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


With the clock ticking, GreenPages and its LogicsOne cloud team huddled with The Channel Company's technical team to start the first phase of the project before The Channel Company itself was even officially launched. 

"The cloud conversion offered significant savings," Hall said, "and The Channel Company had the courage to take that leap. It's rare to find a company that's willing to uproot everything and make that kind of IT transition."

It was a risk, too. The Channel Company executives knew if this ambitious project didn't work out, the brand-new venture was in serious trouble. 

'NO STONE LEFT UNTURNED'

The Channel Company went live as a new business Sept. 17, but the gears for its cloud conversion already were set in motion. The first phase of this project was a seemingly simple discovery phase, where the project team leaders identified each and every piece of IT equipment under the UBM Channel umbrella.

"The first phase was information-gathering," said John Brown, vice president of product development at The Channel Company, who worked extensively on the cloud migration project. "And that phase took us through the end of the month."

While that may sound simpler than doing actual network conversions and migrations, it was still a massive undertaking and required weeks of analyzing not only a large number of systems -- some of which were shared with other parts of UBM -- but their respective use as well. Every bit of infrastructure was reviewed, from office locations and local telecom services to the dozens of servers, PCs and software licenses. From device to data center, Brown said the team had a simple directive: Leave no stone unturned.

But the initial phase also reviewed more than just the physical IT infrastructure and services UBM Channel used; GreenPages and LogicsOne also looked at every employee's IT access, authorizations and administrative rights across the entire company. The LogicsOne team itself had a dedicated specialist for each IT element -- servers, applications, client devices, telecommunications equipment, etc.

So what did The Channel Company and LogicsOne find during the discovery phase? 

"Some of the more interesting discoveries were around the networks," Brown said. "Just seeing all of the different assets we had for network infrastructure was really eye-opening. We were also surprised by the number of older Windows XP machines that were still being used."

On the positive side, The Channel Company was able to keep track of most of its IT assets, Brown said, which included more than 180 workstations, dozens of smartphones and tablets, several servers and what seemed like an endless stream of routers and switches across six office locations.

The discovery phase, however, was more than just tagging and cataloging laptops. It was a deep dive on the technical specifications, usage and capabilities of every IT product. That meant analyzing every system down to its CPU speed and memory and figuring exactly who had access and administrator rights to those systems. 

"The piece that was challenging with this phase was time," Brown said. "Sometimes we think we know how deep we need to go with the discovery, but GreenPages and LogicsOne are often pushing us to go further. And we've never done something like this so even though it was frustrating at times, we had to trust them."

Dupler said that level of exacting detail is necessary for a cloud project of this size. "That's what we do," Dupler said. "We try to do as in-depth an interview, both technical and business process, about the requirements and needs are and how best to piece all of the IT together."

After cataloging all of the devices and equipment and analyzing their usage patterns, it was on to the next phase of the cloud migration: figuring out what The Channel Company needed to operate on its own, and what it could get rid of to run as a leaner and more flexible business.

"It's one thing if you're a large enterprise, but as a midtier business there's no way you can spend money on all of that equipment," Brown said. "So we started asking the tough questions. Do we need all of this hardware? All of these file servers and networking gear? Do we really need all this stuff?"

NEXT: 'Nothing Tethered To The Business'

See the latest cloud technologies, learn best practices, and interact with your peers at the channel’s first all-inclusive cloud event: NexGen Cloud Conference & Expo, December 4-5, 2014 at the San Diego Convention Center. Register now at  www.NexGenCloudCon.com