New businesses today have it particularly easy when it comes to adopting cloud applications, as many Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings can be deployed with just a few clicks of a button. But for companies with on-premises business applications that work for them and are not quite mobile friendly, virtualisation can lend a helping hand.
Adnexus is a wireless communications field services and deployment company based in Sydney. A big part of the business is the installation of network elements in telecommunications networks. The company's staff work all across Australia, often flying in and out of location, and can stay at a site for days, weeks, or even months.
Because of this, Adnexus has always had a disparate workforce, and three years ago, the company sought to serve its workers better when they're on the road.
"By nature, we're a highly mobile workforce, but our business applications weren't fabulous for mobile," Adnexus commercial manager Renee Mathie told ZDNet.
The applications were hosted in Adnexus' head office in Sydney in a server room. The company had a virtual private network (VPN) so that staff could get access to its primary systems remotely, but the lag time for accessing applications was excruciatingly long.
"We weren't getting real-time reporting and visibility in the field," Mathie said. "We really wanted to take advantage of being able to work in real time, and to move our systems into something that was more available and faster."
"We just wanted to work smarter, basically, and really drive a lot of process improvements."
The journey to the cloud
Adnexus got in touch with Conetix, a Parallels partner, to kick off a virtualisation project and begin its journey into the cloud. Initially, Adnexus was very eager to seek out and adopt new on-demand applications, but with legacy issues to consider, it was going to be a difficult task.
"Because we wanted to get into cloud, we almost just started looking for new applications that would be on-demand," Mathie said. "But that's such a huge thing to put a business through, especially when you already have systems that work, but they're just not mobile or your infrastructure doesn't support that."
"We came to the conclusion of 'well, maybe we don't have to turn off the systems that actually work for us, we just need to make them work for us better'."
One of the challenges Adnexus had was the inability to back up its data. Because the company kept everything on its main server in Sydney, there were concerns about what would happen to all of its data in case of emergencies.
"There were concerns around what would happen if there was a fire, a flood — or what if somebody came and just stole the server," Conetix owner Jamin Andrews told ZDNet. He worked closely with Adnexus on the project.
The speed at which staff members were able to access business systems was also a challenge.
"With a lot of disjointed systems, we looked at trying to solve some of those problems one at a time," Andrews said. "The first issue was simply on bringing some of Adnexus' systems locally into the cloud using our virtualisation services."
This allowed Adnexus to get rid of a lot of its hardware, along with its IT department, as well. Conetix now deals with its IT needs.
"We migrated the first stage of Adnexus' systems to our virtualisation servers," Andrews said. "From a business perspective, it was very seamless, with no downtime."
While the process only took a day to complete, Andrews credited weeks of careful planning for the seamless transition. After three years, the project is still ongoing, but it's only in the last 12 months that Conetix has worked extremely closely with Adnexus.
"Conetix is now looking after our project management information systems, knowledge management systems, and our business process operations," Mathie said. "It is also helping us with Atlassian's Confluence and other design tools relevant to our industry."
Workers can now access all of the virtualised apps and business systems online through a central portal.
Adnexus continues to work with Conetix to identify what other apps and services it can put into the cloud.
"It's amazing — it feels like the way we used to work was ancient history," Mathie said. "I wonder how we ever did it back then, to be honest."
The cost saving is also a huge bonus. According to Andrews, the cost savings in the early days worked out to be around 40 percent of what Adnexus would have spent if it continued to do its IT in-house.
"It's amazing — it feels like the way we used to work was ancient history. I wonder how we ever did it back then, to be honest."
— Renee Mathie, Adnexus commercial manager
"As time goes on, when you look at cost savings, they don't require an in-house IT person, they don't have to worry about hardware refresh, or require any of that infrastructure technology," he said. "Adnexus gets the benefit of our cloud services when we upgrade, and it doesn't have to pay any more money at all."
Most recently, Adnexus was upgraded to the Parallels Cloud Server (PCS) in the back end. This allowed the company to take advantages of the cloud storage offering with PCS.
"Every site location Adnexus goes to, it takes a number of images; they're fairly large and have to be kept in raw formation," Andrews said. "Because it was keeping such large amounts of images, PCS was just a neat offering for them, and helped offset a lot of the large images onto multiple servers."
"That's a huge advantage of virtualisation; it's the fact we can migrate Adnexus to bigger and better services if required."