As a CTO, I have often found myself in the position of deciding what would be the best solution for implementing an efficient and cost-effective production infrastructure. I found the answer in Infrastructure as a Service (IAAS) cloud computing.
I would like to illustrate how we leveraged NaviSites cloud computing platform to efficiently cut costs, by discussing the implementation of NaviSites Managed Cloud Services for ConnectEdu, the company for which I am CTO. ConnectEdu, a web-based leader in empowering students to manage their education, had experience with Navisite, a leading worldwide provider of enterprise-class, cloud-enabled hosting, managed applications and services, where we hosted our physical infrastructure.
We were looking for a solution that would allow us to use resources as demanded, the utility model there are seasonal demands in the Education industry, and we wanted to be able to scale up the resources in high demand periods and scale down the resources in slow periods. We considered using cloud computing as being a more cost-effective solution. We also wanted to be more efficient, we were making many upgrades to our products and we needed to be able to move from development, into test and QA environments and then into production in a condensed time frame.
The cloud platform that we chose is built on the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) and VMware vSphere. NaviSite has added some special customization to this platform and has integrated a web-based management tool, called AppCenter, which allowed us to create our own IT environments from an AJAX browser interface.
AppCenter proved to be a crucial matter when we converted the physical production environments to the cloud platform. When we first performed the migration of the servers from physical to virtual, we ran into mixed results, a few of the conversions went well but the others would often take days and not knowing if we were still moving forward or the process was hung we chose the alternative route:
- We created new instances of the servers using AppCenter this is done in just a few minutes. We installed application specific software on the servers using remote access. This process is similar to buying a physical computer and configuring it to run your application.
- The clean install could then be cloned, which is the power of virtualization. After we created our core production web and app servers, we were able to clone the entire platform with a click of a button. This is where Cloud Computing shines, saving us over $300.000 up front for one of our application solutions, because we did not buy any hardware and software and saving us six weeks of time that it took us to stand up physical environments.
- Our internal hardware and software systems (CRM, Email, Accounting, Data backup and Knowledge management) have been transitioned the same way as our production system above, converting over 65 internal servers to an entire SAAS based model. (more on this in an upcoming blog article)
- Internal IT expenses decreased by over 80%!
- The time to deploy one of the production systems speed of delivery decreased from 7 weeks to just a few hours.
- All costs associated with software, hardware or maintenance, have been eliminated. (over 42% annual savings)