantages of virtualization. 

Security and Availability are Job #1

August 9, 2011

Global Cash Access is a leading provider of cash access, cash handling & information services. Surprisingly, over 65% of the money wagered in casinos doesn’t walk in the door, but is accessed from within the casino itself. In 2010, GCA processed 90 million financial transactions and delivered over $18 billion in cash to casino floors. That’s $52 million per day, $2.1 million per hour, or $35,000 per MINUTE. For a company with that much cash on the line, uptime isn’t just a necessity, it’s mission-critical. And since millions of customers have entrusted their personal and financial data to the company, security is no less vital.

So when it came time to upgrade their data center, GCA sought out partners who were uniquely positioned to help them in their mission: To ensure that cash can be delivered to casino patrons in a fast, reliable and secure manner. With help from Nexus, GCA migrated its data center to Switch Communications’ SuperNAP – one of the greenest, most powerful data centers in the world. Its network and data center infrastructure now includes:

If you’re ever in Las Vegas, the 407,000 sq ft Switch SuperNAP is well worth a tour. They are the world’s most powerful and greenest data center, and have recently announced a planned  expansion to 2.2 million square feet, making it the largest commercially available and independent technology ecosystem in the world. Security is unparalleled, with armed guards and elaborate protocols required just for the tour. So while the idea of an incident ever striking the facility seems highly unlikely, GCA’s entire data center setup is replicated at their corporate offices for backup and redundancy.

In addition to 100% availability, security and reliability, GCA has realized the following benefits from their data center upgrade:

  • Gained unprecedented scalability and ease of management, freeing engineers for critical projects and reducing operational costs.
  • Saved $800,000 in capital costs and is expected to reduce database licensing costs up to 40%.
  • Reduced carbon footprint by several hundred thousand tons per year.

GCA plans to complete its IT implementation in 2011 and begin migrating its credit-card processing operations in-house in late 2011 or early 2012.

Weathering the Cloud

May 17, 2011

Hidden in one of the weekly newsletters I subscribe to this week was a gem called Amazon Cloud Outage: 10 Lessons Learned. It has been widely reported that Amazon experienced outages and interruptions of its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) services in the U.S. East Coast region on April 21. Later, Amazon published this rather complicated document explaining what went wrong.  But more important than understanding the cause of the outage is applying some thinking to what we can all learn from this and how we could all be affected by our choices in regards to cloud. Written (incredibly well) by the folks at CRN, the “10 lessons learned” list looks something like this:

  1. The Cloud Will Go Out – outages are inevitable and a complete cloud strategy must take this into account
  2. Disaster Recovery, Failover Strategies Are Necessary
  3. Pay Attention To SLAs – organizations need to evaluate what their tolerances are for each service or system being migrated to the cloud and secure the appropriate SLA’s.
  4. Partner With An Expert – support from a trusted advisor is key
  5. Don’t Put ‘Blind Trust’ In The Cloud
  6. Beware Cloud Charlatans – competitors will look for ways to capitalize on this outage, but companies shouldn’t be looking for a “quick fix” promise
  7. Cloud Management, Maintenance Are Still Required
  8. Amazon’s Outage Will Make The Cloud Stronger
  9. Assume Nothing – don’t assume resiliency, backup, disaster recovery and other services are offered by cloud providers
  10. Transparency, Communication Are A Must – cloud providers’ reputations will be based on how they communicate with their customers – before, during, and after an outage

Hot on the heels of that article was the keynote address by EMC CEO Joe Tucci at this past week’s EMC World. In this recap by, Tucci is quoted as saying, cloud is the “biggest and most disruptive change” the IT industry has ever seen. He went on to tell the audience, “Addressing today’s issues will require more efficiency, choice, and control of companies’ IT infrastructure. And what addresses these pain points? It’s the cloud. And more specifically, the answer is the hybrid cloud.”

There’s no doubt that cloud is gathering momentum. But with a solid strategy and strong partnerships, you can leverage the power of cloud and still weather potential storms.

The Gifts of Cloud

January 4, 2011

It’s the New Year, and like school children coming back from their holiday break, we took a minute to compare notes on our gifts. This article by James Urquhart seems to sum up, as he puts it, “The top 12 gifts of cloud from 2010.” The “gifts” that make his list:

  1. The growth of cloud and cloud capacity
  2. The acceptance of the cloud model
  3. Private cloud debated…to a truce
  4. APIs in–and out–of focus
  5. Cloud legal issues come to the forefront
  6. Cloud economics defined
  7. The rise of DevOps
  8. Open source both challenged and engaged
  9. Introducing OpenStack
  10. Amazon Web Services marches on
  11. Platform as a Service steps up its game
  12. Traditional IT vendors take their best shots

Whether or not you agree with the list, or consider them gifts, it’s a pretty good look back at 2010 and how far the cloud has come.

As we enter 2011, it’s time to start taking stock of how the cloud will change business models and the traditional roles of IT. To kick-start your thinking (and maybe some planning), here’s a great summary of virtualization and cloud computing predictions for 2011 from leading analysis firms.

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