ista International changes its IT provider – successful transition with perfect timing
Professionalism of all parties involved allowed for a smooth transition
// Data Center Services, IT-Outsourcing, IT-Strategie, Post Merger Integration
The change from one IT provider to another is always a demanding project. The more complex an IT landscape is, the higher the requirements posed to project management and communication between the companies involved are. In mid-2015, a new contract was signed with a new service provider the hosting of the IT of ista International. The change was to be completed by the end of May 2016. noventum consulting assumed responsibility for the superordinate management of the transition project. In the end, the committed and professional cooperation of all parties involved allowed for a successful transition already 4 weeks ahead of the planned schedule. Very satisfied with the perfect timing and with the financial impacts associated therewith, the new provider and ista now have tackled the first steps for the pending transformation.
Ista International GmbH is one of the world's leading energy service providers for more energy efficiency in the building sector. Based in Essen, the company employs over 5,100 people in 24 countries and generated revenues of EUR 810.4 million in 2015.
The initial situation
Transition projects for provider changes are subject to a multitude of influences and - at times - very different interests. In the case of the transition of the ista IT, however, all parties involved wanted to achieve a smooth transition. Even the surrendering provider was dedicated to this objective since they wanted to completely "empty" their affected data centre at the end.
The provider was in the initial step planned exclusively as a transition. "Lift and Shift" was to be the approach of choice, i.e., the system transition was to be carried out without changing the system, for the most part.
One of the decisive parameters was the question how diversified the IT landscape is that was to be relocated. The scope of the transition encompassed:
- Systems in the Windows environment
- Systems in the AIX environment with large Oracle databases and SAP
- Systems in the Linux environment
- Mainframe environments
- In-house solutions in the network area
- A comprehensive archive database
Project organisation and scheduling
Sub-projects for the respective platforms, including network and service management, were established and equipped with dual responsible leaders (one each from ista and from its new provider). On the part of the departing service provider, a very experienced service provider was on board as well, the other parties involved also staffed the project with experienced specialists. In the person of management consultant Marc Buzina, noventum consulting provided the manager for the overall project. In total, close to 30 persons were involved in the organisation. On the relocation weekend itself, approx. 70 people were active for the project. "A successful change of providers requires motivated partners and a very good organisation. We had both," ista Senior Vice President Corporate IT Management Ralf Wonnemann voiced his satisfaction with the course of the project.
Comprehensive transitions are often preferred to be carried out in multiple partial steps in order to limit the impacts any problems may cause. The ista relocation, however, was to be completed in one large step. One significant reason for this was that the ista data was located at a shared data centre at its old provider and a transition to a layer 2 base could have affected the security interests of other customers regarding data integrity. A step-by-step transition of data and systems as well as the temporary parallel operation of two networked system was not desired.
The relocation of the different platforms posed challenges of differing complexity to planning and management. The area of AIX and databases turned out to be particularly challenging, since some of the databases were particularly voluminous. "Migrating such large amounts of data error-free is quite a challenge, even if a lot of prior experience exists in this area of work," said project manager Marc Buzina. For the whole transition phase, a 1 gigabit network path was utilised that was specifically set up for this purpose.
Utilisation of NAS filers for step-by-step data transfer
To unburden the network path, especially with respect to the transport of larger amounts of data, two NAS filers (network attached storage) were installed at the departing provider and synchronously filled with data. One of the two disk systems was then brought to the new provider and activated in the system. The synchronisation with the parallel disk system could then be restarted via the network path subsequent to a pause caused by the move. "In and by itself, a quite simple and safe approach," said Marc Buzina. The advantage of this "physical" data transfer was, on the one hand, the speed, and on the other, the provided safety inherent to the synchronisation process. Prior to the actual relocation, 6 weeks had been planned for the transport of the data. During this period, the data was kept completely synchronous and could already be utilised in the target system for test purposes. The close to full utilisation of the systems at the old provider did, at times, lead to data backups that were not easy. But ultimately, they took place smoothly as well, without any major disruptions of operations.
Project objective achieved
The target schedule for the completely successful transition was the end of May 2016. In essence, the relocation took place Easter 2016, and the month of April was utilised by the mixed team to perform necessary rectifications. The very successful course of the project allowed ista to cancel the hosting agreement with its old provider one month sooner than planned.
"Transitions of such scope quite often take longer than the tight schedule is planning for. We truly can be highly satisfied with what we have accomplished jointly," lauded Eberhard Fiehe, IT Director Infrastructure & License of ista. "We were able to save time and money, and our old provider was able to reduce its capacities sooner than planned. All project partners have learned to appreciate the responsible management by noventum consulting. As showcased by them: a whole lot of experience and always an eye for the whole, that's how one wants project management to be."