An Autopilot for your Cloud Business
With revenue of about €24 million, a workforce of 130 employees and customer references of the likes of Adidas, Cortal Consors and Uvex, the Nuremberg-based company noris network AG is now one of the most renowned IT infrastructure providers in Germany. Today, as opposed to its founding year in 1993, cloud-based services and virtualization technologies are increasingly dominating the daily work routine of Northern Bavaria‘s first Internet service provider. This was sufficient reason for the company to carry out a project with the objective being automation and orchestration of business processes as part of the cloud solutions portfolio. The specialist for cloud enablement and data centre automation Neos IT Services GmbH, headquartered in Munich, has been involved right from the start.
Noris network‘s services include Outsourcing and Managed Services focused on web, domain and email hosting, Virtual Private Networking, e-Commerce, archiving, storage management and backup. All these are well aligned with the megatrend of cloud computing.
In the autumn of 2013, the IT service provider from Nuremberg started a special project to adequately address the booming demand for services in the cloud. True to the motto „automated, not manual“, the aim was not only to deploy automated solutions for customers but also to meet internal requirements through virtualization. „We wanted to be able to automate deployment and orchestration for the majority of our solutions“, says Jörn Westermann, Technical Director at noris network, recalling the beginning of the workflow efficiency project. According to the IT expert, it initially entailed the deployment of VMwarebased virtual machines and solutions such as Microsoft Exchange, file server platforms and email services.
The IT infrastructure with a high-performance backbone and standardized data centre products serves as a technological foundation of the mid-market solutions. As noris network‘s manager Westermann further elaborates, higher demand for cloud computing consistently increases the complexity of manually performed steps for solution deployment. In addition, the frequency of errors also rises. „We wanted to automate and unify recurrent tasks since qualified staff is rare, and in the course of time the manual processes became more expensive and time consuming“, says Westermann.
Increasing Effciency with Automation Workfows
Jörn Westermann describes the critical phase as follows: „We were quite quick in choosing Neos as our partners. Their expertise in automation is enormous.“ The Munich based specialists in Cloud Enablement had already proved themselves in the past with similar projects for their own clients, including global leaders in the travel industry, for whom they built automated environments. „It is not often that our consultants know more on the subject than we do, but in this case it was true“, says Westermann, as he reflects on the planning phase.
Hence, the Franconian IT team developed a Proof of Concept and gave the green light to the project for increasing service deployment efficiency. As Westermann says, the initial task was to program individual workflows within a test environment using VMware vCenter Orchestrator. This would allow for an automated and customized deployment of future cloud offerings for noris network customers.
„We could not have imagined the amount of programming effort involved“, continues Westermann. He points out that they started out with classic virtual machines before products such as Managed Exchange, a solution which bundles Microsoft Exchange with Active Directory and a Firewall, were included in the workflow process and could since „be deployed with the click of a button“. „Extremely important in this context“, according to Westermann, was taking into account the integration of the workflows into the existing ERP system. „The customer project is automatically transferred into our ITIL-based Configuration Management Database (CMDB), so that the existing billing information is immediately available in the system.“
For noris network, the time-consuming manual configuration marathons are now a thing of the past. The execution of tasks that just recently had to be carried out in a tedious, ‘click-by-click’ fashion, facing escalating risks of error, today is almost entirely automated. The same is true for the company‘s internal tasks. With the support of Neos, noris network‘s IT services can also be individually configured in a very convenient way.
“ Whereas in the past it used to take one or two hours to deploy a service, now we barely need 15 minutes, including manual fine-tuning like defining parameters for memory size and hard disk space.”
— Westermann summs up