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Building hardware of every kind is the concern of the VBH Group: For over 35 years, the market leader in the building hardware sector has supplied industrial companies and tradespeople with everything they need to manufacture and install windows and doors. The company's operations now encompass over 2,500 staff across more than 30 countries and in excess of 100 subsidiaries.
This means that the global organisation of IT is key to their success. Until now, VBH had operated its data centre independently for the many countries where the company is represented. However, the growing turnover and expansion of the VBH Group was pushing personnel and IT infrastructure resources to their limit.
New IT capacity aimed to provide fl exible and reliable support for existing and future business alike. The objective was to realise the IT concept with as little expense as possible, faithful to the VBH motto “Everything simple”.
In order to lower fixed costs and design the IT infrastructure with the flexibility to handle future growth, those responsible at VBH opted for the cloud services provided by Fujitsu rather than physically expanding their server cluster. The most important argument was an internal ROI calculation that showed that the cloud service was significantly less expensive than in-house operation. The fact that VBH wants central provision of uniform IT services around the world was another, weighty criterion for scalable infrastructure in the cloud.
VBH now receives server, storage and security services from the cloud. The Konica Minolta IT Solutions Group chose to work together with Fujitsu in the tendering process due to their coherent concept, in which the VBH IT team receives expertise in the ERP applications that are critical to their operations. As the central point of contact for VBH, Konica Minolta IT Solutions is responsible for maintaining the systems for Dynamics NAV (Navision), Exchange, Web Shops, etc., as well as providing second and third level support. In total, around 1,000 of VBH'sstaff are working at locations around the world with the new cloud-based infrastructure, comprising around 90 servers. In line with the maxim of “Pay-as-you-grow”, in future only the IT capacity that is necessary for actual growth has to be paid for.
The complete virtualisation of the servers and systems played a major role in facilitating migration to the cloud. In the middle of April 2011, all the data was initially mirrored on NetApp storage in the cloud and stored on a redundant basis in Fujitsu's new data centre. This approach meant that no hardware had to be moved and those responsible were able to thoroughly check everything before flicking the switch and permanently shutting down the old infrastructure.
The entire two-and-a-half-month migration process had no impact on users in their daily work because the changeover took place in stages, one system at a time and one location at a time, each taking just half an hour. Just a small number of infrastructure parameters had to be adjusted, such as firewall settings, IP address changes or establishing VPN connections. The servers also had direct access to the internet in the past, whereas the cloud solution routes access through secure proxy servers.
“Every project of this nature has challenges that need to be overcome,” explains Oliver Maisch, Head of IT International. “Nonetheless, what matters is that those responsible at Konica Minolta IT Solutions react quickly and find a good solution. And we've seen very positive results in this respect.”
VBH also gave thought to web and e-mail security over the course of the project. Where previously an in-house anti-spam and anti-virus appliance was used, VBH now relies on a cloud security service.
Spam protection, anti-virus controls and updates are now entirely operated by the security service provider. VBH incurs neither additional licence costs nor administration expenses – because security is just as much a part of the complete solution as storage-as-a-service and backups.
Thanks to the individual Managed Service packages provided by Konica Minolta IT Solutions, VBH is able to focus all of their attention on their core competences. Konica Minolta IT Solutions takes responsibility for continuously monitoring the systems and, thanks to their on-call services, they introduce appropriate measures to remedy faults and issues even outside of regular working hours. The modular structure allowscustomers to decide on the extent to which different systems are monitored. In this context, the superb quality of service and uniform, standardised processes substantially facilitate routine tasks for VBH.
To date, around 1,000 staff work with the cloud services at the VBH Group's locations around the world. The last national subsidiaries are currently being migrated. This will double the number of users to around 2,000. The regular training that would have been necessary for IT staff in order to create the new systems and link them to the existing infrastructure would have caused the time costs to balloon out of all proportion. Thanks to the cloud, the expansion of the IT services at these locations nevertheless proved possible without great expense. “In addition,” argues Oliver Maisch, “hardware administration is not our core competence – the operational processes behind it are.”
After more than two years of live operation, Oliver Maisch is very happy with the company's trusting collaboration with the service providers: “To successfully implement an IaaS project of this size, the partners and the chemistry between the responsible people in particular have to be just right. Moreover, our experience has shown that the better the advance planning, the easier the later implementation of such plans.” Maisch also recommends a step-by-step approach: “It's better to migrate systems or companies in succession and carry out thorough testing, instead of aiming to do everything all at once.”