All Cloud – Case Study and Success Stories in Cloud Automation

Within the following pages, you’ll learn how a diverse group of organizations addresses the ever-changing landscape of cloud services, as well as the benefits Embotics solutions, have helped them achieve. And we’re certain you’ll find the examples described in this book to be illuminating, inspiring, and practical to implement yourself.

All Cloud - Case Study and Success Stories in Cloud Automation
All Cloud – Case Study and Success Stories in Cloud Automation

Content Summary

Introduction
Infrastructure
Flexential
Leading Provider of IT Infrastructure Services
Host.net
Information Service Provider
Software
Serena Software
Computer Security Software Company
Data Warehousing Software Company
CRM Software Company
Retail
Online Retailer of Licensed Sports Apparel and Merchandise
Leading Fashion Specialty Retailer
Legal and Finance
Credit Acceptance Corporation
Global Law Firm
Education
Leading University for Business and the Professions
University of Birmingham

Introduction

One of the things I am routinely impressed by when I visit customer sites is the commitment Commander users have to provide a high level of service to their customers, whether that comes in the form of faster provisioning, a simplified self-service experience, or greater visibility into the costs of providing a cloud infrastructure back to their organizations. Simply put:

Embotics customers understand that proactively improving their service offerings can help preserve market share, compliance, customer relationships, and brand reputation.

Not only are our customers eager to share their experiences, but they’re also curious to know how their peers have accomplished similar objectives. There’s a genuine interest in learning the new, intuitive ways organizations like theirs have leveraged Embotics solutions to combat today’s ever-evolving IT infrastructure challenges.

It is with these common goals in mind that we have created this anthology of customer stories. Within the following pages, you’ll learn how a diverse group of organizations addresses the ever-changing landscape of cloud services, as well as the benefits Embotics solutions, have helped them achieve. And we’re certain you’ll find the examples described in this book to be illuminating, inspiring, and practical to implement yourself.

Infrastructure

Flexential

Challenge
Flexential, a national information technology (IT) infrastructure solutions provider serving customers around the world, wanted to dramatically enhance and improve the flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness of their cloud service offerings while providing customers with an easy-to-use, self-service experience.

Embotics Solution
With almost a thousand customers running multiple business-critical enterprise workloads in the Flexential cloud, maintaining service and infrastructure availability is crucial. The integration of Commander with Flexential’s existing services and infrastructure needed to be seamless and operationally friendly to its staff and customers.

Unlike the other platforms reviewed by Flexential, Embotics Commander met this challenge with ease. Many of the other evaluated solutions required significant investments in professional services and ongoing software-engineering resources for customization, maintenance, and ongoing support. The software was easy to install and set up, and its elegant and intuitive interface offered the fastest time to value for Flexential, without disrupting existing services.

Commander was installed simply and easily on top of Flexential’s existing services and infrastructure – without the need for entirely new wholesale hardware purchases and minus any disruption to normal operations. From day one, Embotics Commander meshed well with Flexential’s Infrastructure and Managed Services without modifications to either.

Results
Flexential stays agile and competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace and continues to offer its customers the best-in-class services they need to achieve their own business goals by provisioning highly flexible and secure cloud services. The use of Commander means that Flexential can contextualize workloads across multiple customers, supporting isolation, collaboration, and shared resources as required in one integrated software package.

With over 300+ self-service portal logins per month, across more than 600 customers and 8000 VMs, Flexential also extends the value of Commander by enabling rightsizing recommendations and delegated administration, which gives them a differentiated and uniquely rich self-service experience.

“Flexential considered several potential solutions to help us deliver and monetize IaaS. All of these products missed the mark due to their complexity and the need for ongoing in-house software development to customize and maintain.” – Cloud Services Architect, Flexential

Leading Provider of IT Infrastructure Services

Challenge
As their virtualized environments grew, this leading provider of IT infrastructure services found that they needed better tools and automation to manage the environment effectively. Storage space was becoming scarce, administrators didn’t have the time to police corporate policies, and capacity planning was challenging due to a lack of effective baseline information.

In an environment managed by three administrators, and running with a virtual machine (VM) to admin ratio of 1:120 – well above the industry average – they were looking for an automation system that could detect waste, offload administrators, and provide the information they needed. But they also needed a system that could be deployed with minimum setup or training, that would not disrupt any existing operations and infrastructure, and that would show an immediate ROI.

Embotics Solution
Nonintrusive, Commander provided an affordable, easy-to-use virtualization automation and control system that immediately optimizes virtualization resources, while reducing the ongoing cost of support and administrative overload.

The comprehensive reporting system allowed for the grouping, viewing, and managing of virtual machines based on criteria – such as business unit, department, server purpose, expiration date, and administrator or service level agreement – and placed real-time information at the administrator’s fingertips, reducing troubleshooting time and improving capacity planning.

Results
For the first time, real trending data is available that incorporates resource usage and projections based on historical actuals, identifying their likely resource requirements for the future. More than six different types of sprawl totaling over 3 TB of storage were immediately recognized and reclaimed, dramatically extending the time before additional resources will be required. The oversight provided, along with automated alerting, allows administrators to focus on more added-value activities, improving administrative effectiveness by an estimated 30 percent.

Host.net

Challenge
Host.net, a provider of managed infrastructure services, was looking to future-proof their IT needs and offer scalable, self-service provisioning and multi-tenant IaaS for their cloud customers.

The existing provisioning process was 100 percent manual and involved several different resources in several different departments. All were coordinated to work with the customer to deliver their requested systems, a process that could take two to four hours. Host.net was looking for a solution that was nondisruptive to the core infrastructure should a change or portal upgrade be required. Numerous options were evaluated, but the ease of use and adaptability to changing business needs meant that Embotics Commander offered Host.net the increased agility and lowering of costs that allows them to focus on their core competencies.

Embotics Solution
Commander has been implemented as the service portal and primary interface to Host.net’s customers and provides the analysis, orchestration, governance, and brokering across both public and hybrid clouds. Extensive use is also made of the customizable workflows in Commander, enabling their customers to match their internal processes with how Host.net is delivering the service. And when it comes to billing, Host.net also makes use of the billing and costing models within Commander, which allows them either to create billing models that are tailored to individual customers or to create groups that fit the requirements of several customers.

Results
Customers are now able to access their systems 24/7 via the portal, and they can make the changes they require without reaching out to Host.net to implement the changes on their behalf. This enables Host.net to be a better solution provider – and Commander makes it easy to deliver on its promises.

“To future-proof our IT needs and offer scalable, self-service provisioning and multi-tenant IaaS for our cloud customers, Embotics was the clear choice.” – Lenny Chesal, CMO Host.net

Information Service Provider

Challenge
This leading UK based service provider is constantly striving to reduce internal costs, make themselves more efficient, and bring more automation into the company. One area of focus is self-provisioning, which led the CTO to research the leading products in the market. Embotics Commander rose to the top.

Embotics Solution
What was important to the company in its selection of Embotics was that the overall package is a single solution and not one consisting of multiple products that had been bolted together to make one solution or of multiple companies that had been acquired to offer a solution. Also, the fluid design of the user interface, along with custom branding of the portal, meant that it was very easy for the customers of the service provider to use and to rapidly gain customer acceptance.

Results
The service provider can now connect to the public cloud providers to deliver a single interface to their clients regardless of where the client chooses to place workloads. This has given them the ability to expand their environment without needing to increase the tools required to manage that environment or to be locked into any single vendor.

“Commander paid for itself many times over the first day it was deployed, identifying almost £140K in wasted storage alone! “ – IS Operations Manager, Information Service Provider

Software

Serena Software

Challenge
Serena Software, one of the largest global Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) solution providers, was looking to streamline the automation and provisioning of systems being used by their developers. A lot of time and overhead was being spent in trying to set up a clean machine, to source the required version of the operating system and its dependent components, and then to install the various tools that were needed for developers to use, leading to an incredibly painful and tedious process.

Embotics Solution
The team at Serena Software set out to establish core capabilities to improve productivity, control costs, and provide a highly responsive end-user experience. The project to implement Commander was broken up into three stages. The first was to establish show back and automate inventory and cost reporting. Next was to implement a self-service portal enabling service request capabilities along with global management and visibility of resources. And, finally, came lifecycle management to include the mandatory setting of an expiration date when a system gets provisioned.

Results
In any given week, 60 to 70 machines are being provisioned and decommissioned. Most developers create at least one VM per day, and these systems last for three or four days before they are automatically expired. The ability to show the cost of the resources consumed by the business units has allowed Serena Software’s IT team to have much more intelligent conversations with the business units around budget, and the flexibility has allowed them to do their jobs more efficiently.

“Configuring Commander was painless. We were immediately able to set up a cost model and show resource costs back to the business.” – Kirk H., Virtual Systems Architect, Serena Software

Computer Security Software Company

Challenge
One of the challenges facing the corporate training department of this computer security software company was the ability to rapidly provision systems for students each week for the multiple courses that were taking place across several different time zones. Once a service ticket was created for a particular course, IT provisioned everything manually which, given their workload, led to increased wait times for the systems to be provisioned.

Embotics Solution
Commander was chosen for its ease of use and configuration, particularly in the area of network fencing. The software allows the training department to provision virtual machines as needed, removing the burden from the IT group and allowing for a much faster deployment time.

Results
The batch operations of Commander, along with the ability to provide the training systems in 10 to 15 minutes, provides a substantial time-saving over the day or so that it used to take by hand. Now, up to 20 environments can be requested via the self-service portal in a single request. Students also get a much more seamless user experience, as the Commander self-service portal is used to open a VM console connection or RDP directly into the fenced services to get to their systems.

“A lot of time is saved by using Commander because IT doesn’t have to rebuild systems or provision them by hand. The training department just hits a button, and the systems get provisioned for them.” – Virtual Systems Architect, Security Software Company

Data Warehousing Software Company

Challenge
Initially looking for a lab management tool, a small group inside this software company that provides toolsets for establishing and maintaining enterprise-wide data warehouses tested the capabilities of Commander. When they realized that Commander could offer benefits beyond lab management, they involved the corporate IT group responsible for the entire corporate infrastructure.

Responsible for delivering service to hundreds of internal dev/test engineers, as well as the customer support team who needed to spin up environments that mirror very specific customer environments for them to reproduce support cases, they needed to deliver virtual machines in minutes.

Embotics Solution
The company has between 5,000 and 7,000 virtual machines, all on VMware infrastructure, that are being provisioned by Commander, with 70 to 80 machines being provisioned each week that have a default lifecycle of 21 days before being expired. With a demanding user population that has high expectations, the provisioning goal for these systems is five to seven minutes.

Results
Beyond the self-service portal and automated provisioning that Commander is used to meeting the rapid provisioning goals, the software company is also rolling out formal chargeback and is pulling billing records out of Commander’s API to cross-charge the business units.

CRM Software Company

Challenge
With up to 100 VMs being provisioned manually by a team of five each month, the IT operations team was asked to find solutions to help them automate as many of the day-to-day tasks as possible. This included implementing a self-service portal solution to free up IT resources, improving the provisioning times of virtual machines for the end-users, and bringing greater efficiencies to the company.

Embotics Solution
Commander was chosen over other products because of the flexibility of the workflows and its scripting capabilities. Since the product was implemented, all of the provisioning workflows have been automated. Users can request a system and get an email confirmation in less than an hour (depending on any management approval cycles that may be in place) that a VM has been provisioned for them.

Results
With over 2,500 virtual machines in the environment, and approximately 40 different systems to choose from in the service catalog, the faster turnaround time and self-service functionality allows the IT team to centralize their structure and support a 25 percent growth in VMs. When the IT operations team calculated the time saved by implementing automation of the provisioning process, it totaled six weeks over a year.

“There is just a faster turnaround time and offering of self-service that we didn’t have before, allowing us to centralize our IT structure and support a growth in VMs of about 25 percent.” – Director of IT Systems Services, CRM Software Company

Retail

Online Retailer of Licensed Sports Apparel and Merchandise

Challenge
With over 2,000 virtual machines in a hybrid cloud infrastructure, this online retailer wanted to replace their in-house-developed solutions and scripts with an out-of-the-box solution that would give them more granular workflow options and an easier-to-use interface for nontechnical users. Their goal was to become self-sufficient in requesting services to reduce the overhead being placed on the IT group. The existing system was based upon a Microsoft® Excel® spreadsheet that would be filled out with all the details needed to create systems, and then PowerShell™ scripts were used to automate the process.

Embotics Solution
Embotics Commander was implemented to provide a self-service portal to the users, automating the repetitive process of platform and software provisioning and allowing users to rapidly set up multiple development environments and streamline their DevOps processes with integrations to Chef and AWS.

Results
Speed and agility are key to this online retailer. The use of the Embotics API to Chef and via the portal allows approximately 80 virtual machines to be deployed at a time, all in under 10 minutes. And the use of Commander has meant that IT has the means to administer the environment in a way that makes it easier to manage and monitor resource usage, bringing down the cost of operating a hybrid cloud environment.

Leading Fashion Specialty Retailer

Challenge
Before moving to the cloud, this leading retailer had a shared services model, with separate IT groups responsible for the operating systems, network, storage, and databases. Whenever a production change or triage was required, these different teams had to be brought together to implement changes and resolutions.

The process worked, but it did so slowly. As the business tried to adapt to meet both internal and external customer needs, they didn’t have the time to wait for the multiple teams to come together and make the changes. Therefore, to provide the engine for that transformation, the company looked to the cloud. With four vCenters and more than 10,000 virtual machines, workloads were being spread across the production and development environments utilizing several clusters and up to 30 provisioning destinations.

Embotics Solution
With provisioning times sometimes taking days, the IT team began looking for a self-service provisioning solution that could reduce both the time for the end-user, as well as the load on the IT group. Following evaluations conducted among multiple products, the team decided that Embotics Commander not only met but also exceeded their needs.

Results
Currently, between 20 and 100 VMs are being provisioned each week, each in under 30 minutes, to production and nonproduction environments, although the product has been tested by the team to provision 160 VMs in an hour. Fast provisioning was the main driver behind the solution, but the IT team uncovered other benefits as well — in both cost visibility, which is used throughout the organization, and in resource rightsizing/optimization.

By introducing rightsizing groups and policies for various workload types and automating the change requests, over 11,000 GB of memory has been saved, along with over 3,000 vCPUs. This allows the company to increase their server headroom from 18 to 40 percent and to defer additional hardware purchases of $1.5M. They believe that there is another 10 percent of additional savings that can be made.

“In the first three months after deploying, we were able to realize over $1.5M in hardware savings by increasing server headroom by 40%.” – IT Director, Global 1000 Fashion Retailer

Credit Acceptance Corporation

Challenge
Since 1972, Credit Acceptance Corporation (CACC) of Southfield, Michigan, has been working with automobile dealerships across the United States to help buyers finance their vehicles. As one of the leading specialty automotive credit agencies in the United States, the company’s patented Credit Approval Processing System (CAPS) has enabled dealerships to deliver credit approvals to over 7,000,000 consumers within 30 seconds, 24/7, regardless of credit history.

The team at Credit Acceptance knew they had to improve the time to automatically provision resources and provide a fully integrated self-service portal. More than 180 IT staff managing systems and networks, developing applications and providing support, and provisioning virtual machines involved a team of five to six people across multiple teams. As IT began looking for a solution, they found products that were both extremely complex and expensive to implement. Also, it would take several months and possibly up to a year to completely solidify their requirements and use cases — and it would also require a professional services engagement.

Embotics Solution
It took just two members of the IT team two weeks to get Embotics Commander fully implemented and to develop the blueprints to provision Windows® and Linux servers — complete with networking, storage, and the workflows and integrations required — and there was no need for any professional services engagements. Not only was this a more cost-effective option than other solutions they looked at, but it also gave the team a faster time to market than they were expecting.

Results
Since implementing Commander, there is no longer a need to involve the network, storage, or VMware staff to provision resources. A single administrator requests the service, and that service is automatically deployed. What took five people in different teams up to three days can now be achieved in under 10 minutes using Commander.

“ Our developers were requesting new resources every day of the week. We just couldn’t facilitate that with the team and processes that were in place.” – Rael Mussell, VP, IT Support, Credit Acceptance Corporation

Global Law Firm

Challenge
Focused on providing clients with the highest quality advice on their most critical legal and business needs, this law firm needed a solution which would enable the IT team to be more responsive to business needs and to support business growth. The time and resources required to provision systems were the key drivers to finding alternatives, as the process to manage requests for provisioning virtual machines was via email and spreadsheets. However, this required multiple teams and also introduced the possibility of manual errors.

The process was lengthy (taking up to a week to provide a system), and when systems needed to be tracked in the future, going through the filed documents would be time-consuming and painful.

Embotics Solution
Since Commander has been deployed, all of the information is built into the request form in the self-service portal, and the IP addresses and storage resources can be assigned using automated workflows. Once approvals are provided by the various teams, the system is provisioned, and the process now takes hours instead of days.

Results
The benefits of the Commander platform extend beyond just the automation to the capturing and reporting of information as well. The IT team uses the reporting engine daily to proactively track how many systems are deployed. But the easy-to-use interface means that other business users can mine information, such as how many systems their department has and how that is trending over time or how many systems are being provisioned and what operating system versions are being deployed, to ensure that they are license compliant.

“The biggest value derived from installing Commander is the reporting engine. The fact that we can go in and report on things we didn’t even know we could report on really increased the value to the organization.” – Senior Infrastructure Architect, Leading Global Law Firm

Education

Leading University for Business and the Professions

Challenge
As their private cloud environment grew, the IT server team at this leading UK university started to experience problems with capacity and their manual chargeback system based on Microsoft® SharePoint®. To continue their expansion, they first needed to resolve the issues and, in so doing, optimize their virtual resources and automate the management, chargeback, and provisioning of their private cloud.

Embotics Solution
After examining a variety of different products, the team selected Commander because it not only solved their immediate problems but at the same time also provided their customers a fully automated and fully integrated self-service portal. Most importantly, they were able to deploy the solution quickly and easily without the need for an implementation project.

The self-service workflow was set up in under three hours, including the time to learn, troubleshoot, build a basic service catalog, and test. The team was also able to quickly adapt the built-in decommissioning workflows to automate their service renewals, providing an email which includes the cost of the service (automatically calculated by Commander) being sent to the customer. The customer then has until the expiration date to approve the billing and have the date reset. If it is not approved, the service is automatically shut down on the expiration date.

Results
Thanks to the capacity management and resource optimization features of Commander, the university found improved utilization of their infrastructure, which allows them to delay the need for additional hardware purchases. The automatic cost tracking and reporting provided by the platform ensures error-free and effortless, real-time chargeback for every service being offered. And because there’s no involvement from the IT administration team, it also means there’s an improvement in the overall level of service being provided.

“The combination of resource management and easy-to-deploy best-practice automation – in one integrated product – made Commander the perfect choice for us.” – Senior Server Engineer, Leading University for Business and the Professions

University of Birmingham

Challenge
The storage and virtualization team within the University acts as an internal cloud services provider to the IT services support staff, who in turn provides services to the other members of the University, both staff, and students. With a team of seven, the process of deploying virtual machines was becoming a time-consuming exercise.

A typical application was made up of three tiers, including a database server, an application server, and a web server. When the team recorded the steps involved in deploying a VM, they found it took approximately seven hours from deployment to handoff. This included such tasks as IPAM registration, adding to Veeam® Backup, creating CMDB entries in ServiceNow®, and producing a VM configuration report.

Embotics Solution
Before implementing Commander, requests for systems would come in via service tickets, emails, or phone calls, and, invariably, not all the required information was provided, which delayed the deployment of systems. Now, by using a service catalog with system blueprint forms, all the information is gathered up front. Sandbox systems can be provisioned immediately, and production systems requiring an approval workflow are provisioned within 30 minutes.

Results
In addition to the time saved in provisioning virtual machines, the time has also been saved by integrating Commander with ServiceNow and automatically populating the fields in the ServiceNow CMDB, so that configuration information no longer has to be entered manually.

“We just had to make it easier for our internal customers to just consume a resource and then delete it afterward, so that’s what our objective was.” Ian McBride, Senior Storage and Virtualization Specialist

Source: Embotics