City of Yarra's cloud conversion

Wednesday, 15 February, 2017 | Supplied by: Equinix Australia Pty Ltd

The City of Yarra Council has embarked on a journey to become a ‘cloud first’ enterprise, and its implementation is already paying dividends.

Local governments everywhere are under increasing pressure to do more with ever-tightening IT budgets. Melbourne’s City of Yarra Council is no different. But its approach to reducing the costs and complexity of its IT infrastructure may well be unique — at least in Australia. Under the leadership of a visionary CEO and Innovation Manager, the council has embarked on a journey to become ‘cloud first’.

A move that is enabling it to escape the straightjacket of 100-plus legacy systems and build a bridge to a faster, more efficient, hybrid and interconnected future.

The council’s Innovation and ICT Department provides services to internal and external customers in many different sectors, covering everything from environmental initiatives, building and construction applications, through to employment services and local business schemes.

In 2014, the council was experiencing escalating costs and inefficiencies due to managing 130 legacy systems inside its siloed and disparate infrastructure. There was a clear need for a digital transformation strategy to update its architecture, bring services to the edge and improve customer experience.

Rick Bottiglieri was brought in as Innovation Manager and quickly launched a ‘Transformation Programme’, with the goal of finding ways to improve community services and increase efficiency. A customer-centric approach was the chosen strategy. And the answer to the IT challenges was in the cloud.

The council chose to deploy inside the new Equinix ME1 data centre. Not only does the >99.99999% uptime provide service delivery assurance, but the opportunity to interconnect with business partners, service providers and networks is proving to be of great value. It is now connected to Office 365 and Azure, and has also migrated its back-up disaster recovery to the cloud via Equinix Interconnect. It is also rolling out a number of applications, such as Oracle’s cloud-based customer request system, Service Cloud. By the end of 2017, Bottiglieri is planning to have all the council’s internal server infrastructure moved into ME1 — whereupon the council will no longer have any internal data centres.

“Our main data centre was a 5 x 5 m space, which had an old air-conditioning plant and no fire suppression,” said Bottiglieri. “We knew that continuing to operate that facility would present the council with a high-level of risk and hold back our cloud vision.

“The benefit of Equinix is that it gives us the ability to interconnect with any other cloud platform that is hosted in the cloud. We are finding that cloud-based software is open, so the integration pathways are already there for us to exploit. That’s very different from the picture with the legacy systems,” said Bottiglieri.

The impact of going into the cloud has been threefold. It has solved the council’s concerns about running its own data centres — in terms of operating costs and ongoing upgrades — as well as reducing the complexity of managing different systems. In addition, cloud, through Platform Equinix, has allowed it to be far nimbler in providing the services that customers want in a more acceptable time frame.

“We did a cost comparison between running our own data centres and using Equinix, and there were substantial savings. For example, we are already saving $1300 every month on power alone,” said Bottiglieri.

“Previously, we’d be looking at procuring and provisioning an IT service in anything up to eight months. Now we can roll out specific services almost overnight via connecting to cloud services on Platform Equinix. Our legacy systems couldn’t do that. We are looking at a complete migration of our entire infrastructure to cloud,” he added.

As part of its due diligence process, the council investigated four vendors to identify the most suitable choice. Its decision to partner with Equinix was based on four key criteria — data centre quality, interconnection capability, global scale and future roadmap. Equinix was the only vendor that checked all the boxes.

In addition, Bottiglieri noted that Equinix immediately felt like the right fit, culturally as well as technically.

“There are a lot of data centres out there that look great. But the crucial factor for us was establishing a solid, in-depth relationship,” he said. “Equinix and its team demonstrated that from day one — really going the extra mile to address our needs and build a foundation that would last for the foreseeable future. We felt comfortable it was a genuine partnership on every level — not only on costs, but in terms of a long-term relationship,” he added.

Another aspect was the global availability of Equinix Interconnect, which gives the ability to connect to multiple cloud services.

A number of councils across Australia are testing the water using cloud technology, but Bottiglieri doesn’t know of any others that have taken this progressive approach.

“The word is getting out about what we are doing. I get two or three calls a week from other municipalities, asking me about Yarra’s digital transformation journey,” he said.

“I believe that it’s about time that the public sector transforms itself and become more efficient, cost effective and focuses on a more customer-centric approach. I firmly believe that cloud-based technology will improve their experience.”

Phone: 02 8337 2000
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