Using Automation to Reduce Provisioning Time

Rockwell Automation

This American provider of industrial automation and information solutions employs over 22,000 people and serves customers in more than 80 countries worldwide. With such a large group of employees, the IT team is responsible for enabling and supporting the delivery of applications throughout their organization.

Building a Hybrid Cloud to Automate and Scale Provisioning

The company’s IT department had purchased VMware and VCE Vblock in order to create an entirely new environment using automation and orchestration tools. However, the IT organization was having trouble deploying temporary environments: their virtual machines were taking too long to create and deploy to their customers. The company needed a faster, more agile system, which led them to consider a hybrid cloud solution.

The company had two major challenges they wanted to address with a hybrid cloud:

1. Provisioning Servers Efficiently

The IT organization was comprised of multiple teams that created sales throughout the server provisioning process. Because of these sales, many teams were not collaborating effectively. When a single request came through to IT, it would get distributed to multiple teams, and each team would have to pass the request around independently before getting it fulfilled. Even when the server team was able to build a virtual machine, although they could deploy the OS quickly, they still required configuration tasks to be performed by multiple other teams. This led to increased delays as each subsequent had to perform their tasks. The virtual machine could not be handed off to the requestor until all these tasks were complete and meant there was a long duration before the requestor could get started.

All of these team handoffs were directly contributing to a server build process that could take anywhere from six to eight weeks.

The team’s goal was to use automation to reduce this process to just one day.

2. Enabling Desktop Provisioning at Scale

The IT supports the desktop QA team, who is responsible for testing internal applications with new browser updates before rolling them out to business end-users.

The desktop testers were using physical desktops to test new applications. The IT organization maintained and provided a finite number of physical desktops with six different versions of Windows for testing. Each time a tester needed to perform analysis on a new application, they were required to check out this physical desktop and return it within a week. Naturally, each physical desktop could only be used by a single tester at a time, and resources were constantly in high demand.

Without enough testing equipment and an efficient process to allocate resources, the time it took to test and release a new application to business end-users were up to eight months.

The team’s goal was to streamline this process and reduce the time it took to roll out new applications, enabling business users to perform more effectively.

Choosing a Strategic IT Partner

After working with AHEAD for the past five years on storage, virtualization, and converged infrastructure projects, the organization wanted to learn more about AHEAD’s approach to building a hybrid cloud.

AHEAD’s cloud methodology is built on the foundational understanding that there is no such thing as an “out-of- the-box” or turnkey hybrid cloud. This approach is standardized in AHEAD’s consulting lifecycle, the AHEAD Innovation ±ramework, which breaks the process of transitioning to a hybrid cloud model into three major phases:

  • Strategy and Roadmap: A hybrid cloud initiative will often fail without a thoughtful evaluation of a business’s long-term strategic and technical goals before any other steps. These goals are used to create a multi-year roadmap that serves as the guiding point for all cloud initiatives.
  • Design and Plan: Each hybrid cloud is unique to an enterprise’s business goals and technical environ – ment. AHEAD helps clients build a custom envi – ronment with the tools that are most suited to their needs and operate within their existing technical environment.
  • Deploy and Manage: Successful implementation of a hybrid cloud requires the understanding that moving to the cloud is an iterative journey versus a destination. This means providing training for employees and maintaining, optimizing, and strengthening your service delivery regularly. AHEAD doesn’t implement a hybrid cloud and walk away, our cloud specialists continue to help evolve our clients’ environments and processes.

Impressed with AHEAD’s capabilities and experience and having previously determined the hybrid cloud strategy internally, the client asked AHEAD to design a hybrid cloud environment with an automated service catalog and public cloud capabilities, along with training around new processes and technologies.

The AHEAD Innovation Framework

AHEAD Innovation Framework

The AHEAD Innovation Framework is a prescriptive approach developed by AHEAD to help our clients deliver innovation. We leverage this proprietary framework to help clients drive consensus and accelerate time to value from a technical, operational, and financial perspective.

Assembling the Hybrid Cloud Components

Since VMware was the organization’s preferred vendor, AHEAD started by leading a multi-week proof of concept (POC) to demonstrate how VMware vRealize Suite could be adapted using automation and orchestration for Windows and Linux.

Once the POC was accepted, AHEAD led a design workshop and mapped out the automation process, eliminating redundant steps for increased efficiency.

AHEAD then designed the hybrid cloud reference architecture using the following solutions:

Cloud Management Platform: AHEAD designed vRealize Automation blueprints and vRealize Orchestrator workflows including the following third-party integrations to eliminate manual tasks:

  • Microsoft System Center configuration for Windows integrations
  • CF Engine for Linux integrations

Cloud Infrastructure: The organization was already using VMware for virtualization and VCE Vblock for converged infrastructure. AHEAD’s design also enables the organization to use public cloud services via Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure when they are ready.

Hybrid Cloud Reference Architecture
Hybrid Cloud Reference Architecture

Automating Provisioning and Final Results

While the team’s original goal was to reduce the time it took to provision servers and new environments from six to eight weeks to one day, the AHEAD team believed a new automation system could reduce these tasks to under an hour.

AHEAD collaborated with the IT departments to eliminate redundant steps from the build process and streamline inefficient steps. Using vRealize as the service catalog, AHEAD standardized all of the scripts being used across the process, optimizing each one for automation.

After implementing the hybrid cloud infrastructure components, providing training on tool usage, and collaborating with the IT team to streamline process steps, the final time it takes to provision servers is under 30 minutes.

In the desktop use case, the organization has moved from a handful of physical, single-use desktops to dozens of virtual machines that testers can use simultaneously. The company’s team has become familiar with their tools and has been able to get servers operating much more quickly with no downtime or performance outages. Since the restrictions on testing and capacity have been lifted, the process to provision desktops to the QA team has been reduced from a week to fifteen minutes, while the entire desktop QA process has been reduced from months to weeks.

In Their Own Words

“The big step in our process to finding a partner was looking for a partner with true experience and expertise in a few concentrated areas rather than just a broad brush consulting firm.”

Michael Reynolds, Rockwell Automation