Anatomy Of A Cloud Migration: Inside The Channel Company's IT Transformation


On Sept. 17, the former staff of UBM Channel raised glasses of champagne to celebrate the founding of The Channel Company. With more than 150 employees and six office locations across the U.S., UBM Channel had been bought out by management from parent company UBM and was now an independent entity.

But with that independence came new pressures not only from re-launching The Channel Company as a new business, but also the daunting task of separating itself from its former parent's centralized IT infrastructure and fundamentally rethinking the entire IT strategy from top to bottom.

 As a high-tech-channel-focused company, CEO Robert Faletra looked at the event as an opportunity to build an IT strategy that leveraged not only the latest technology, but also the solution provider ecosystem that takes that technology and solves business problems.

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The Channel Company needed to separate itself from a vast amount of infrastructure shared with UBM, and it had to do so under the weight of looming deadlines dictated by the buyout agreement, which stipulated the need to get off those shared servers, routers and switches quickly. With less than six months to work, finding a solution provider partner that could scope the work, advise on direction and pull it off was critical.

'A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY'

The unique opportunity to jump to a cloud infrastructure and gain flexibility along with a potential long-term cost savings wasn't lost on The Channel Company. 

The economics of not having to outlay a big capital expenditure in favor of funding ongoing IT operations via cash flow was attractive. But flexibility was a big selling point, especially given that the company also would need to relocate four of its six offices within a year.

"We had a unique opportunity," Faletra said. "We were a startup that had an established business. But we didn't want to buy new infrastructure and hire a large IT team to manage it. Our longtime channel heritage made it easy to understand the right solution provider partner could become our trusted adviser and become an outsourcer of IT systems, allowing us to instead focus on our core competency."

Rather than continue using the same IT infrastructure and assets, the move to the cloud also gave The Channel Company an opportunity to start from scratch. Instead of switching to new applications and systems one piece at a time, the migration project gave the company the ability to upgrade to better options across the board. 

"One of the real advantages to this was having a clean slate," Faletra said. "We could start over with our IT."

But the first step was finding a solution provider to guide the company into the cloud; the ideal solution provider would have not only high-level expertise and knowledge about cloud computing, but also the scale and capability to move more than 150 employees and their systems to a totally new environment. 

The Channel Company selected GreenPages-Logics One, a $125 million solution provider based in Kittery, Maine. The company was 154 on CRN's Solution Provider 500 list last year, an annual ranking of the top solution providers in North America by revenue. GreenPages was founded in 1992 and built a business selling and integrating enterprise infrastructure from leading vendors such as Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and more. 

In recent years GreenPages has supplemented that traditional business by turning to the cloud. GreenPages placed huge bets on cloud computing, including the launch of a brand new Cloud-Management-as-a-Service (CMaaS) practice in 2012 following its acquisition of Atlanta-based cloud firm LogicsOne (which would play a crucial role in The Channel Company's cloud conversion).

"We had to move fast," Faletra said, "so we wanted to go with someone that we had a relationship with and whom we trusted. I knew that if we had issues, GreenPages would address them. And I knew there were going to be issues because moving our entire infrastructure to the cloud in just a few months, it's not all going to be perfect."

Like Faletra, GreenPages CEO Ron Dupler saw enormous potential for The Channel Company. "It was a great opportunity for The Channel Company because you could start from scratch and go with an optimal IT system," Dupler said. 

But there were two hurdles: The Channel Company was moving all of its infrastructure to the cloud (which isn't all that rare, according to Dupler) and it was doing the entire migration in a short amount of time (which is very rare). "We've seen clients move of all of their IT to the cloud, but it's not often we see them do it all at once," Dupler said. "The biggest challenge was the time frame, which was relatively short."

The Channel Company was no longer part of UBM, and because of that UBM was cutting the cord on all network, infrastructure and telecom connections. "The timeline was a challenge because there were a lot of deadlines," said Kevin Hall, managing director of LogicsOne. "And UBM had its own deadlines for when it wanted to get The Channel Company off its infrastructure."

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