Australian cloud services firm, Emantra, wanted to improve infrastructure monitoring and management, so it could respond faster to customer demand. In 2012, the firm deployed System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, using Orchestrator to automate server
provisioning, and Service Manager to log jobs. With a Control Panel built from System Center tools, licence costs are lower, server management is faster and easier, and customers enjoy a more seamless, responsive service.
As a specialist private cloud solutions provider, Emantra is helping transition corporate Australia onto the cloud. The company started in 2005, offering Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint using the Software-as-a-Service delivery model. Keeping with the Microsoft
stack, the company expanded to Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offerings, using Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V for both server and desktop virtualization. Today, the company also provides Microsoft SQL Server and Microsoft Windows Server options in a
shared or private Platform-as-a-Service configuration.
||We used to do a lot of manual provisioning, but System Center 2012 now does all the provisioning automatically. As a result, setting up new customer services takes minutes, not hours—that’s a big change.
| Ross Dewar
Competition is fierce and Emantra focuses on quality of service to differentiate itself. “We are agile and we are fast, and having deep expertise in Microsoft products has helped us build a strong customer base in large enterprises and government,” says Ross
Dewar, Owner-Founder, Emantra. “We are also strong in the B2B sector, with many ISV [Independent Software Vendor] customers.”
The firm’s service differentiator means Emantra employees need to provision new servers quickly. “Whether it’s raw servers that need to be virtualized, or a pre-populated SharePoint server for a customer internet site, our key challenge is to monitor each
customer’s environment efficiently, and rapidly respond to changes in demand,” says Cameron McFie, Co-owner.
To manage and provision servers, Emantra deployed Microsoft System Center Operations Manager, and Systems Center Configuration Manager. As their cloud service portfolio grew, however, the firm needed to supplement these modules with additional monitoring
and service desk tools, and a third-party control panel.
“Server provisioning across all our services areas took too long,” says McFie. “It took us thirty minutes to manually provision a virtual server, which was definitely too long. Also, we wanted to standardise our service desk processes to help us work through
service tasks methodically.”
In early 2012 Emantra deployed System Center 2012 Service Pack 1. Besides the newer operations and configuration-manager capabilities, McFie and Dewar deployed two additional System Center modules.
“Microsoft System Center Orchestrator is a workflow management solution, through which we can automatically provision new servers in our datacentre,” says McFie. “We also adopted System Center Service Manager. This helps us manage job tickets and keep a
detailed log of all our activities. With Service Manager we can also execute backups straight from our Help Desk.”
System Center 2012 also includes Virtual Machine Manager, which provides a centralised management tool for all the firm's virtualized server environments. As a result, Emantra staff can more easily monitor and optimise server utilisation across all their
Dewar and McFie used tools in System Center to develop their own cloud service control panel. “We used Orchestrator tools to build the control panel,” says McFie. “It provides Emantra staff and customers with centralised monitoring for each application
environment,” says McFie.
With System Center 2012, Emantra is servicing customers faster, drastically reducing licensing costs, and creating products that increase customer choice.
Improved Customer Responsiveness
Emantra can now create raw and populated servers in seconds, rather than the thirty minutes required previously. “We used to do a lot of manual provisioning, but System Center 2012 now does all the provisioning automatically,” says McFie. “As a result, setting
up new customer services takes minutes, not hours—that’s a big change.”
“System Center has had a big impact on our business,” adds Dewar. “We host a state government website on a SharePoint server: if our control panel indicates peak capacity, Orchestrator will instantly provision another without us or the customer intervening.”
Emantra now offers an improved infrastructure service. “With our new control panel, customer administrators can provision servers themselves in seconds, selecting their own RAM, CPU and HDD. This allows customers to self-service—and perform the task in seconds.
“We have also increased our ability to offer Hyper-V as a viable alternative to customers who are used to VMware, especially since the tools to migrate between the two are in-built. Overall, we now have far more advanced IaaS capabilities. The result is
a highly-responsive service for our customers.”
By using System Center tools to create new features, Emantra has reduced costs and improved business management. “All the tools required to build our new control panel were already present in System Center,” says McFie. “This means we haven’t needed to purchase
a separate job system or other monitoring tools, and can terminate existing licences.
“The job-management features in Service Manager have operational benefits too,” he adds. “With all our activities logged, platforms are easily audited, which improves internal administration.”
New Commercialisation Opportunities
The control panel Emantra devised has proved so useful, Dewar and McFie are now commercialising it. “We want our customers to be able to do everything with their off-premises infrastructure that they used to be able to do when it was on-premise,” says Dewar.
“Using a customer version of the control panel, they will be able to control everything from file and print servers to new desktop deployments, even though we are hosting those servers.”
“It should make a big difference to our ISV customers, who want a high degree of server control,” he adds. “With a System Center-based control panel, we give them the power they need with none of the hassle.”
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