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Ready for the cloud?
In weighing up the pros and cons of migration, Johan du Plessis, CIO at Consol, Africa’s No. 1 glass manufacturer, asked himself a fundamental question: “Is our business, with its very specific processes, really suited to the cloud?” His research led him to T-Systems’ Cloud Readiness Services (CRS).
A quantum leap in efficiency. Total process acceleration. Slash your IT costs in half. In spring 2011, claims like these were raining down on Johan du Plessis’ desk in the Consol offices on Osborne Road, a half-hour drive south east of downtown Johannesburg. But as the CIO of Africa’s largest glass manufacturer, he wanted concrete facts and figures, not just nebulous promises. Du Plessis had paid close attention to a study examining the hype surrounding on-demand delivery of IT resources: according to a survey by international management consultants Deloitte, 80 percent of businesses with experience of cloud computing had expected greater cost efficiency, functional benefits and improved service availability. However, the February 2011 document concluded: “50 percent of respondents did not achieve these goals.” Why not?
A long list of questions
Wanting to avoid similar disappointment, du Plessis turned to T-Systems. The Deutsche Telekom subsidiary was already Consol’s outsourcing partner. A deal, covering the entire IT landscape, including SAP and all other applications, had been signed five years previously. Now Johan du Plessis wanted to know: “Is our business suited to the cloud? How can we migrate our IT to a dynamic platform without our systems, applications and data grinding to a halt? How can we identify the parts of our application landscape that are already cloud-ready?”
All very good questions, as Stephan de Haas, a member of the Systems Integration team at T-Systems, responsible for solution consulting, confirms: “It is not exactly easy to put a cloud platform into place that offers everything a business needs – but at the same time it is only part of the solution that a customer should expect. No matter whether the cloud is for development, testing or production, long before deployment, integration and handover, the provider needs to ask himself and the customer quite frankly whether it is really worth it.”
So should Consol extend the scope of the contract? Was the answer to switch to a different provider or implement new technology with its existing partner? With its on-site data center, Consol had a completely free hand. T-Systems proposed taking a closer look – by performing a BIS (business, ICT, services) assessment, part of its Cloud Readiness Services (CRS). The highly standardized BIS methodology would enable the glass manufacturer to find out if the cloud was right for them and, if so, which route was best. It would also deliver visibility into the IT environment, creating a solid basis for decision making based on thorough analysis of the business case.
Honest advice with no fore drawn conclusions
“Cloud Readiness Services is a portfolio of highly sophisticated consulting and systems integration activities for cloud computing,” explains Dr. Axel Stötera, T-Systems’ Offering Manager, “with two major advantages that are much appreciated by customers: there are no fore drawn conclusions, and advice is completely vendor-independent.” There are two key phases, and the clearly defined goal is to identify what services will lead to precisely what improvements. The first step of a Cloud Readiness Assessment is to take the measure of the current ICT architecture and application landscape in order to develop a tailor-made cloud strategy and roadmap for implementation. A key role is played by the simulation of possible future modes of operation. Analysis is performed not just of the business strategy and processes, but also of the customer’s ICT service architecture, including compliance and security imperatives.
The second step comprises Cloud Migration & Integration Services. These are designed to ensure a swift, seamless switch to standardized cloud services like those offered by T-Systems Dynamic Services, delivered via data centers around the globe. Email services, unified communications solutions and applications based on popular software products are migrated to the new platform by means of highly industrialized mechanisms. What’s more, the Deutsche Telekom subsidiary has established a dedicated International Cloud Services Center of Excellence in order to enhance and refine the CRS portfolio further in the future.
As Consol CIO Johan du Plessis emphasizes: “The BIS assessment made clear whether and to what extent our business organization and cloud computing are a good fit. It gave us excellent visibility into our IT systems, combined with a clear picture of the costs we can expect. The plans and benchmarks that T-Systems proposed following the analysis have convinced us that the time could be right for cloud computing.” The very special mix of analysis and consulting on the one side and concrete solutions on the other means that T-Systems can help companies reliably plan, implement and optimize their migration to cloud computing. After all, as Dietmar Wendt, T-Systems Managing Director of Sales says, “customers are looking for providers with business skills rather than just bits and bytes” (see interview).
Deep dive into business processes
When it comes to improving IT agility, deploying reliable collaboration platforms, supporting the integration of mobile workers, and creating robust security, both customer and provider need to invest a considerable amount of time and effort into defining an effective strategy. A CRS analysis takes several weeks, and includes a thorough, step-by-step design process for the future infrastructure. Any recommendations are always made within the context of a comprehensive return-on-investment scenario that considers the impact on all business processes. As Offering Manager Stötera explains, “only when we have the design in place, do we then move on to concrete implementation activities that would lead to the right cloud environment for the customer.”
And this naturally applies to Consol. For an entire month, local experts, led by T-Systems IT Strategy Consultant Dr. Claus Schmid, got to grips with the company’s facts, figures and processes, gaining visibility into manufacturing processes, product development, sales and distribution. A vital undertaking because, as Schmid stresses, “you really need to understand the customer, and you require deep insights into the processes and organizational structures. Without that knowledge, you make mistakes when it comes to design.”
So what was the outcome for Consol? Was it a positive result? “That depends on your point of view,” says Johan du Plessis with a wry smile. Because the current mode of operation is already extremely efficient, the CIO is unlikely to achieve the kind of savings with cloud computing that he might have hoped for. On the other hand, the hardware leased by Consol was designed for peak load of 120,000 SAPS. But average demand was only about half that. “And this was an opportunity to cut costs,” explains du Plessis. “In the future, we will have variable opex, not capex.” The establishment of a disaster-recovery solution for the legacy environment, for instance, would have cost several million rand. This is now covered by the follow-up contract signed by Consol and T-Systems in the fall of 2011 – a deal which also sees migration of the extensive Consol ERP and BI landscapes to a T-Systems dynamic cloud service – a move that will be concluded by mid-2012.