This is the third installment in our blog series “Learning from Cloud.” If you missed our first two posts:  Insights to Inform Your Strategy and Don’t get stuck at the edge of tomorrow, we invite you to read them. Today we want to bring you a customer story, which brings to life a central question that many organizations have: how to integrate cloud resources into an existing strategy.  Global real estate company Cushman & Wakefield (C&W) looked at exactly this question when thinking about how-to optimize their IT infrastructure.

Cushman & Wakefield is one of the world’s largest privately owned real estate services group, with global coverage through 253 offices in 60 countries and more than 15,000 employees. The company has datacenters around the globe, but it really doesn’t want to be in the datacenter business. The challenge for Craig Cuyar, Global Chief Information Officer for Cushman & Wakefield was how to increase datacenter efficiency to make better use of existing resources and reduce operational expenses.

Virtualization was a part of Cushman & Wakefield’s strategy, but the licensing costs for VMware were too high. Cuyar wanted to not only virtualize more of the company’s servers but also to move beyond virtualization to a private cloud environment, where servers and storage are pooled as a single configurable IT “fabric” that can be dynamically allocated and reallocated on the fly.

To give the company additional options, Cuyar’s vision was to create a hybrid cloud environment in which some applications run on-premises in a Microsoft-based private cloud environment and others run in Windows Azure, the Microsoft public cloud development, hosting, and management environment. “The only way to meet our objectives of business continuity; supporting rapid growth; and delivering scalable, reliable, and efficient IT services was to adopt an ‘IT as a service’ delivery model,” Cuyar says. “A traditional on-premises environment alone couldn’t do it; we needed to embrace cloud technologies and manage our applications as services.”

To quickly gain expertise in this new IT mindset, C&W partnered with Software Logic, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network. Software Logic worked with C&W on a strategy to move workloads to the cloud gradually, while using Microsoft System Center as the single management console for both on-premises and public cloud environments.

With Software Logic’s help, C&W created a highly efficient private cloud infrastructure that will let it consolidate 40 racks of servers (275 servers) in its US datacenter to just 7 racks of 20 host servers and 270 virtual machines. It will do the same thing in its UK datacenter, consolidating 12 racks to 2. The firm has virtualized even its biggest workloads: databases running Microsoft SQL Server 2012 data management software, SAP, and Oracle business applications, all of which run the company’s business-critical financial programs.

C&W already has a data warehouse and other applications running in Microsoft Azure and plans to shift to this public cloud other applications that require scalability. It plans to use Azure for its bursting capability and as a way to lower costs. If an app may scale to a million users, it may be more cost effective for C&W to host it in Azure.

System Center 2012 R2 is the management solution that makes the hybrid cloud environment possible. C&W uses System Center 2012 R2 for physical and virtual server monitoring and management, software deployment, workflow automation, service management, data backup, and more. C&W can use System Center 2012 R2 to automate dozens of datacenter management tasks and workflows and optimize the performance and use of the hybrid cloud environment. C&W has even used System Center to create an online catalog of IT services for its developers. With a few clicks, they can deploy server and storage resources in a matter of minutes.

One concern that C&W had about private cloud computing was the ability to isolate customer workloads in a shared infrastructure. Software Logic was able to assure C&W that the Microsoft software provided plenty of protection through the software-defined networking capabilities of Windows Server 2012 R2. By enabling network control using software, organizations have the ability to create virtual networks on top of the physical network and to dynamically reconfigure these networks to match the changing requirements of their workloads. This allows for complete isolation of customer workloads within a shared infrastructure.

Datacenter cost reduction was a primary objective for C&W, and with its hybrid cloud infrastructure, it will reduce IT costs by 75 percent. The savings come from server acquisition, power and cooling, datacenter real estate, and management costs. “With cloud computing, we’re using our IT assets far more efficiently,” Cuyar says. “We’re not investing in massive piles of hardware that sit idle most of the time. We have a compact reservoir of IT resources that we can dynamically allocate when and where needed.”

Greater business agility is another significant benefit of cloud computing. Today, the C&W IT team can deploy IT resources in minutes versus the weeks that it takes to deploy physical servers. C&W can scale capacity as needed and shift IT assets where they’re needed. This increased management efficiency lets Cuyar refocus his staff on more strategic initiatives, such as investigating new mobile technologies that will help brokers remain productive while traveling.

Increased innovation and agility, along with reduced costs, are the benefits of the hybrid approach for C&W and many other companies.

Stay tuned for our next blog post in this series (Coming June 19)

Learn more about Transform the Datacenter by visiting our webpage

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Read the case study and learn more about how Cushman & Wakefield trimmed IT costs by 75 percent