Allianz Australia embraces IT-as-a-service

Infrastructure manager Jonathan Buckley says the IT department treats Allianz business units as its customers

Allianz Australia’s IT department has moved to a service-oriented model where IT provides for the needs of the business in a timely fashion.

Allianz Australia's infrastructure manager, Jonathan Buckley, told Computerworld Australia that the move to IT-as-a-service followed the roll out of a Microsoft private cloud platform at its data centre in November 2013.

“The cloud platform offers fully-automated orchestration and service provisioning, and the IT department has started using the highly scalable solution for primary workloads and backups,” he said.

According to Buckley, the IT department treats other Allianz Australia business units as “our customers”.

“If we can do things quicker, faster and smarter, that is going to give benefits to the business,” he said.

A good example of this faster service is how IT helped the Allianz Australia developer team.

“We do a lot of in-house development and with agile methodologies there is always that need to have speed of turnaround," said Buckley.

"When people put a request in for a [IT] service and it takes a certain amount of time. Because you don’t have some of these capabilities in play, it can be quite a lengthy process and it could go through a lot of multiple hands before it is delivered,” said Buckley.

“We look at that [process] and say, `Can we improve that turnaround time?’ and `how can we make it easier and quicker for that particular department?'”

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The IT department delivered infrastructure-as-a-service to its developer team so they could self-provision services as they need to do.

“That [infrastructure-as-a-service] has taken a lot of management overhead from my engineers who were doing that work. It has freed them up to look at other ways of automation and innovation,” he said.

The IT department is now looking at database-as-a-service. In the future, other departments in the company could create their own SQL servers in the private cloud.

“Before we undertook this project with Microsoft, provisioning new services would typically involve multiple teams, working over multiple weeks. Now with Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V and System Centre 2012, provisioning tends to take a couple of minutes,” he said.

The introduction of the private cloud has also lead to some cost savings in the company’s data centre due to a reduction in servers.

“We have had a 20 per cent reduction in server rack space in the data centre. By the end of 2015, we expect to have reduced the costs of running our data centre by 38 per cent, and for this to increase to 42 per cent a year later,” he said.

Now that Microsoft is offering Azure from data centres in New South Wales and Victoria, Buckley is exploring ways in which he could implement a hybrid cloud as an extension of the private cloud environment.

For example, the IT department is currently migrating some legacy applications – including SQL, Citrix and x86 Linux-based environments – into its private cloud. This migration will be complete by 31 January 2015.

Buckley also welcomed the move by Microsoft to host Office 365 and Dynamics CRM in Australia from March 2015.

“I think that shows to me that companies in Australia are worried about where data is at rest. The hosting companies have seen a need to place those services within country. I think you will see more take-up of those services over time,” he said.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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