Challenge: An old and fragile infrastructure preventing an urgent need to improve services to the business.
Client: Royal College of Physicians
In January 2016 XServus was engaged by the Royal College of Physicians to resolve a number of complex issues around the state of the IT infrastructure. A majority of servers and storage were based on a co-located site, with a wide range of legacy issues related to poor implementation from an earlier supplier. This was causing high levels of outages and downtime to the business and created a highly reactive and difficult to manage support function within IT. When XServus was brought into the organisation, the contract on the co-located facility was coming to an end and there was an urgent need to quickly rationalise and migrate the service to a more modern and reliable environment.
What we did
The project had both strong technical and commercial requirements. Our first task was to understand the outlay of the current environment, where and how everything within the estate was stored and how that related to the different services to the business. There were also a challenging range of virtualised services in place, which were regularly failing due to a very fragile and fragmented implementation. The commercial changes stemmed from needing to move every service out of the co-located physical environment and into a bespoke and well-integrated cloud based service. This meant researching, selecting and negotiating with new suppliers.
After reviewing and re-documenting the existing state, designing a new architecture and researching a new single supplier to move the services to; XServus lead the project to implement the changes and help develop the different IT teams, so they were able to manage and support the new services effectively. We were also successful in reducing the overall storage, licencing and complexity of IT support across the organisation.
Why the client chose XServus
The Royal College of Physicians approached XServus as our reputation was known to them, as a consulting partner who would quickly understand their challenges at both a technical and commercial level. And, as a supplier who could be trusted to deliver high quality work, on time and on budget.
We believe clients such as the Royal College of Physicians value our ability to work quickly and to not compromise on the quality of the technology when presented with short timelines. We understood that the project was not just simply reducing the risks created by an old and fragile infrastructure, but to implement a stable new set of IT services, which would provide the organisation with an IT environment setup for long-term success.
XServus presented a highly accurate evaluation of the organisations IT environment, demonstrating all the key areas of risk and opportunity, along with a proposed project plan to complete the work. This was exactly what the IT team needed to successfully move their services in an effective way within the tight timeline. And so, they were strongly supportive of XServus leading the project and carrying out the work.
How we delivered the project
We began the project by analysing the brief and the objectives set against some initial fact finding and research. We then re-evaluated the requirements for the project and set internal objectives for XServus to meet. For this project, we set the following objectives:
- To fully understand and document the current state
- To ensure the commercial and financial elements of the project are well-controlled and deliver value for investment
- To deliver a new environment, which is well-aligned with market standards and best-practice
- To reduce the amount of technical debt and to create a future-focused set of systems
- To select a suitable supplier who will provide long term value to the business
- To involve the internal operations team in planning, selection, implementation and migration to the new service provider, so they can develop the skills and knowledge required to provide strong management of the new environment.
Understanding the current state architecture and size
We had to build an accurate picture of the whole estate in order to see what volume of services and data we would need to migrate. But also, to see where the risks were due to fragile systems and implementations, and where the opportunities were to reduce costs, licencing and storage. We also needed to fully document the existing technical and operational processes to understand how these would be utilised after the migration. Gaining visibility of cost was also very important, not just for the outcome of the project, but for informing how we would approach gauging the suitability and affordability of a new supplier.
Set targets for new architecture
The existing architecture was fragile and prone to outages. So, we didn’t just have to improve this, we had to demonstrate to the business that changes to IT would create value for the business by providing more availability of important IT services. By assessing the current architecture, we were able to outline new targets and KPI’s for a new architecture, which would lead the new design and implementation.
Create, document and agree requirements
There were a wide range of stakeholders in the project who all had to understand, agree and feel confident about the outcomes we were proposing. The urgency of the project was of great importance to everyone, but short timelines couldn’t allow any justification of compromise or the cutting of corners. Every stakeholder needed to feel confident that our proposal and our assessment would enable this. Technical documentation had to be prepared, presented and discussed with the key IT staff. And, financial documentation and projections had to be shown to IT and financial leaders in the business.
Procurement approach to selecting a supplier
The Royal College of Physicians had existing procurement practices to work within. However, a high-level of assistance was required from XServus in order to see through a tender and contract of this size, complexity and technicality. We initially used our assessment and newly documented targets, to create a shortlist of potential suppliers. Each supplier was assessed and engaged with by XServus to understand how all aspects including migration, support and costing would be managed. High-levels of due-diligence were also carried out on the short-listed suppliers. We made the recommendation that Rackspace should become the new and preferred supplier, which the organisation followed. We then assisted throughout the procurement process to ensure all the requirements were met and that the costs were well controlled.
Plan migration with third party supplier
The migration was carefully planned and documented ahead of any work starting. XServus acted as a key contact for the new supplier (Rackspace) and we were able to build an effective relationship across the two organisations so that knowledge of the new architecture would be well-known and distributed. All the key areas of risk were well assessed by both XServus and the supplier, so that contingencies could be easily actioned by either party.
To begin we created a test environment and staged a migration to ensure success. We build data replication solutions to reduce the total amount of data and thus migration timescale and ran this through the staging environment to evaluate the length of time the migration would take and what disruptions it might have to the business.
Once all the different components were tested and the internal IT leadership were confident with the approach. We worked directly with the supplier, to setup the new architecture, implement the new technologies and then migrated all the data and services across. A communications plan was created for the internal IT team to work within the business to minimise disruption to their work. We managed the migration through all the way to seeing each service established in the new cloud-based environment, to each service against our newly set targets and to ensure our projections around areas such as cost, licencing and storage were correct.
There were a number of significant outcomes as a result of successfully completing this project.
The migration of services to the new environment was highly successful; had little to no downtime effect on the business users and immediately created improvements to the availability of services and the real-time visibility of the IT estate. Technical managers in the IT team were quickly able to gain more control over their service, thus making changes and improvements faster and easier to implement. The selection of Rackspace as the cloud service supplier for this project, also enabled greater responsiveness and support at a hosting/supplier level.
60% reduction in storage
Through the research and assessments carried out, we were able to identify a wide range of opportunities to reduce the amount of data currently stored. This was due to a mix of duplication and legacy within the data itself. We provided a high-level of due diligence on the data to ensure that no value to the business was lost in removing key areas or sets of data. We then provided a detailed plan of the ‘what, why and how’ of we would approach removing data. Reducing the overall storage resulted in lower costs for storage and backup, but also provided the IT staff with a far simpler environment to manage.
Reduced Licensing footprint
We were able to identify a wide range of shelf-ware, over licencing and opportunities to rationalise software usage in order to significantly reduce the licencing footprint and thus software costs across the business. This included infrastructure, server and desktop applications. This was not initially an objective of the project. However, through managing the project effectively and with a focus on detail, including licencing reduction was a natural outcome of the assessment and migration.
Web-service monitoring solution
A high-pain point within the business ahead of this project was service outages, downtime and a lack of visibility of where those issues were coming from. XServus implemented a customised monitoring solution, which provided full visibility of the IT estate, with an end-to-end approach to seeing how services were running from supplier through to end-user. This not only improved how IT could manage the services and maximise availability, but also gave IT access to valuable data and insights to offer back to the business for reporting, evidence of improvement and support metrics.