2 page Case Study
Posted: 12/18/2013
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Sustainalytics Global Firm Uses Platform-as-a-Service Solution to Increase Flexibility and Reduce Time-to-Market

Sustainalytics, a global responsible-investment research firm, wanted to find new technology to support its internal solutions for processing and delivering data. To improve flexibility, availability, and security, the firm switched from an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solution to a platform-as-a- service (PaaS) solution based on the Windows Azure cloud platform. It has trimmed costs by up to 50 percent and cut time-to-market for new features by 75 percent, while increasing flexibility and automating management tasks. In addition, IT employees are more productive, and the firm has solid local support.

Business Needs

Sustainalytics helps clients turn vast quantities of environmental, social, and governance information into insightful, value-added analysis that can be used to make more informed investments and business decisions.

In 2012 and 2013, Sustainalytics was named Best Independent Responsible Investment firm in the Thomson Reuters Extel survey.

The firm relies on its proprietary Sustainalytics Online Global Platform to scan thousands of information sources, extract and filter data according to complex criteria, and direct that data to analysts. The platform is updated by a team of software developers, who deliver new features every two weeks. Sustainalytics wanted to support the platform with the most current technology. “Online Global Platform is an essential element for the success of Sustainalytics. This is why we make sure that it is operational 24 hours a day, is easily scalable, and offers global access and the same speed of response regardless of region or load,” explains Claudiu Tănăsescu, Global Director ICT, Sustainalytics. “In order to maintain this, we envision adopting state-of-the-art technologies and keeping the platform permanently up-to-date.”

Initially, the platform ran on internal servers at Share Dimension, a technical partner of Sustainalytics that eventually became part of the firm. However, this was not an efficient operational model. For example, an internal Sustainalytics team was managing maintenance and support, which put pressure on the team.

Moreover, the costs of securing hardware and power supply redundancy were high. “Technically, we were unable to sustain the service level agreements required by customers, which at a business level affects our reputation.” states Tănăsescu.

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* With the use of new technologies, the barriers to international commerce crumble at a dazzling pace. Cloud computing suits us perfectly, and Windows Azure offers us extraordinary flexibility. *

Claudiu Tănăsescu
Global Director ICT
Sustainalytics

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Solution

In order to gain flexibility and availability, Sustainalytics chose to migrate the Online Global Platform from its own infrastructure to the cloud.

The firm first migrated to an Amazon Web Services IaaS solution, which eliminated the investment in infrastructure and brought flexibility in terms of adding or removing resources. However, the solution made it challenging to control virtual machines and establish a security policy at the firewall level. And while the test environment for development was easy to provision and use, putting new features into production caused too much downtime.

In 2013, to address these issues and gain more flexibility and automation, the Sustainalytics technical team switched to a PaaS solution based on the Windows Azure cloud platform. “An advantage of migrating to Windows Azure is the ability to configure roles that define virtual machines for running a specific set of instructions,” says Tănăsescu. “Contracting services based on roles, rather than virtual machines, allows increased flexibility in terms of costs.”

Sustainalytics was also attracted to the solution’s ease of management. “Another important element in our decision was the possibility to combine load balancing and autoscale features in order to turn off virtual machines when the load drops under certain values, which has a relevant impact on costs,” says Tănăsescu. “Furthermore, Azure provides a virtual private network and good control of firewalls and ports. This is important because our IT team comprises mainly software developers and not many network specialists.”

Benefits

With Windows Azure, Sustainalytics has reduced costs and lowered time-to-market for new features, and it has increased flexibility and automated management tasks. In addition, the firm’s IT employees are more productive, and the company receives solid support from Microsoft.

Cuts Costs by 35–50 Percent, Reduces Time-to-Market by 75 Percent

Windows Azure Cloud Services is helping Sustainalytics reduce costs. ”I estimate a cost reduction of 35–50 percent following the migration to Windows Azure, because the load balancing and autoscale features allow for a more efficient use of resources,” states Tănăsescu.

Using Windows Azure, the company can also publish applications and deploy new versions directly from Microsoft Team Foundation Server, which reduces time-to-market for new features. “We shortened the downtime caused by new feature deployment from 4 hours to just 1 hour,” says Tănăsescu. “Previously, the process was done over the weekend and influenced the schedule of the entire team.”

Increases Flexibility

For Sustainalytics, migrating to Windows Azure resulted in more flexibility in developing the company’s platform. “We are a micro-multinational, in the sense that we have the complexity and geographic dispersion of a large multinational, with the challenges of a small enterprise. However, with the use of new technologies, the barriers to international commerce crumble at a dazzling pace.” says Tănăsescu. “Cloud computing suits us perfectly, and Windows Azure offers us extraordinary flexibility.”

Boosts Productivity and Offers Fast Access to Support Services

By using Windows Azure to automate processes, Sustainalytics has simplified IT management, eliminating a number of routine operations. As a result, team members who manage the Online Global Platform are more productive. Tănăsescu says, “I estimate an average monthly gain of about 20 work hours for each employee involved in the management of the platform, because Windows Azure allows the automation of many processes, from configuring a virtual private network to the maintenance of the SQL Server database. We even plan to automate the test environment.”

Sustainalytics also receives strong support from Microsoft, including local training, communications, and contact with specialists. “The existence of local support is very important, because it means fast feedback and personal contacts,” says Tănăsescu. “With Microsoft, I am confident that my team can rapidly find answers to any problem or situation.”

This case study is for informational purposes only.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 150 employees

Organization Profile

Headquartered in Amsterdam, Sustainalytics is an award-winning global responsible-investment research firm specializing in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) research and analysis. Sustainalytics operates in 12 countries across three continents.


Software and Services
Microsoft Azure

Vertical Industries
IT Services

Country/Region
Netherlands

Business Need
  • Cloud & Server Platform
  • Business Critical

IT Issue
High Availability

Languages
English

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