The Best of Both Worlds: Building a Next-Generation Managed and Self-Service Cloud Solution to Serve Nordic Businesses
As a lead service architect, I want to work with the best technology available. When I solve problems and present solutions to our customers and our management, it’s much easier to say, “Here’s the best of the best. Let me show you what it can do.”
I work for TietoEVRY, a managed services provider headquartered in Finland and serving banking and insurance, public sector, healthcare, and retail customers in Finland, Sweden, and Norway. We are a leading digital service and software company with a local presence and global capabilities, and we celebrate our Nordic values as the core of our success.
Moving SAP to the Cloud
I joined the company in 2008 as an SAP basis administrator and helped build a platform called Tieto Dynamic Landscape, which we still use today, specifically for SAP. In 2012, we started to play with SAP HANA, an in-memory database that quickens real-time decision making. Unfortunately, SAP HANA ran on a dedicated appliance at the time. That meant we had to buy a dedicated box for every customer, which was expensive and took up a lot of space in our data center.
As a service provider, we’d rather host multiple customers on a server or offer a cloud-oriented product that doesn’t require specific hardware. In 2013, SAP announced Tailored Data Center Integration (TDI), which leveraged infrastructure from certified third-party vendors. With this new technology, we moved away from the appliance model and started offering a more cloud-based deployment of SAP HANA.
It was a challenging and complex process. To build our cloud-based SAP managed service, we needed to find providers that offered extensive integration with vendor provided storage. We looked at several vendors, including . Cisco had a validated design built with the NAS storage we used and showed the biggest commitment to our project and a clear vision of how the solution should be built. After extensive conversations with all possible vendors, Cisco’s commitment and vision led us to believe they’d be the perfect foundation for our best-in-class SAP solution.
A Platform That Gives Customers What They Want
It marked the beginning of a partnership that would blossom in 2018. That was the year we started building a new IaaS solution, One Cloud Platinum (OCP). This platform is based on Cisco UCS (Unified Computing System), which combines x86-architecture servers, networking and storage, hardware, virtualization support, switching fabric, and management software in a single system. OCP offers a self-service public cloud layer atop our managed service private cloud model, giving our customers the best of both worlds.
Having OCP is like having a car that can switch from a stick shift to an automatic transmission. Some customers want us to handle their infrastructure. Others would rather add storage and compute, spin up VMs, and manage bandwidth on their own. And there’s a group of customers who fall somewhere in the middle, asking us to manage some of their services while they oversee part of their infrastructure themselves.
Unlike AWS, which is entirely focused on self-service, our OCP solution eliminates headaches by letting our customers choose what they want to do on their own and what they’d rather leave to us.
Scaling in Scope and Size
There was a learning curve when moving to Cisco UCS and setting up OCP. We spent a lot of time figuring out how orchestration and automation worked and then putting our newfound knowledge to practical use. Fortunately, Cisco offers proven technology and excellent support, which freed my engineers to build the platform from scratch.
In all, it took almost a year to go from our initial concept to rolling out OCP for our customers in Finland. In 2020, we made it available to our users in Sweden. It was a huge step forward for TietoEVRY and a tremendous boon for our enterprise customers in Northern Europe.
Our primary driver for choosing UCS was improving our existing experience and creating a validated design with NetApp storage. We liked the concept of server profiles and the early native 40 Gbps support. Today, we like the modern architecture with UCS domains and the ADDDC implementation integrated with VMware Proactive HA—all of which is especially important for big SAP servers. We also appreciate Cisco’s technical support when we face architectural or implementation challenges.
Cisco UCS transformed the scale of our operations. We started with 10 servers and 10 terabytes of RAM capacity. Today, our data center comprises 600 Cisco UCS servers running 21,000 CPU cores connected to 508 terabytes of RAM. We are the biggest service provider in the Nordic countries and the number one player in several key industries. For example, 80% of the Finnish grocery industry manages their supply chains using SAP running on our infrastructure. We also provide IT services for Finland’s forestry industry, which is responsible for 20% of our country’s total exports.
The Right Mix of Managed IT and Self-Service
TietoEVRY works hard to provide the right mix of self-service and managed IT infrastructure and applications to companies driving Nordic economies. We recently launched a web-based self-service portal, where our customers can manage their infrastructure using intuitive dashboards. We update OCP every three weeks and include a detailed list of features on the portal.
Using the portal, our customers can monitor and configure their network, CPU, and storage consumption, get an overview of the health of their infrastructure, and drill down to the individual server level. But that’s not all. We have also given them access to TietoEVRY’s API, so they can see what’s happening on their front end and back end and even build their own custom automations on top of our managed services.
The portal also provides ways for our customers to control their expenses. They can shut down servers and network connections over the weekend—including servers managed by TietoEVRY—to reduce the cost for the service during times when the server is not needed. This is a great feature, but we also try to steer customers away from thinking in terms of outlay costs. Instead of calculating how much money they spend for CPU or a disaster recovery solution, I ask our customers to think about how much money they would lose if their services stopped working.
We guarantee 99.99% availability for OCP, and we guarantee performance, and that comes at a price. But what would it cost if a critical application or one of our customer’s websites was offline for three hours? What if their production environment stopped working for two days? When they calculate these costs and realize the total cost of ownership, TietoEVRY customers see that OCP is a bargain compared to what they stand to lose.
The Best of the Best
When choosing vendors, we practice what we preach. We use various vendors, but TietoEVRY is a loyal Cisco customer because they are the best of the best. We rely on Cisco engineers Mika Meritähti and Lauri Toropainen to guide us through best practices on Cisco UCS. We also count on Cisco Smart Net Total Care for 24/7 hardware support, online technical resources, integrated asset management, and new Cisco APIs that allow us to expand the scope of our products and services. We have quarterly business reviews with Cisco, dozens of technical sessions every year, and bi-weekly meetings to ensure that everything is working as it should.
Cisco is an industry leader with a vast repertoire of technical expertise and a mastery of complex environments. They have gone from being a vendor to a trusted partner who supplies us with top-tier technology to serve our customers better.
When it comes to cutting-edge products, outstanding service, and full cooperation every step of the way, Cisco can’t be beat. Cisco UCS is the bedrock of our OCP platform, and with Cisco at our side, we are transforming business in the Nordic countries.