WCA Waste Transforms its IT Organization by moving Data Centres to Azure
WCA Waste is a solid waste management company providing waste collection, transfer, material processing and disposal services at home, at work, and in an array of commercial industries. Founded in 2000, they have grown rapidly, operating a fleet of 850+ vehicles across 12 states in the US. HQ’ed in Houston, TX, WCA Waste has a headcount of approx. 1400 employees.
State of the IT Environment
- 2 co-located on-prem data centers with approx. 200 VMs, owned and managed by WCA Waste
- Second data center was a DR site for critical applications, it wasn’t active-active and offered limited business continuity
- Highly virtualized with VMWare; Citrix for Virtual Desktops & App Delivery
- Hosted 2 complex ERP solutions – Epicor & Trux
- Robust data-warehouse for BI & financial / operational reporting
- On-prem workplace solutions – Exchange & SharePoint
Cloud Adoption Concerns
- Connectivity to remote sites/locations, interoperability with existing security and network appliances like Check Point
- Data protection and recovery and resiliency design
- Security, risk and gaps identified by business stakeholders
- Uncertain whether Epicor, Trux, Citrix and other un-supported OS/DB versions would run on Azure
- Uncertainty around Hyper-V support
WCAs Key Goals & Objectives
- Make IT more agile & business centric
- Move to a platform that can enable WCA IT Leadership’s digital transformation vision and support its next-gen technology initiatives
- Transform hosting environment with agile, elastically scalable, and secure infrastructure
- Enhanced UX that allow employees access to tools for enhanced collaboration, increased productivity, and the ability to apply insights to make intelligent data driven decisions
- Move to an efficient economic model (CAPEX to OPEX, Pay for Usage etc.)
- Build a resilient environment to ensure 24x7 availability
IT becomes a key business enabler
- WCA Waste is now on a platform that drives it digital transformation vision and support its next-generation technology initiatives (e.g. advanced big data analytics, IoT based remote tracking of waste bins/containers, predictive fleet maintenance management etc.)
- Saved approx. 40% in infra & hosting costs; RoI realized in 8 months
- The IT team is now able to respond faster to business requirements e.g: VM provision is now available in minutes (from days) and IoT or machine learning PoCs can now be available on-demand
- Scalability and flexibility offered by Azure has become key to supporting growth & M&A needs
- Reduced maintenance costs resulted in terminating 3rd party support contracts and reallocating resources to strategic business initiatives
An IT Environment inherited through acquisitions...
A key growth strategy for WCA Waste was expansion through acquisitions, and they did this successfully over several years to reach their current size and scale of operations.
"Our aggressive acquisition spree created an IT environment with limited standardization, inefficient integrations and operational and maintenance challenges. The environment wasn’t scalable or agile enough to support business needs and strategy. Lastly, it couldn't support next-gen capabilities like IoT or Big-Data Analytics and WCA’s upcoming transformational projects like IoT based remote tracking of waste bins/containers, predictive fleet maintenance etc." said Daniel Iturbe, Director of IT at WCA Waste.
Most of the data center infrastructure and networks were end-of-life and due for refresh. Co-located facility contracts were due for expiration and the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement (EA) was up for renewal.
Cloud Adoption was the Obvious choice, but not without concerns...
Moving to the Cloud was one of the most important strategic decisions the IT team at WCA Waste had to make. While it is well known that cloud adoption will deliver the widest and deepest impact on how organizations compete in the digital age, the IT team at WCA waste was fearful of the unknowns.
"We needed more clarity on true Azure costs and impact - migration costs, comparison between on-premise and cloud TCO and ROI/Cost-Savings, licensing/compliance implications, other additional/ancillary costs, and inputs for fiscal decisions like CAPEX vs OPEX. We need to be absolutely certain that we were making the Cloud transition for all the right reasons." Daniel Iturbe, WCA Waste.
The migration process also needed to be well defined with identification of risks and activities including project timelines and variance, limiting unplanned downtime or outages, risk of data loss during migration, application performance, training and reskilling existing staff, managing change and end-user experience, measuring success and cost savings.
Microsoft & Silicus Partner to Build a Cloud Driven IT Roadmap for WCA Waste...
Microsoft helped WCA Waste envision the new IT environment.
Key stakeholders were invited to the Microsoft Technology Center (MTC), that involved demos and scenarios (focused on Azure & Office 365), followed by technology drill-downs in key areas of concern (Security & compliance, Cost/ROI & governance, Data protection, recovery and resiliency).
Microsoft introduced the WCA team to Silicus to bring in expertise around conducting Asset Discovery to capture existing inventory and evaluate the current state of existing infrastructure/networks/apps/tools etc.
Silicus also assessed the feasibility, readiness and risks for a cloud migration of the WCA environment. Silicus developed a desired state architecture that covered connectivity, networks, security, network appliances, data protection and recovery, compliance and management/governance.
Silicus developed an Azure TCO and create detailed financial model that compares on-premise/cloud TCO’s and presents Cost/Savings and ROI plan. Next, WCA and Silicus jointly created a detailed migration plan with schedule, tasks, responsibilities, dependencies and risk mitigation clearly identified.
Proof of Concept followed by Phased Cutover to the New Environment
The execution phase started with a PoC to validate feasibility and readiness for ERPs (Epicor & Trux) & Citrix deployed on Azure (& Hyper V environment). Performance & end-user experience was validated against the acceptance metrics and pass/fail criteria.
With the PoC seen as a success, Silicus developed a final business plan and presented to the CFO, IT Steering Committee, PE Firm’s IT Advisor, and Field Operations (users of ERP).
Silicus built out the core environment and incrementally migrated applications to Azure in a phased manner. Key infrastructure components migrated included Windows & Linux OS Servers and SQL Server DBs.
Each phase was project managed with tight testing and feedback loops. A controlled cutover during a planned downtime/maintenance window was affected to minimize business disruptions. The on-prem datacenter was decommissioned.
Living with the New Environment – Change Management & Ongoing Improvements...
Silicus created a detailed knowledge transition plan with documentation to enable/train WCAs IT team. Once the environment was stable, the support was transitioned to the support team (in this case Silicus Managed Services team).
The whole project was completed in less than 4 months and delivered on-time and schedule.
Silicus also built a robust Disaster Recovery (DR) and Business Continuity (BC) environment using ASR (Azure Sire Recovery) to meet WCA’s Data Protection and DRBC & resiliency goals.
The next phase of digital transformation involved migrating the customer from on-premise Exchange Server over to Office 365.