CGI Targets IT Management Complexity With Unify360

CGI, responding to the complexity of IT environments that include cloud technologies from many vendors, has unveiled a platform that will offer clients a holistic view of all their IT services from one source while leaving the security and governance in CGI’s hands.

The solution, Unify360, released Tuesday, integrates software, managed services and consulting services to make it easier for clients to manage their IT environments while allowing them to see what they’re using, streamline how they’re using it and help them plan the future of their IT infrastructures.

"Right now, you have this uncontrolled, unmanaged spider web across all of these different cloud providers coming out of your internal enterprise," said John Nemoto, CGI’s director of consulting. But when clients can see and manage their offerings while leveraging CGI's consulting and management services, he added, that web is much easier to manage.

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Customers that have been using cloud for two or three years are in the middle of a journey from hybrid cloud solutions to multi-cloud solutions, said Rick Villars, data center and cloud research analyst at IDC.

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Villars said IDC is seeing companies asking for a service like Unify360 that can help them pick the right cloud and the right set of clouds, get information about vendors’ services, manage their offerings regularly and have live support instead of relying on automated software. "They are looking for a cloud facilitator, not a sort of hybrid cloud provider… and solution providers are falling into that facilitator role," Villars said.

Today he added, companies are no longer asking if their cloud technologies are going to be on premise or off. They have accepted the fact that they will utilize cloud services and are now trying to decide which combination of cloud services will best fit their needs.

Most companies utilize two kinds of workloads that need to be supported in cloud, Villars said. The first - steady-state workloads - operate with predictable growth patterns and are usually things like older applications that can be predicted. However the second workload type - variable workloads - don’t have predictable growth patterns and can change unpredictably and need to scale quickly to meet capacity demands for something like seasonal traffic or a news event.

It’s those kinds of offerings, he said, which are both essential for a company, that a client may be better off sourcing from separate clouds.

"We are seeing a lot of companies asking for that and they are willing to pay their reseller partners for it. They say they want help understanding and transitioning to a multi-cloud model," he said.

Initially, Villars said, cloud was oversold and customers and vendors initially overcommitted and over-exploited the technology. Now, however, more people are realizing that some applications can stay on premise if there’s a good reason and it makes sense to leverage multiple cloud offerings.

"I can't tell you the number of times I've talked to executives that have been kind of sold a dog-and-pony show around cloud," Nemoto added.

The initial ease and overselling of one cloud solution, he said, has led many businesses into a complex system of IT services that they’re finding inefficient and very difficult to manage.

With Unify360, CGI - No. 15 on CRN’s Solution Provider 500 list - is addressing that complexity. Coupled with managed services and consulting, the new offering will show IT professionals what they’re using, how much of it they’re using, how much it’s costing them, company officials said.

With access to CGI's consultants and managed services, clients will be able to take the analytics they receive from the software and figure out how to best streamline their environments and manage them from the platform dashboard while leaving the governance and security compliance issues to CGI.

"One thing I hear a lot [from clients] is that they don’t want someone to come in there with a DVD, install the software and walk away," Nemoto said. "Something like this needs to be really carefully planned and it needs to align with the strategy and roadmap of the particular organization."

Nemoto said he expects Unify360 will generate "well past $100 million" in revenue over the next 10 years.

The solution provider, based in Montreal and with U.S. operations based in Fairfax, Va., reported $8 billion in revenue in 2014 and, according to company spokeswoman Linda F. Odorisio, business within the U.S. makes up nearly a third of that, with much of the company's focus on the federal government and enterprise-level business.

Nemoto said CGI will initially focus its sales efforts on its largest federal customers, then roll it out to others globally.

He said CGI also hopes to make Unify360 available to key partners and work with public cloud service providers like Microsoft’s Azure and Amazon Web Services to give them a ’go to’ option when doing managed services and migrations into their particular clouds.

However, he added that CGI believes the product’s real value will lie in how it enables delivery of projects and services to different IT models across markets. "We are looking to use it as a mechanism to implement our solutions and our offering to different cloud providers as well. Any large-scale implementation would greatly benefit from this."

While CGI continues to work with the federal government during the release of Unify360, the solution provider is pushing to certify the platform's security to the highest government standard and receive the ATO, or Authority to Operate, within the highest government levels, Nemoto said. He expects the first ATO certification to come in the first quarter of 2016.

Nemoto said CGI is also working with cloud vendors such as Microsoft and Amazon to synchronize their ATOs so the government will be able to immediately leverage Unify360 with both Azure and AWS as soon as they have the authority to operate in the more secure parts of the federal government.