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Going Serverless for an agile future

Going Serverless - Case Study

The client is a global group of specialist recruitment businesses, which operates across seven countries worldwide. The company had a desire to improve agility, efficiency, and productivity across the organisation – to help retain a competitive edge in a global market and support future growth. They saw transforming their technology infrastructure as key to their success.

The challenge

 

With existing infrastructure situated in a co-located datacentre, our client were seeking a solution which could help them achieve better control of their IT management, optimise costs and support the interconnectivity needed for a global business to run smoothly.

Harnessing greater performance from their virtual desktop environment was key, as was a strong desire to improve speed and availability for their users. With changes and growth occurring in the business, our client needed the flexibility to alter their infrastructure quickly and easily. The current solution was falling short on the autonomy and agility they desired. In turn, actions to better protect systems and data were being hampered.

All stakeholders impacted

The impacts of this were being felt by users, who were frustrated by their computing experience and its knock-on to productivity. Likewise, the IT team were spending excessive time administering the environment, and finally the business considered the hefty commercial cost of IT to be disproportionate to the level of service being achieved.

“It didn’t make sense to continue as we were. Commercially and operationally IT just wasn’t working the way we needed it to for our business”. Commercial Director

A window of opportunity

 

With the contract renewal on the horizon for their datacentre hosting and Citrix licenses, the client could see a window in which to act.

The client believed moving systems and services to the cloud could hold the answer, but they needed assistance. Through a recommendation of a mutual associate, Atech was identified as an expert in digital transformation and the client turned to them for guidance.

The solution

 

Before any cloud migration can occur, viability of applications and infrastructure needs to be considered. To assist with this, Atech proposed that they deliver a Cloud Readiness Assessment for the client A root and branch review of their environment including hardware, software, and apps, it would flush out what systems could move to the cloud while benchmarking their current environment against key security metrics and comparing them with industry baselines for their sector. With all the challenges in mind Atech proposed that the investigation focus on understanding and recommending the best options to tackle five key outcomes:

  • Improve user experience
  • Reduce infrastructure overheads
  • Enhance business agility
  • Modernise the End User Compute environment
  • Increase security throughout the environment

The investigation revealed lots of opportunities to advance the role of technology in the business. Atech presented two alternatives for transformation:

Embark on a cloud migration that harnessed Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) from Microsoft Azure complemented by Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions like Office365;

or

Seek to go entirely serverless and instead run every service the business needs through various SaaS offerings.

While there were merits to the blended approach, the IT team would still have a time investment in managing the cloud infrastructure.

A serverless environment also offered the client the autonomy they were seeking – both around controlling their IT and also keeping a handle on costs.

“Looking at the options, serverless really gave us what we needed in terms of agility. Having IT that’s modern and flexible will play a big part in supporting our future business strategy.”

The road to serverless

 

To achieve a completely serverless environment Atech proposed that the client use all the capabilities of the Microsoft365 stack. The client already had some experience of Microsoft SaaS as they already had an Office365 subscription, however upgrading the plan to Microsoft365 opened the door to an extended line-up of technologies that would assist with everything from compute to apps, hybrid working and security.

While Atech would take the lead, knowledge transfer was important, so it was agreed that the client’s IT team would remain involved and co-deliver the project.

Once notice was served on the client’s datacentre partner the team had a five-month window to execute the migration. The project was broken down into nine workstreams:

Identity and Access Management

To ensure that the right users have the appropriate access to technology resources.

Security Baselines

To significantly advance the security score beyond the industry average for the recruitment sector.

Universal Print

To enable any printer to be accessed from any location.

Endpoint Experience

To create a high-quality user experience and better enable collaboration.

Data Migration

To move data from various on-premises siloes to a single data store.

Legacy Business Apps

To find the best alternative for the few legacy apps that could not be used as SaaS.

Mobility and Security

To enable the freedom to work from anywhere but do so securely.

Collaboration

To use technology to help people be more productive in their jobs.

Decommission

To decommission the original on-premises environment.

“The plan we followed was really clear. The elements were closely aligned to our goals, and we knew the corresponding technologies we would use. It was also hugely valuable for our own people to work alongside Atech” Head of Cloud

Powered by Microsoft365

 

All of the workstreams were achieved using the full potential of the Microsoft365 solution stack – using a combination of Exchange, Azure Information Protection, Teams, OneDrive, SharePoint and the core Office apps. For line of business apps like HR and Finance, cloud variants were migrated to, or where no SaaS alternative existed Atech built suitable infrastructure to host them in Azure. Importantly, as a cloud-first environment there would be no upfront costs and the business would shift much of its IT budget into operational expenditure (OpEx).

As the project unfolded the business also decided to undertake a device refresh for many of its users. With personnel spread around the globe and travel limitations due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the IT team needed devices to arrive with users and be ready to go with minimal fuss. Atech proposed using Windows Autopilot included in their Microsoft365 subscription to set up the new devices. Permissions and privileges could be decided and managed centrally, all the user needed to do was connect to a network and verify their credentials. Everything beyond that was automated.

Following the migration, the client also chose to commission Atech to help support the environment. Through their role co-delivering the solution, they were happy to maintain first line user support, but for more complex troubleshooting Atech is now on standby to assist.

Outcomes

 

User experience

Users now enjoy a first-class computing experience. All the apps and data they need are easily accessible on whatever device they are using, and new tools like Teams are offering alternative ways to collaborate and share information.

Financial savings

Since moving to the new serverless environment, the client have seen a significant reduction in their IT costs. Furthermore, the visibility into spend and insight into the financial implications of growth is a big benefit to business planning.

Business agility

When IT needs to respond to business change, impact can now be made almost instantly. User access can be flexed up and down, resources like storage can be consumed on the fly and new capabilities can be pushed out as soon as they are available.

Security

Advanced security is embedded into devices, identities, email, data, and cloud infrastructure. The business has never been in a better position to repel a security breach. Consequently, the project has seen client’s security score improve significantly putting them ahead of their peers.

Modern IT

With all IT powered by next-generation technologies from the cloud, users are now able to work anywhere, over any network, on any device. The environment is highly flexible, scalable, and agile while being easier to manage. The result is client’s IT team now spend less time managing IT and more time finding ways to use it for the good of the business. Furthermore, the ability to securely support any device means users can now choose what technology they work with, which empowers people, advances productivity and better enables hybrid working.

“Our experience working with Atech has been nothing short of inspiring. They understood our business, got to grips with our goals and made a compelling case for the solution we went with. The payoff is that we now see our IT as a growth driver for the business.” Commercial Director

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