by Rodney Gedda

SBS looks to Cloud services

Sep 16, 20115 mins
Cloud ComputingE-commerce Services

When Klaus Schelp started at SBS at the beginning of this year he focused on business outcomes ahead of technology operations. As the head of information technology at the national broadcaster, Schelp was met with increasing business demands for online collaboration without the on-premise infrastructure to support it. A journey to Cloud services looked increasingly compelling.

“When going to the Cloud we need to talk less about the technology and more about the business impact,” Schelp says. “We have been challenged to provide more effective and integrated collaboration capabilities for SBS. It’s a growing demand within the business and the current system is mainly used for e-mail only and required an upgrade.”

Following a regular IT product selection process, Schelp says a decision was reached whereby SBS would migrate off its existing Novell GroupWise e-mail and groupware suite to Microsoft’s Office 365 Cloud service for some 1300 user accounts.

I didn’t want to work through a lengthy process to replace basic e-mail

SBS is already using Microsoft Office, but Schelp is interested in the integration with the extended Microsoft collaboration suite including Exchange, communication and SharePoint portal services.

“The second decision was how to deploy the selected solution,” Schelp says. “We looked at on-premise, hosted and Cloud based options. Cloud was the most efficient and effective option for us. I had to decide whether I would build up internal skills and resources or use a Cloud solution that someone else operated.”

The first leg of the journey is e-mail, which Schelp says is possible due to its “commoditised and standardised” nature and less of a requirement to be customised for SBS’s business needs.

“For me e-mail is a highly commoditised and standardised functionality which does not require a lot of customisation for our business needs,” he says. “I looked for a service allowing me to use and consume it, without the need to operate it.”

“It’s the Outlook, Lync and SharePoint integration that is attractive. We intend going from e-mail to a complete collaboration suite.” SBS has been a long-time GroupWise customer and while admitting it is a vendor change, Schelp says it was a “pretty neutral decision”.

“We are moving 1300 users off GroupWise which has been in use a long time. The decision was driven through the selection process including an extensive evaluation by different business users,” he says, “The whole project will take a little more than six months including planning, proof of concept and implementation. We have opted for a condensed migration of three weeks including all mailboxes, archives and address books to minimise any business impact with users being on different systems. This is starting now and is on target.”

Schelp says there has been nothing of concern with the migration project and with 25 gigabytes of storage per e-mail account, the Cloud solution is “significantly higher” than the organisation’s current capability.

Assessing the Cloud wave

With SBS navigating its way to more Cloud services, including collaboration, Schelp says CIOs looking at total cost of ownership comparisons between Cloud and in-house infrastructure may find an equal footing. “On the bottom line the Cloud solution is comparable to current operational costs, but we are getting more functionality,” he says.

“Another driver is speed of deployment. An on-premise deployment for us would have taken up more resources and time as it would have required a completely new environment and technology. I did not want to work through a lengthy process in stage one to replace basic e-mail functionality.” Access speed to the Cloud environment is something CIOs need to watch for, according to Schelp, in addition to standard security considerations.

“Readiness of the local infrastructure for a Cloud-based solution is something CIOs need to look out for,” he says. “Security is also something that definitely needs to be considered. There is no black and white answer and it requires a business specific assessment.

“CIOs need to apply standard project management and change management processes, but will spend less time on technology considerations.”

The next step for SBS is to make use of Microsoft Lync features like presence, instant messaging and unified communications and the long-term roadmap is to use more SharePoint and collaboration functionality, including online documents.

“The extent of possible future voice integration is still to be defined,” Schelp says. “Considering it’s a hybrid solution I could quite easily change from the Cloud to on-premise and vice versa, transparent to the user. The products used are identical and the functionality provided from a user point of view would be unchanged.”

Advanced information sharing and document management is another long-term objective for SBS, which Schelp says could be implemented using standard offerings in the Cloud or might require a more customised solution and an on-premise deployment. Schelp is now directing his operational staff to focus on more business-critical projects.