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.

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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:
Cloud

  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 computing.co.uk, 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.


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