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eMeter Implements Hybrid Cloud Solution for Massive Gains in Global Agility, Cutting Deployment Time from Weeks to Hours
eMeter needed flexible, short-term compute resources to support intensive training for a global network of installation partners. By working with VMware vCloud® Datacenter service provider partner Bluelock to access resources hosted in the public cloud and by using its own private cloud resources, eMeter succeeded in implementing a hybrid cloud solution that cut capital expenses, reduced operational costs, increased productivity and enhanced competitive advantage while making the most of its legacy hardware investments.
eMeter is a global business. The company works with a number of installation partners – including world-class vendors like Siemens, Accenture, IBM, Logica and SAP – to implement software solutions at utility companies around the world. In an effort to help partners deliver the best service possible, eMeter offers intensive “boot camp” training on how to properly install and manage its metering solutions.
That’s where the primary challenge comes in. “These boot camps are very system intensive,” explains Bryan Bond, senior systems administrator at eMeter. “We need a lot of short-term resources to get an installation underway. After those first few weeks, our bandwidth requirements drop considerably.”
In the past, that meant buying enough hardware to absorb the impact of a heavy workload, with the full knowledge that the workload would soon change. “A lot of our hardware was under used,” says Bond. “The complicating factor for us is that it’s very difficult to buy a piece of equipment in India. Taxes and regulations are complicated. Some technologies aren’t available in every area of the country. As a result, it can take months to procure just one piece of hardware.”
To expand further into India – and to grow its footprint elsewhere – eMeter needed a more flexible solution for deploying compute resources on demand. “We’re a small team,” says Bond. “Like most IT groups, we’re smaller than we’d like to be. Everybody’s pressed for time and resources. Under those circumstances, it’s just not feasible to be managing a patchwork of hardware installations on the other side of the globe.”
Bond and his team looked at a number of options for creating a more flexible environment – everything from the public cloud to physical hosting services. “We have a significant hardware investment in our data center, and some of our internal customers’ hardware installations simply can’t be virtualized,” he says. “The only model that made sense for us was the hybrid cloud.”
When Bond arrived at eMeter in 2010, the company had already used VMware solutions to virtualize approximately 60 percent of its workload in-house, but the IT organization’s approach to virtualization was ad hoc rather than unified. Now Bond and his team wanted to determine if VMware had the right technology for a more focused and proactive migration toward cloud computing. To help guide their decision, they turned to VMware vCloud Datacenter service provider Bluelock. “Bluelock was a perfect fit for us,” he says. “Their vCloud infrastructure was compatible with the environment we already had in place. And from the beginning, they collaborated with us to find just the right configuration. I feel like they’re part of my own team. As far as I’m concerned, we’re Bluelock customers for life.”
eMeter engaged with Bluelock for a proof of concept that demonstrated nearly instant results. “We took clones of our systems, moved them to the cloud and turned them on,” says Bond. “The setup took less than a day. With any other type of service, we would’ve needed at least a week to build servers from scratch.”
Bond and his team could now see their path forward. Within a matter of months, eMeter had upgraded to VMware vCloud Director® Enterprise, with the goal of continuing to virtualize as much of their environment as possible while also moving relevant workloads to Bluelock Virtual Datacenters.
Approximately 95 percent of the eMeter ecosystem now runs on VMware-based technology. “The ability to use the same technology across multiple environments is a big deal,” says Bond. “I’m able to see everything in a single control panel, moving virtual machines with literally the click of a button. It’s just so easy.”
For Bond, the primary value of a VMware-based hybrid cloud is the solution’s elasticity. For the first time, deploying resources in India – and elsewhere – is no more complicated than deploying in the U.S. “We custom-design our software,” he says. “Every customer needs their own stack. With Bluelock Virtual Datacenters, we can do rapid prototyping and perform test case scenarios in days, not weeks. With access to Bluelock Portfolio™ – Bluelock’s cost management portal – we can tell internal customers exactly how much a deployment will cost them beforehand, because I know exactly how much it will cost me. That’s a game-changer.”
In one case, access to on-demand Bluelock Virtual Datacenters based on VMware vCloud saved eMeter from what might have been a costly delay in India. “Our customer managed to destroy their sandbox environment in the middle of an installation,” says Bond. “I got the call in the middle of the night, and within three hours I had them up and running in the cloud. In fact, it took me longer to set up the VPN than to build out a new system. Only a few years ago, that same task would have required at least four or five business days.”
By cutting capital expenses and minimizing operational costs, eMeter is seeing major gains in productivity, which translates into competitive advantage. “I’m cutting out 10 hours per week in purely administrative tasks,” says Bond. “Our entire team is more agile, and we can use the time we’re saving to develop new products, release new features and get to market faster. That helps us stay in front of the competition.”
Bond continues to look for more opportunities to virtualize and automate the eMeter infrastructure. “By moving to a hybrid cloud, we’ve opened up a tremendous number of possibilities,” he says. “In the coming months, we hope to pursue a self-provisioning model so that internal customers can build their own environments, which will shorten deployment times even further. And that’s just the beginning – I see so many opportunities for making the most of this technology.”
eMeter, a Siemens Business, specializes in software solutions for electric, gas, and water utilities. The company’s flagship product is EnergyIP™, a platform for managing, integrating and optimizing smart grid and smart meter technologies. Founded in 1999, eMeter employs more than 200 people and operates worldwide, with an especially robust presence in the United States and India.
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