Achieving our present hybrid cloud environment based on a converged IT infrastructure may have taken two go-rounds for us. But the results have certainly been worth it—for both the business units we serve and for our converged team members.
Energy Future Holdings Corp. (EFH) is a privately held, Dallas-based company with a growing portfolio of competitive and regulated energy companies operating in Texas. EFH companies include Luminant, a diverse power-generation business, and TXU Energy, a retail electricity provider with 1.7 million residential and business customers in the state.
Technology plays a key role in how we compete for business, engage with customers, and innovate. In 2009, when we first virtualized our IT infrastructure, we made a conscious decision to avoid going with a vertical stack from a single vendor. We didn’t want to be locked in. And we succeeded in creating a robust private cloud environment.
But with each major upgrade, we had to spend another $1 million to $1.5 million on labor alone over the six months it took to complete the build. This dated the new environment before we could even leverage it, and the quality of the builds varied dramatically. Equally concerning, our business-unit customers were beginning to think of us in terms of red tape, not getting things done.
So, in 2014, we reversed course. We chose Dell EMC’s Enterprise Hybrid Cloud running on Vblock® Systems. And we began a transformation from teams responsible for managing a specific technology such as Windows or UNIX, or networks or databases—to being capable of supporting our entire converged environment from the hypervisor on down.
Building the converged teams
We are very data driven. In creating our converged teams, we reduced the number of outside contractors, which had been the lion’s share of our IT team, and focused on expanding the team members’ skill sets. In many cases, contracts simply weren’t renewed when they expired.
Among the factors we considered were:
- What roles existed then, and what would we need to address in the near future?
- What roles might we need outside of our converged environment—such as handling patches within a specific OS, or dealing with enterprise equipment such as SANs or NAS?
- What qualifications were required for each role? Level one, two, or three? Novice, intermediate, engineer, or high-level architect?
Improved collaboration and agility
Going into the transformation, we were of course concerned about the impact on our culture. But the changes were accepted very well—especially with the commitment we made to training. Teams were sent to conferences and training classes and everyone was given numerous opportunities from Dell EMC, Cisco, and our IT team partner to stay current on the latest technologies.
This enabled people to keep their skills relevant in a constantly changing operating environment. And it also led to improved collaboration and the agility to respond much more quickly to service requests, even with far fewer resources.
It’s also had a tremendous impact on our builds. With the shift to converged, we can now connect, configure, power up, and start provisioning new systems in about a week, rather than requiring six months or more. And we can do that with just one or two resources—eliminating the $1 million or more we spent on labor previously.
Impressive results—with more to come
With the transformation to Dell EMC’s Converged Platforms well underway, we’ve seen some impressive results:
- Our investment of $20 million in Enterprise Hybrid Cloud and Vblock Systems is expected to return $54 million in avoided costs and net operating savings through 2020
- We’re providing higher quality service with 75% less IT staff
- We’re enjoying performance gains from the Dell EMC converged platforms, averaging 40% to 50%, with improvement on some tasks of up to 300%
- We’ll have shrunk our data center space from 35,000 sq. ft. to 6,000 sq. ft. by year-end, with a goal of reaching 2,500 sq. ft. by the end of 2017
We’re also now able to use our converged teams to pursue our goal of becoming a service broker for business-unit clients. With the implementation of cloud services and automation, I see our teams’ focus shifting away from the simple delivery of infrastructure to providing catalogs of services that will ensure business users can get completely out of the IT business.
Just as importantly, this will enable us to see the true big picture of what’s being spent and do a better job of managing IT usage and costs for EFH.