Corporate Networks, has quite a bit in common with Sungard Availability Services. The Fort McMurray, Alberta, company provides end-to-end IT solutions to K-12 and the enterprise sector including a full range of technology services, as well as consulting. For the past 29 years, it has concentrated on delivering quality — in its work and customer service. Sungard AS certainly can relate.
Today, Corporate Networks focuses on making sure that businesses and individuals communicate more effectively with their co-workers, vendors and customers through strong technology infrastructure. To do this, it invests a lot of effort in R&D to stay on the leading edge. Specifically, it emphasizes advanced communication and collaboration systems. These include Internet portals, voice-over IP (VoIP) telephone systems and hosted infrastructure and application services.
These services depend on strong back-end computing environments and networks, which have been Corporate Networks’ specialty for more than a dozen years. Corporate Networks strives to build partnerships, not just vendor/client relationships, with its customers — and its vendors. They include IT providers such as Allstream, Cisco, Citrix and Microsoft, among others.
Of course there have been some challenges, but this is where its relationship with Sungard AS comes into play. Corporate Networks’ main challenge related to whether it would retain its 17-year-old datacenter and upgrade it, or turn those operations over to an enterprise cloud services provider. It also wanted its IT staff to be able to take on more consulting work and develop more designs and technical solutions for clients.
“We had to either make major upgrades to our datacenter or partner with someone,” recalls CEO Ahsen Butt. Zeshan Butt, as manager of Technical Services was also heavily involved in the decision. They decided to forego capex for opex and began looking for a hosting partner.
“I wanted to get a good night’s sleep and not worry about the reliability of the datacenter,” explains Ahsen. “And I thought about investing $1.5 to 2 million in a decent datacenter that we would have to maintain, and ten years later, we would have to do it again.”
Partnering for business results
Corporate Networks evaluated three hosting partners and their evaluation led to the partnership with Sungard AS.
Among the differentiators, Sungard AS delivered:
- A global presence including Canada, with regional data centers.
- Compliance with Canadian regulatory requirements because Sungard AS operates Canadian datacenters. For example, since it deals primarily with the public sector, it’s required to keep that data on Canadian soil.
- A strong business presentation that provided Corporate Networks “huge confidence” in the datacenter and the technical resources needed to transition to where the company wanted to be. Other candidates couldn’t do that adequately. A tour of the Toronto facility reinforced these impressions.
- Strong support for Corporate Networks’ offerings of a hosted VoIP system to customers along with its own product called “Surric,” an amalgamation of IaaS, HaaS and SaaS, all hosted by Sungard AS.
- Robust security for customers because of Sungard AS’ personnel and security measures in place – both physical and electronic. Zeshan notes that they heavily relied on Sungard AS implanting its security measures and it was a value-add.
Sungard AS provides Corporate Networks with Enterprise Cloud Services, including virtual machines and terabytes of storage. Understanding Corporate Networks’ needs and goals was critical in designing the right system.
Sungard AS delivers value to Corporate Networks by furnishing secure, dependable service without interruption, promptly working on tickets and providing sophisticated monitoring to proactively detect service interruptions so it can inform the client.
The two partners worked especially close on what can prove a normal challenge – implementation. The Corporate Networks’ core design proved a challenge and it took about nine months to achieve.
“We were looking for something unique, a private enterprise cloud that could serve as our umbrella, and this was quite different,” explains Zeshan. Adds Ahsen: “We received constant and continuous support and if there were misunderstandings, there was no finger pointing.”
In other situations with other vendors, Corporate Networks was told that a situation that arose didn’t match the statement of work, “and unfortunately, we had to stick with the statement of work,” says Ahsen. “We never felt that for a second with Sungard AS.”
Instead, Corporate Networks found a leading-edge vendor who understood their desire to create a globally available private enterprise cloud for its own customers. “Sungard AS officials wanted us to stay on that path. They saw a future and a vision they hadn’t seen with other technology providers and they were intrigued,” adds Ahsen.
At the moment, Corporate Networks is launching a marketing campaign and reseller program for Surric in northern Alberta. The goal is to spread its services throughout North America. Its revenues have grown substantially in the past year and it now posts annual revenues of between $7 and 8 million.
One clear benefit for Corporate Networks is the talented senior technical staff it can rely upon at Sungard AS, and the fact that it didn’t have to staff its own datacenter 24/7.
Corporate Networks reduced its IT staff by nearly 40 percent to its present 22 IT professionals, and staff members can now serve clients better.
It’s too early to gauge how the new partnership is paying off on a returnon-investment basis since Corporate Networks just established its first client in late 2013. “Our ROI largely will depend, quite frankly, on how fast we can grow our client base and employ the infrastructure, which is meant for a large-scale cloud offering,” says Ahsen.
And as for whether he’s sleeping better, Ahsen agrees he is.