Cloud Success Stories – Part 2

Cloud adoption has been on a trajectory of steady acceleration for several years.

At the end of 2019, our own cloud adoption research found that two-thirds of IT leaders surveyed intended to take a “cloud-first” posture for new applications and workloads.

Furthermore, while the global pandemic has disrupted technology plans and budgets, in many cases we’ve seen that organizations that had made progress toward cloud adoption were better positioned to pivot in their responses than those who hadn’t.

The pandemic has highlighted the business value of the cloud, helping organizations to sustain operations, support newly remote workers and pivot in response to new economic conditions.

In fact, we expect cloud adoption and migration to speed up as organizations rethink their workspaces and go-to-market strategies for post-pandemic recovery.

Sharing Customer Stories

Many of the organizations we work with at Softchoice have started or are moving forward faster with their cloud adoption journeys with the intent to build differentiated, next-generation product offerings on a modern infrastructure foundation.

However, each organization – and each application – is on a journey of its own. We wanted to share our experience helping 1,400+ organizations transition to the cloud and help others benefit from what they’ve learned.

This series will explore real-life stories on the journey to the cloud. In this article, we’ll look at two organizations and how Microsoft Azure helped them advance toward greater business agility.

Work Truck Solutions

The Challenge: Work Truck Solutions (WTS) wanted to refresh its technology stack to support an all-new online marketplace providing authoritative, up-to-date data on commercial trucks and vans.   

“Softchoice guided us toward the right Azure resources and helped us make a crucial upgrade that benefited our audiences” – Craig Vitt, Software Engineering Manager, Work Truck Solutions

The Journey:

  • Work Truck Solutions had deployed on Azure as early as 2012, but its new domain needed to reinforce its status as a source of industry knowledge
  • As the application needed to serve a national audience, unlike its earlier dealer-centric offerings, they needed a technology stack that combined scalability with manageable costs.
  • The company partnered with Softchoice to select and implement the right Azure resources to meet key KPIs, including site traffic, lead generation, and conversions.
  • Using the latest technologies, Softchoice ensured that the application could be deployed to numerous environments and aligned with DevOps workflows.
  • The initial launch exceeded expectations and as of April 2020, the marketplace had aggregated 160,000+ commercial vehicles, including data on customizable bodies, upfits and more.

Next Steps

  • WTS has embarked on a roadmap toward expanding capabilities, integrating duplicate continuous integration (C/I) and testing environments to run sprints in parallel.
  • With Softchoice, WTS is also focused on reducing technical debt related to legacy Azure resources, finding additional cost savings, and ensuring continued scalability and growth.

Read the full case study

Lumenpulse

The Challenge: Lumenpulse needed to replace legacy infrastructure supporting its ERP systems to support scalability and digital transformation without disrupting its 24/7/365 operations.

We’ve built a foundation for technological transformation at Lumenpulse. We’re anticipating many gains in productivity, efficiency and scalability.” – Alexandre Azevedo, IT Director, Lumenpulse

The Journey:

  • During a rapid expansion, Lumenpulse became concerned about the capacity of legacy ERP systems, including end-of-life Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 to scale.
  • They needed to transition to a future-proof ERP system, without interrupting ERP access for its fast-growing global manufacturing operations.
  • With Softchoice, they conducted a workload assessment of the existing environment and mapped its virtual machines to determine readiness for migration to the public cloud.
  • After making the decision to migrate to Microsoft Azure, Lumenpulse worked with Softchoice to implement an array of Azure resources to modernize its ERP and business operations.
  • The full deployment was completed on time after 10 months, after which Lumenpulse was onboarded to a fully managed cloud and end-user support arrangement with Softchoice.
  • Lumenpulse has since benefited from streamlining of routine tasks and lower costs resulting from tiering inactive data to low-cost storage and Azure Reserved Virtual Machine Instances.

Next Steps:

  • Through the Softchoice Keystone Operations Center, Lumenpulse has 24/7/365 access to Microsoft-certified technical engineers for cloud infrastructure monitoring and escalation.
  • Under the Softchoice Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) program, they also benefit from flexible monthly billing to keep the costs of their Azure deployments under control.

Read the full case study

What’s Next for You Cloud Journey? 

We’ve covered two stories where businesses have re-invented their business operations and product offerings through cloud adoption and migration.

But no cloud transition is ever fully complete. Working with a strategic managed services partner like Softchoice will help you:

  • Achieve the right mix of cloud services to meet your business needs
  • Take the risk out of cloud adoption and migration
  • Help you reduce and control costs in your cloud environment
  • Drive product and service innovation while maintaining security and compliance
  • Help you address cloud infrastructure skills gaps

Planning to migrate one or more workloads to the public cloud? 

Learn more about how we can help by exploring Softchoice Cloud Services.

The Role of DevOps in Building Cloud Applications

In collaboration with Microsoft. 

Why do so many software projects overrun their budgets and timelines, or even fail altogether? While there are many possible causes, from the technical to the cultural, the most common include inadequate communication, lack of collaboration and difficulty adapting to the specific skills and demands of cloud computing.

For example, imagine a system administrator who has been overseeing an on-prem application, which is now in the process of being moved into Microsoft Azure. At each stage of the app lifecycle, from initial lift-and-shift through modernization, new skills will be needed to navigate the transition and meet all the project requirements. 

Some traditional competencies, applying patches for instance, are no longer as relevant as cloud service providers handle them. But  without a solid DevOps practice in place, a lot can go wrong, including:

  • Departmental silos that result in miscommunications and time-consuming rework or duplication of effort.
  • Software releases that fall behind schedule or suffer from lower quality even when completed.
  • In fact, the 2019 Accelerated State of DevOps Report found that DevOps made a major difference in an organization’s ability to deploy code fast, minimize lead times, avoid change failures and recover services.

DevOps helps solve some of the central problems with cloud application development and management. But what is DevOps, exactly, and how can teams get the most value from it?

Defining DevOps: A movement for better coordination and collaboration

DevOps can seem like a Rorschach Test. Every person who examines it will provide a different definition of what it is. Despite varying perceptions, there are some generally accepted principles of DevOps, as shown in definitions of the term from cloud service providers like Microsoft Azure.

DevOps encompasses:

  • An overarching cultural commitment to unifying development (Dev) and IT operations (Ops) for superior collaboration between these teams and the elimination of silos. This component requires effective leadership to bring once-siloed departments together.
  • The widespread implementation of automation, as well as of practices such as continuous integration and continuous delivery (along with native security measures), infrastructure-as-code and Agile methodology.
  • Specific tools that support the more collaborative and continuous workflows in DevOps, including CI/CD platforms and Azure templates for automated deployment, provisioning and configuration of infrastructure.
  • Ongoing measurement of everything (for instance, the KPIs identified in the Accelerate State of DevOps Report, such as deployment frequency and average lead time) to ensure visibility into and refinement of processes. 

Through these principles, DevOps offers substantial value to any organization working its way through the cloud application lifecycle. The main benefits range from more consistent software quality and fewer defects to lower costs and faster time to market.

Greater consistency

Automation is a key tenet of DevOps, and for good reason: It helps remove many of the manual workflows that create bottlenecks during development, deployment and operations. Instead of relying on siloed workflows that are prone to human error, teams can instead automate activities like testing and deployment. Moreover, these workflows can be scaled and managed much more efficiently than before. 

The same infrastructure can be automatically deployed across multiple environments for development, quality assurance and more, plus governance is simplified by DevOps tools for tracking versions and changes. DevOps companies enjoy greater reliability of their IT operations even as they take on ambitious new projects.

Lower costs

DevOps boost agility, enabling teams to respond more quickly to changes in their markets and seize opportunities as they arise. Under a traditional ops model, shepherding just one app through its lifecycle from start to finish can take so long that it’s no longer relevant by the time it’s completed. 

The numerous delays and duplicated work associated with app development. For example, not having a clear picture of  requirements and specifications creates the need to navigate disparate documents. The cost of these inefficiencies adds up as the pace and quality of the project erode. DevOps offers a better blueprint for success.

Superior customer experience

Now that public cloud is an integral part of so much consumer and B2B software, customers have higher expectations for application and user experience. After all, public clouds can deliver many more resources on-demand faster than on-prem infrastructure. This supports use cases like audio/video streaming and conferencing, online backup and more sophisticated web apps.

In this context, it’s crucial for DevOps teams to evaluate KPIs related to customer experience on a regular basis. With the right implementation and tools, DevOps can help greatly with hitting metrics for website load times, conversation rates, dwell time and others relevant to a wide range of industries. Internally, DevOps can also provide a much improved experience for teams that once had to rely on disparate data sources and error-prone manual work to get almost anything done.

Getting more from DevOps in Azure 

Although DevOps can in theory be implemented to support any type of software project, it provides the most ROI in the cloud. Azure provides the infrastructure and tools to maximize the value of DevOps automation.

More specifically, Azure offers (among many other features):

Templates

Azure Resource Manager (ARM) templates that can be pulled from the Azure Marketplace or from GitHub repositories. These resources allow for more efficient application provisioning, as well as the deployment of numerous services along with their dependencies. 

For example, virtual machines, databases, and various connections can all be configured with specific input/output parameters within ARM templates. Overall, Azure templates simplify deployment and rollback while providing convenient support for cross-configurations and updates.

ASR/DRaaS

Azure Site Recovery helps ensure that even complex applications in DevOps environments can have their critical workloads recovered with just one click. It’s simple to deploy from the Azure portal, receives automatic updates, eases regulatory compliance and reduces infrastructure costs compared to an on-prem DR solution.

Getting started with ASR can be as simple as replicating a VM(s) to a different Azure region. By using ASR, it’s possible to support high availability via secondary instances of key applications and also make accurate backups of critical data, in addition to having reliable DRaaS during a failure.

Serverless computing

Azure’s serverless offerings come with availability and fault tolerance built in and nothing that needs to be provisioned or managed in a traditional way. As a result, DevOps teams can move more quickly, taking advantage of Azure APIs and using a fully managed platform to build applications for edge, hybrid and cloud environments. 

Where to go next with Azure and DevOps

Microsoft has recognized Softchoice as an Azure Expert Managed Service Provider (MSP) for the delivery of high-fidelity managed services. We offer our Public Cloud Technology Review, which is a planning assessment that answers questions about which workloads to move into Azure, the costs and configurations necessary for running these targets on Azure and the specifics of Azure migrations.

Softchoice Managed Cloud services will also help with Azure cost management, operations, mentorship and support. Set up a conversation with an expert today to get started with our Azure offerings in your DevOps organization.

Cloud Success Stories – Part 1

Multicloud has become a popular approach for organizations moving to the cloud.  

Although it isn’t practical in all business casesRightScale finds 84% of companies already run applications in a mix of cloud environments.[1]  

In the last several years, Softchoice has seen many of our customers revisiting their approach to the cloud to gain the distinct advantages of several cloud platforms. At the same time, many are looking to de-risk their cloud strategy by avoiding vendor lock-in 

But today’s measure of success in the cloud isn’t just how an organization gains in efficiency or agility. Instead, it’s how fast the cloud can drive real business transformation.  

Sharing Customer Stories

Many of our customers are turning to one or more clouds to stay true to the goal: Spend more time delivering great products and services than maintaining infrastructure.  

Nonetheless, each organization – and each application – is on a journey of its own. We wanted to share our experience helping 1,400+ organizations transition to the cloud and help others benefit from what they’ve learned.  

This series will explore real-life stories on the journey to the cloud. In this article, we’ll look at three organizations and how they integrated Google Cloud into their cloud strategies to deliver the best possible customer experiences.  

Michael Young, Vice President – Technology Strategy, Birch Hill Equity  

The Challenge: Birch Hill Equity wanted to adopt serverless architecture to the greatest extent possible to focus on delivering analytics products rather than maintaining infrastructure.  

Multicloud certainly ties into our strategy at Birch Hill…Our number one priority is for as much of what we do as possible to be serverless.”  

The Journey 

  • Birch Hill started in the public cloud with AWS, using a PostgreSQL, Databricks and a data warehouse to support its then lightweight data center needs.  
  • The company’s growing portfolio of analytics products required faster and faster response times, prompting the company to adopt Google BigQuery, due to its sub-second response times and lack of infrastructure to maintain.  
  • Google identity and secure access through OAuth met some critical security needs while allowing a small team to run data-intensive analytics workloads.  
  • Today, Google Cloud allows Birch Hill to spin up new analytics offerings fast while AWS supports heavy workloads with Databricks over EC2 clusters along with other infrastructure components.  

“We wanted to focus our time on delivering analytics products, not maintaining our cloud.”   

Next Steps: 

  • Birch Hill still faces challenges in implementing and managing effective security across multiple clouds – a common difficulty for multicloud adopters.  
  • Meanwhile, the company struggles with skills shortages in DevOps, infrastructure and architecture design, preferring to focus on expanding its analyst bench.  

Read the full conversation 

Sergei Leschinsky, Senior Director – Information Services, Polar Inc.  

The Challenge:  Polar needed to minimize delays and embrace a distributed network to support exponential growth and global expansion for its real-time bidding product for digital advertising.  

Distributed geographies became an essential part of the Polar Platform, which is a distinct advantage of public cloud. 

The Journey: 

  • Polar started its cloud journey as an early adopter, extending some of its production workloads to the public cloud – however, the project was unsuccessful.  
  • Overcoming an early false start, the company began a second migration with AWS, favoring its industry-leading versatility of services and solutions.  
  • As its product entered a period of rapid growth, Polar consolidated CDN providers and started bringing its heaviest-traffic workloads to Google Cloud. The result was a 50% savings in egress traffic.   
  • This allowed them to take advantage of geo-locations to support expansion in Europe and Australia. 
  • Today, Polar is using Google Cloud to support compute, load balancing and MySQL while AWS supports its data storage needs.  

Next Steps: 

  • Polar’s next steps in the cloud are to migrate its remaining high-traffic workloads to its Google Cloud environment.  
  • However, the company finds getting the attention of cloud providers to escalate and resolve issues is sometimes an uphill battle as a customer with a smaller footprint.  
  • They also see some difficulty in navigating the changes in billing structures and program changes across several large, complex and innovative service providers.  

“Our approach and need for public cloud today are very different than what we were trying to use it for in the past.”  

Read the full conversation.  

Norman Shi, Chief Technology Officer, Gradient.io  

The Challenge: As a startup, Gradient needed to process massive amounts of data in very short periods to support its SaaS tool ranking brand performance on Amazon’s retail platform.  

“Eventually, your application requirements will get to a stage where you require a higher level of infrastructure that offers greater scale, elasticity and processing speed.” 

The Journey: 

  • As a cloud-native company, Gradient started its journey without legacy infrastructure, allowing it to select the cloud provider or providers best able to meet their needs.   
  • Although Gradient recognized the strengths of AWS, potential data hosting conflicts with its retailer customers rendered it impractical for their needs.    
  • The company built its technology stack on Google Cloud to take advantage of its exceptional data collection and processing capabilities.  
  • Gradient also wanted to benefit from Google Cloud’s user-friendly interface and open source services like Kubernetes.  
  • Today, Gradient uses Google Cloud to power and optimize its SaaS dashboard for a fast-growing customer base.  

Next Steps:  

  • As a small but growing company in the cloud, Gradient still struggles with resource constraints and the challenges in accessing Google Cloud-specialized skills 
  • They also have some trouble tracking, managing and optimizing their cloud spend as their offering goes through a period of rapid growth.  

“These services are game-changers for any organizations who want to process terabytes and petabytes of data. 

Read the full conversation 

What’s Next for You Cloud Journey? 

The cloud journey is not always a pleasant or a complete success at first.”  

We’ve covered three real-life journeys that led to successful cloud transitions. However, no cloud transition is ever fully complete. Working with a strategic managed services partner like Softchoice will help you:  

  • Achieve the right mix of cloud services to meet your business needs 
  • Take the risk out of cloud adoption and migration 
  • Optimize your cloud spending across multiple providers 
  • Balance product and service innovation with proper cloud governance  
  • Upskill your team on every aspect of the cloud 

Learn more about how we can help by exploring Softchoice Cloud Services. 

Planning to migrate one or more workloads to the public cloud? First, check out this Forrester report, 10 Facts Tech Leaders Should Know About Cloud Migration. 

 [1] RightScale 2019 State of the Cloud Report from Flexera