Staring down an improbable timeline
When a U.S.-based manufacturing company found themselves in the middle of a divestiture from their Canadian parent company, they knew it was time to seek help. They were facing a tight deadline to get all new IT systems up and running but lacked the internal resources to get it done in time. Luckily, the equity firm managing their divestiture knew just where to send them.
The equity firm had done multiple projects with Insight in the past and had been pleased with the quality and consistency of work, as well as our highly organized project management. Knowing the client would be in good hands, they referred the company to Insight for all their IT needs.
In the scope of this engagement, the client needed help setting up their own Cisco® Unified Communications and Collaboration architecture and Software-Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) fabric. The client’s phone system and IT environment were still tied to the Canadian parent company — both needed to be completely migrated by March of 2021.
If they weren’t completely removed from the parent company’s systems by March, they’d face an astronomical fee to the tune of well over $200,000 a month. Additionally, if the project were to surpass the deadline, the client would be entirely cut off from support. Failure wasn’t an option.
Two workstreams in perfect tandem
According to Leah Dineen, Insight’s project manager for this initiative, “It was essential that we met the client’s deadline, and it was an aggressive date for us to hit.”
To deliver against this tight timeline, Insight proposed two workstreams to be handled by two Insight teams — one to complete the Cisco collaboration migration and the other to manage the SD-WAN enablement. We aimed to have both workstreams complete by early March.
Cisco collaboration workstream:
At the start of the project, the client’s collaboration services were still being managed by the parent company in Canada. Insight provided consulting services to plan, design, implement and support their collaboration migration for eight locations.
The locations had existing Cisco Unified Communications and Collaboration architecture, but each needed to be upgraded to the latest stable version (11.5 to 12.5). Data for 640 users also needed to be migrated to the Insight Cloud data center. Altogether, Insight teammates introduced the following new apps and services:
- Cisco Unified Communications Manager
- Cisco Unity® Connection unified messaging
- Cisco Jabber® instant messaging and presence
- Singlewire InformaCast® paging
- Mobile and Remote Access (MRA) with Cisco Expressway™
- Cisco Emergency Responder with RedSky E911 notification integration
The client had existing Fortinet® firewalls and wanted to add SD-WAN fabric on top of what they already had. According to Adam Hollifield, Insight’s technical architect on the SD-WAN project, “The firewalls were managed by the Canadian group, so there was a fair bit of transition there to get the configuration management from the Canadian group over to the U.S., but we got through it.”
The client also had no documentation from the parent company, so Insight provided operational turnover documentation at the close of the engagement.
We delivered the following services to complete this workstream:
- Fortinet SD-WAN configuration and implementation
- Introduction of FortiGate appliances
- Workload migration to the Insight Cloud
- FortiManager implementation for management of 12 sites
- SRST local failover services
- Detailed SD-WAN operational turnover documentation
Threats to the timeline
While Insight teams originally planned to execute the SD-WAN work prior to the collaboration initiative, licensing restrictions unexpectedly pushed out the SD-WAN timeline, forcing us to execute both projects concurrently ─ all within the same three weeks in February.
On top of that, the client’s parent company wouldn’t grant our technicians access to their systems. Without the ability to login to the collaboration environment, firewalls, VoIP servers, routers or expressways, Insight technicians were forced to setup screen shares and do over-the-shoulder work with the client’s team. According to Mike Rodd, Insight’s technical architect for the Cisco collaboration workstream, "We weren't able to get complete access to the Canadian group’s existing environment, so I had to shoulder surf via a Webex call and go screen by screen with one of their technicians to get all the data.”
The Insight team worked around these setbacks by building in additional engineering hours for manual work. Luckily, the client was fully cooperative, and we worked together through the holidays and over weekends to see the project finished on time.
Taking every opportunity to save on IT costs
To reduce IT costs, the client chose to use their existing Cisco switches and routers wherever possible. However, much of the hardware was at or near end of life and was no longer supported. Many devices weren’t capable of 1GB performance and wouldn't be useable with the client’s new wireless environment or desired future state.
The client originally wanted to extend support on these devices but, based on their goals, we recommended upgrading the hardware rather than extending support. The client took our advice and we’re now moving them from legacy Cisco gear to all Fortinet switches — but only as the devices come up against end of support.
The client will maintain a mixed environment between Cisco and Fortinet switches for now, while investing in modernization over time. By helping the client upgrade gradually rather than all at once, our team is helping them save an estimated $350,000 in hardware refresh and support costs.
Moving forward with Insight
This project was a success story for all involved. Despite some challenges to the timeline, the project scope, budget and schedule remained on track throughout the entire life of the project. This was thanks not only to Insight’s expert project management, but also the client’s willingness to work with our team.
“The client was so great to work with,” says Insight project manager, Leah Dineen. “They were on top of any requests we had and were right there with us to make sure there were no delays. It was just a great team to work with.” By the end of the engagement, we delivered the full scope of work on time and under budget, with 13 engineering hours to spare.
In addition to avoiding a potential $200,000 late fee, the client also benefitted from a major knowledge transfer. Since the parent company had always maintained their IT environment, there was a big learning curve for the client. They appreciated having Insight’s technical guidance and knowledge of best practices for both SD-WAN and Cisco Unified Communications and Collaboration.
“They didn't have an expert resource trained yet,” Mike said of the engagement, “so we brought them into whatever we were doing, making everything a teachable moment. Anytime I could share my screen or give them screenshots or walk them through any processes, that was just something I did throughout the life of the project. As part of our project wrap-up, we held a training session to take them through the entire system and walk them through all the major points they'd need to know going forward.”
The client was very pleased with the outcome of this initiative, praising the Insight team’s level of organization and commitment to customer service. Derek Rast, the client’s Insight Account Executive, summed it up best: “There were definitely hiccups, internally as well as externally, that weren't in our control. But Adam and Mike and the rest of our team exceeded all expectations to get this done with flawless timing and execution.”
The real proof of excellent service delivery, however, lies in the fact that the client isn’t done with us yet ─ there are more projects on the horizon to get excited about. Since their initial referral, the client has worked with Insight on multiple initiatives, including one recently completed for IBM Cloud® Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Insight Disaster Recovery and High Availability services.
Our teams look forward to continuing our work together in the future.