Moving existing server installations for public cloud services to co-location can be a stressful experience unless everything is coordinated. At a certain time, “the point of no return” also comes, so when you can not regret it. Then everything is thoughtful and actually falls into place.
Unit4 (formerly Agresso) is one of the Nordic region’s largest players in the market for business systems. When the software began broad-based in government administration in the mid 90’s, it was mostly about software. Today, developments in cloud services (SaaS) are moving.
“Business systems are not like any software. They require a certain hand-laying and must be maintained all the time to work as intended. Version manager, database manager and system software interoperability must be reviewed. Cloud services make this work enormous” says Bengt Höjer, Head of Unit4 Operations Service Unit.
After careful preliminary studies and comparisons, Unit4 decided for colocation from Conapto. The move was made during a weekend and the new SaaS server solution would provide significant economies of scale in operation and offer higher quality in delivery to customers.
“One of the factors we considered important before deciding on this solution was that security and access were at an adequate and high level. We decide when we want to go to the server hall, everything is logged and documented. Otherwise, it is common for it to be either difficult to get in or the security is lower” explains Bengt Höjer.
Environmental friendliness is also important for Unit4, which is one of the few service-producing companies in Sweden that are environmentally certified according to ISO14001. Conapto’s server hall in Sätra was the most sustainable solution – with an advanced recovery of surplus heat, large amounts of electricity costs were also saved.
Tommie Lindblom, team leader at Unit4, was responsible project manager for server relocation:
”There were a lot of questions in the air before the move and a lot of concerns from our side – nothing had to go wrong. We received early advice from Conapto, who also acted as a ball shelf throughout the process. Unit4 was one of the first companies in place in the new server hall in Sätra: fiber and cable deduction from the network suppliers were to be ensured and the design of the hale surface should be matched to the project specimen. Although there was a large amount of components and it was the first time we carried out this type of move, we never really had to think again, everything went according to plan”.
“Conapto personnel was on site to ensure that everything worked friction-free during the move. Everybody who participated in the Conapt project was enthusiastic and coached our staff. We were seven people involved from Unit4, as well as a few participants from the suppliers” explains Tommie Lindblom.
Such a complex operation as a server move is difficult to interrupt once it has started.
“When you get to the point of no return, there must be an alternative plan ready, you can not invent that plan” says Bengt Höjer.
“Everything went on a rack, but if something went wrong, we would only be late with the move. The operation itself would not have been a problem – my assessment is that the starting point for customer login on Monday morning had not been affected” said Tommie Lindblom.
“The move started on Friday night when everything was scheduled, at 21:00 on Saturday I realized that the difference was only 5 minutes between schedule and actual implementation, it was absolutely unbelievable how well the planning was true to reality” adds Bengt Höjer.
Conapto’s role in Unit4’s planning and server move is part of a major paradigm shift towards outsourced services.
When electricity was used, there were no power stations yet. Those who needed electricity got their own generator, but it did not take long before centralized power plants came. Now we see the same development also with server hosting and software. There are many questions that must be answered in a systematic and professional manner: Is the security resolved? Can many subcontractors interact? Am I locked up as a customer? Can I manage my data myself?
These are important issues that you may not even be asking if you do not work with the topic or are used to procuring this type of service. A customer does not have to be an expert on his system, just an expert in using it. Nevertheless, the customer will never become an expert in the operation, nor is it meant. The fiber cables from the network providers go into separate drums for the server facility, which is an advantage in, for example, cable crashes.
It is unfortunately common that if you have multiple ISPs, the fiber goes in the same drum to the plant and is dug out at the same time, which means that you still have a downtime.
“This is just an example of a detail that is obvious to a knowledgeable and experienced partner such as Conapto, there are many other details that are not as obvious but which can still affect accessibility. Our customers, in turn, have a similar situation – they know, if possible, even less about how the SaaS architecture works than we know how the server hall works. On the other hand, they are good at using the systems, which is also the idea” concludes Bengt Höjer.
The market for ERP-systems has begun the big step towards SaaS-services and many players (as well as customers) already seem to have understood the benefits of cloud-based services. Those traders who traditionally earned money on selling licenses have to reconsider and find new business models. Another industry exposed to a similar conversion is the media industry.