Ed Broking is a wholesale insurance and reinsurance broker, sourcing policies and coverage across a broad range of industries. Based in London, Ed Broking operates a number of international offices to support their global operations. Faced with replacing an ageing hosted server system, Ed Broking took the decision to move to fully hosted Microsoft Azure platform. This is their story.
When the time came to make a decision on how to replace our ageing hosted infrastructure, it quickly became clear that a public cloud service would provide the most strategic benefits. Our business has been moving steadily towards a DevOps mode of operation – at least in the IT unit – but the inflexibility of our existing hosted server set-up was proving problematic.
Our old set-up allowed us to create virtual machines whenever we wanted, but this caused a knock-on performance problem for other production machines. The infinite scalability of Microsoft Azure was hugely attractive – our developers can now spin-up and delete machines whenever they want without affecting production services.
Azure gives us a guaranteed level of service on a per-app basis – unthinkable when we were running our own environment.
Doing more with less
One of the biggest problems we faced with the hosted server approach was the way that Ops overwhelmed Dev. Our team was constantly managing and maintaining servers and updating software and operating systems. This meant pulling resources away from the development projects that will help Ed Broking reach its aggressive growth goals.
With managed Azure services, that is no longer our problem – Navisite provide 24x7x365 coverage. We get improved management and flexibility, and they deal with the underlying platform that makes everything work. We can continue the corporate goal of running lean without risking the integrity of our operations or development projects.
Speaking about the migration to Office 365, Mike Clapham, Network Analyst at Ed Broking also noted the benefits of a managed service:
“When extended support for Microsoft Exchange 2013 expired, Ed Broking was left with the daunting task of carrying out an upgrade. Not only would this be costly in terms of time and resources, but also short-lived. An upgrade to Exchange 2017 seems pointless when 2019 is due out in the next few months.
Instead we decided to change our model, moving from a version we maintain ourselves to Office 365. Not only do we get the upgrade we need, but when Exchange 2019 is released, we will be upgraded automatically. Which takes two loads off our DevOps team.”
A surprisingly simple transition
Migrating users to Azure has been surprisingly easy – thanks to our partners at Navisite. By carrying out all the initial pre-configuration, we have been able to migrate servers, data and user accounts at our own pace. Despite the incredibly tight project timeline, everything has passed off relatively smoothly.
Importantly, users notice barely any difference once they have been moved to Azure. The only comments we do get are about a noticeable increase in system performance.
Tips from one Head of DevOps to another
There are a number of lessons we have learned on the journey to Azure. It goes without saying that before the migration gets under way, you need to have a workable contingency plan in place. And you should be prepared for the best laid plans to change as the project progresses.
The CTO will be under pressure to control costs at every stage of the project, but the cost base will change – almost certainly upwards. Your job is to remind the board that this is a strategic investment that will help to reduce capital spend and operational costs over the long term.
Finally, don’t stress. With the right migration partner in place there is always another way to solve problems that have not been accounted for in your project plan. Choose you partner very, very carefully because they will make your job easier or harder depending on their culture, attitude, experience and knowledge.