Multi-cloud strategy: The next frontier for IT channel partners

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Brother International Europe taps Ensono for hybrid cloud

Ensono, a hybrid IT services provider, migrated an electronics firm's SAP and Sitecore applications to a private cloud and Amazon Web Services, respectively.

Brother International Europe traces its roots all the way back to 1908, when the Brother Group began providing repair services for sewing machines. But the corporate culture is anything but old school. As Brother has expanded its product line to include printers, fax machines and scanners among other devices and services, the global firm has also deployed core technologies, recognizing they help cultivate new markets and maintain a competitive posture.

Recently, Brother International Europe began working with managed IT and cloud services provider Ensono on a hybrid cloud deployment to migrate its SAP applications onto its private cloud service, Ensono Cloud. The migration includes the electronics firm's production, disaster recovery and testing environments. In addition, Ensono is overseeing the migration of Brother's Sitecore application, which handles web content management and multichannel marketing automation, to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

"We approached Ensono because we needed to migrate mission-critical SAP business applications to the cloud in order to meet evolving, fast-paced customer needs," said Ian Metcalfe, executive director of Brother International Europe. "We were looking to significantly reduce the release lifecycle of new web functionality and procurement strategies."

He added the move was strategic because "infrastructure drives business agility, which is the basis of innovation in any global organization today."

Ian Metcalfe, executive director of Brother International EuropeIan Metcalfe

Brother felt Ensono Cloud was the right place for its SAP environment initially, because it provides "the lowest risk migration path," Metcalfe said. With Ensono's help, "we will plan to move these services to the public cloud in the near future."

Brother International Europe restarts public cloud plan

Brother had a public cloud strategy, Metcalfe said, "however, we hadn't heavily embraced it, so we were looking for the first application to migrate." In discussions with Ensono officials, Metcalfe said they decided Sitecore was "the perfect workload in order to leverage the scalability and flexibility of AWS, which proved to be a huge benefit for Brother."

Moving Sitecore to AWS provided "significantly more flexibility to manage the runtime environment and contain costs," agreed Tim Beerman, CTO at Ensono. "The production environment can be scaled automatically as appropriate, to meet usage demands without having to oversize the environment."

Using AWS also allows non-production environments to be spun down when not in use, which reduces costs, Beerman added. "While we don't currently do it today with Brother, it would be possible for the environment on Ensono Cloud to leverage a public cloud for disaster recovery resources."

Brian Klingbeil, executive vice president of technology and strategy at EnsonoBrian Klingbeil

The hybrid cloud environment is being managed through Ensono's "modus operandi method of operating," regardless of platform used, said Brian Klingbeil, executive vice president of technology and strategy at Ensono. This is Ensono's approach to ITSM services, some of which are off the shelf and some that are proprietary, he said.

Ensono M.O. correlates events down to a single issue and then looks for any changes that may have just occurred, so Ensono officials can zero in on a problem to make a fix. "It's not just change management; it correlates problem management -- keeping track of something that's happened 15 times in one month, for example," Klingbeil explained.

Multi-cloud strategy

There are a couple different options to link the clouds together: one is through an encrypted virtual private network over the internet, Beerman said. "AWS direct connect would be an option to explore as well," he added.

Our aim is to move more to public cloud ... with a partner who knows what they are doing.
Ian Metcalfeexecutive director, Brother International Europe

While the Ensono Cloud and Ensono platforms can communicate, the purpose of the hybrid strategy was not to integrate the two platforms, Metcalfe noted. "Our aim is to move more to public cloud ... with a partner who knows what they are doing."

The multiple-cloud model is based on the idea of creating arbitrage or flipping between cloud vendors, Klingbeil said. Yet, he said he believes there is a "reasonably to very competitive environment between public cloud providers," so there will not be much difference in price.

"Time is much better spent refining/tuning your environment where it sits than messing about with flipping back and forth," he observed. "We typically find clients significant savings when we take over their AWS or Azure environments, so I believe time is much better spent there."

Trying to arbitrarily move an application from one cloud platform to another just because one provider lowered their price introduces unnecessary complexity and risk, Beerman added. "Moving platforms is possible and sometimes necessary, but penny-pinching to save a few bucks because it happens to be cheaper at any given time" is not worth it, he said.  

Ensono decided to offer this managed multiple-cloud services model because almost all enterprise IT departments have both legacy applications that run their business and new applications they are developing to compete, so it is a "rapidly evolving market," Beerman said.

"It has become clear to Ensono that the enterprise often needs help leveraging new platforms like the cloud to gain the most value," he said. Many of the tasks of running and managing a public cloud platform, such as financial governance, tuning, patching and 24x7 support, are no different than they are on distributed systems, "so we believe that offering a full suite of infrastructure managed services from mainframe all the way to the public cloud is a significant value add for our clients."

Brother now has 27 systems on Ensono Cloud, including its main ERP application -- SAP Enterprise Central Component -- CRM and business intelligence.

Although it is still early in the hybrid cloud deployment, the approach is already generating a return on investment for Brother International Europe. Metcalfe said that return specifically stems from a performance improvement in the company's main SAP applications, which is reducing processing times in the back office.

"We have seen significant improvements in our website performance," he said. Perhaps most satisfying of all is "the time to stand up new environments; this taking a matter of a couple of hours" as opposed to previously, when it took weeks, he said.

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