Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Performance Management Tools Help Services Provider Savvis Scale to Meet Cloud of Cloud Needs

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast on how an IT-as-a-service provider Savvis has met the challenge of delivering better experiences for users at scale.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the next edition of the HP Discover Performance podcast series. I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your co-host and moderator for this ongoing discussing of IT innovation and how it's making an impact on people’s life.

Once again, we're focusing on how IT leaders are improving performance of their services to deliver better experiences and payoffs for businesses and end users alike. Our next innovation case study interview highlights how cloud infrastructure and hosted IT services provider Savvis has been able to automate out complexity and add deep efficiency to its operations.

Using a range of performance, operations orchestration and Business Service Automation (BSA) solutions from HP, Savvis has improved its incident resolution and sped the delivery of new cloud services to its enterprise clients.

To learn more about how they did it, we're joined by Art Sanderson, Senior Manager Enterprise Management Tools at Savvis. Welcome, Art. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Art Sanderson: Hi, Dana. Thank you.

Gardner: Tell me first a little bit about Savvis. What kind of organization is is, what you’re doing, what is your main service drivers in the marketplace?

Sanderson: Savvis is recognized as a global IT leader in providing IT as a service (ITaaS) to many of today’s most recognizable enterprise customers around the world. We offer cloud services and hosting infrastructure services to those customers.

Gardner: What are some of the challenges you've faced in terms of managing the scale, building out the business, adapting to some of these new requirements for infrastructure as a service (IaaS)?

Sanderson: Being an IT department of IT departments, or a dynamic service provider, has a lot of unique challenges that you don’t face in every IT shop that you run into. In fact, we have thousands of customers that we have to support with their own IT departments. So our solutions have to be able to scale beyond what you would find in a typical IT organization.

Gardner: And I should think that efficiency is super-important. It's all margin to you, when you can save and do things efficiently?

Better SLAs

Sanderson: Absolutely. There are just the efficiencies alone for operational cost, as well as the value that we provide to our customers, being able to provide better service-level agreements (SLAs), so their businesses are up and running and available to them to service their own customers.

Gardner: So, in effect, you have to be better at IT than your customers, or they wouldn’t be interested in using you.

Sanderson: Absolutely. There are definitely some economies of scale there.

Gardner: So tell me a bit about what you've done in terms of management and allowing for better automation, orchestration, and then, how those benefits get passed on.

Sanderson: Sure. We've adopted the HP BSA set of tools as our automation platform and we’ve used that in a number of different ways and areas within Savvis. It's been quite a journey. We’ve been using the tools for approximately three to four years now within Savvis. We started out with some of our operational uses, and they've matured to the point now where a lot of our automation-type monitoring is solved by automation rather than by our operational staff.

There is definitely labor saving there, as well as time savings in mean time to resolution values that we’re adding to our customers. That's just one of the benefits that we’re seeing from the automation tools, not to mention the fact that we build a lot of our own key product offerings for the marketplace that we service, using the BSA offerings on the back end as well.

Gardner: What's an example of some of those services that you've built out?

Sanderson: Our premier services are our Symphony cloud offerings, our Symphony VPDC, Symphony Open and Dedicated cloud, as well as Symphony Database. All, in some form or fashion in various degrees, use the BSA tools on the back end to do their own offerings, and their own automations that we offer our customers.

Gardner: How do you measure performance benefits? You had a couple of numbers there about efficiency, but is there a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) or some benchmarks? How do you decide that you’re doing it well enough?

In just this first quarter of 2012 alone, we recognized somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000 in labor savings.

Sanderson: From an operational perspective, we do monitor the number of automations that we run that we can capture from the operational side of the house. For example, on a typical day we run anywhere from 10,000-20,000 types of automations through our systems, and that would actually add value back to the business from a labor-savings perspective.

In just this first quarter of 2012 alone, we recognized somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000 in labor savings just from the automations from an operational perspective. Again, it's hard to quantify the value of adding to the business side, because those are solutions that we’re offering to the market space that are generating new value back to the organization as a whole.

Gardner: So it's important not only to reduce your cost, improve your productivity but you have to create new revenue as well. So, it's sort of a multiple-level trick here. You’re cutting cost and you’re also creating new products and services.

Tell me a bit about the process behind that? How are the people adapting to some of these systems? How do you manage the people and process side of this in order to get those innovations out?

Mature process

Sanderson: From the people and process side, we didn’t start out necessarily doing it the right way from the operations side of the house. But we have matured the process to where we're now delivering solutions in a much more rapid fashion. The business is driving the priorities from an operational perspective as far as what we’re spending our time on.

Then, we can typically turn around automations in a very short time. In some cases, we’ve built frameworks using these tools where we can turn around an automation that used to take two to three weeks. Now, it can take less than an hour to turn around that same automation.

So we’ve gotten really smart at what we’re doing with the tools, not just building something net new every time, but also making the tools more reusable themselves.

From the value to the organization, we’ve also had many groups within the product engineering side of the house take on and learn tools like HP Operations Orchestration (HPOO) and HP Service Activator (HPSA), and leverage their own domain knowledge as network engineers or storage engineers to build net new solutions that we then turn around and offer to our customers.

That eliminates a lot of the business analyst type of work and things like that that would typically go into the normal systems development lifecycle (SDLC)-type process that you would see. We’re able to cut the time to market for the offerings that we’re producing for our customers.

It does make us much more agile and responsive to the needs of our customers and the industry.

Gardner: And of course, that has a direct bearing on how you can compete in the marketplace, a very dynamic and fast moving marketplace?

Sanderson: Yes, absolutely. It does make us much more agile and responsive to the needs of our customers and the industry.

Gardner: Let's go back to the scale of what you’re doing here just for our audience’s benefit. How large is Savvis? How many physical and virtual servers do you have? Are there any wow numbers you can provide for us about the extent and the size of your operations?

Sanderson: Today, we have about 25,000 servers under management, spread across 50 data centers worldwide, and just to give you an idea, we have approximately 9,000-10,000 automations on a typical day running through HPOO.

As far as the scale and break down of the servers, two-thirds of our servers today are virtualized, and either through the cloud or actual traditional orders that customers are placing. So, we’re seeing a lot of growth in the virtual machines (VMs) and the cloud space. This is where things are going for our organization as well as the industry.

Gardner: That's really impressive. I understand you've got a self-service portal and you've been talking about things called self-healing. Maybe you could explain why it's important to have self-service, but then also explain how behind-the-scenes you have self-healing?

Self healing

Sanderson: Our self-healing infrastructure is what I was referring to earlier, where we’ve actually matured our process and recognized the reusability of using a meta-model to drive our HPOO flows that we’re writing. We've taken those patterns that we’ve identified and have been able to build a meta-model that we now have built a user interface in front of.

That's what I was referring to earlier when I said that if somebody wants a new request, they can go in and request that from us, and then we can, within a matter of minutes, produce the data through the user interface and publish a new flow, without ever having to write new operations orchestrations flows.

Gardner: Tell me a little bit about what your future plans are? Do you have an upgrade path? You’re here at Discover learning about new products and services. Do you have any idea of what some of the next steps will be for continuing on this march to improve both innovation and productivity?

Sanderson: Obviously, the reason we come to these conferences, is to learn about where HP is going, so we can make sure that we're in alignment, both from our business needs, as well as where the products are going that we use to drive our own solution.

It's critical that we're able to maintain an upgrade path and we're able to support our business. We've already started to plan, based on what we see coming down the path from HP's future infrastructure and even dedicated infrastructure as our business continues to grow. For example, for the Symphony products that we were referring to earlier, we have to break off more-and-more dedicated infrastructure to the scale and capacity that they’re growing.

We've already started to plan, based on what we see coming down the path from HP's future infrastructure and even dedicated infrastructure as our business continues to grow.

We would have never have anticipated, when we started a few years ago, that a customer would have come to us to say that we want to order 400 VMs or we want to order 1,000 VMs, but customers are coming us today doing that. That's the kind of scale that we’re seeing, even just a year into the offerings that we’re providing to the marketplace.

Gardner: So clearly, there's an opportunity for you to be able to dig in and provide that scale when it's called for, and I guess that's almost a definition of cloud is having that elasticity and dynamic agility.

Sanderson: Absolutely. That's spot on.

Gardner: Very good. We’ve been talking with Savvis, a cloud services provider, and I want to thank our guest. We were talking with Art Sanderson. He is a Senior Manager of Enterprise Management Tools at Savvis. Thank you very much.

Sanderson: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: And I also want to thank our audience for joining this special HP Discover Performance podcast. I'm Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host for this ongoing series of HP sponsored discussions. Thanks again for listening and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Transcript of a BriefingsDirect podcast from HP Discover 2012 on how an IT-as-a-service provider has met the challenge of delivering better experiences for users. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2012. All rights reserved.

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