ViaWest Gets to Market 3x Faster With Cloud Elements
Industry: IT Infrastructure Services
Challenge: Legacy Platforms Operating Independently Require New Integration Solution
Solution: Cloud Elements Platform and CRM API Integration Services
“It would have taken 2-3 times as long to get to market without Cloud Elements. We would have had a steep learning curve, and potentially required additional manpower, to accomplish what we did with Cloud Elements.”
Jason Carolan, CTO, ViaWest
Cyclist, Dad and Cloud Guy
With 27 data centers across the U.S. and growing, ViaWest is rapidly scaling its Infrastructure- as-a-Service (IaaS) for IT to connect multiple cloud services. ViaWest’s growing cloud portfolio relied on the creation of a single platform to maintain and monitor end-users’ integration experience, including variable billing, managed data centers, and monitoring usage patterns. The goal was clear: bring all the cloud integrations into one single, easy-to-use platform for capturing and analyzing data. The results led to far more than originally expected.
Before we dive in, let’s take a closer look at ViaWest and its technical team’s fearless leader, Jason Carolan. Denver-based ViaWest, is one of the largest data center, managed services and cloud providers in the U.S. Carolan, self-proclaimed cyclist, dad, and cloud guy, took on the role as VP of Product Development in 2011, then soon after moved into his now-current role as CTO. Leading product and technology, Carolan wears three hats at ViaWest. First and foremost, he is in charge of product management around the cloud, or more simply put, “Managing the things we sell to customers and on which we generate revenue.” Second, Carolan is in charge of product development practices and processes; and third, internal IT and back office systems.
Carolan and his team of 25 technical experts set out to improve the managed services which reside on ViaWest’s cloud infrastructure, along with enhance the colocation services offered to ViaWest customers. In this hybrid cloud space, Carolan’s goals were to identify a viable cloud partner and create the most efficient, best-performing solutions for ViaWest customers. By partnering with Cloud Elements, ViaWest got to market 3x faster with new platforms for variable billing, future-proofing and data collection, and identity management.
Art of the Possible: Addressing Challenges
Before all this new cloud integration came about, the ViaWest legacy platforms were operating independently. Although this independency was sufficient for many years, integration challenges arose as ViaWest scaled to 27+ data centers,. “We knew our first project to tackle was variable billing. We needed to ensure customers were receiving accurate bills, and beyond that, we needed to provide our customers with an easy view into their usage of the data centers,” Carolan explains. ViaWest knew that inaccuracies in billing have a direct correlation to customer satisfaction – making this project an easy first target. Carolan also understood that today’s consumer prefers to pay for cloud services “by the drink”–in other words, pay by usage, not by estimate or lump sum.
When Carolan and his team first met with Cloud Elements, the team discussed The Art of the Possible —fancy lingo meaning, “let’s start fresh, clean-slate, where no idea is a bad idea.” In these initial meetings, both sides brainstormed on what the best user experience would look like. What were ViaWest customers looking for? What features would enhance its app, making it truly cooperative? And from those discussions, came the inception of the MVP, or minimum viable project, for variable billing.
Kick-Off For Implementation
The journey with Cloud Elements started with Cloud Elements’ CEO, Mark Geene, who walked the ViaWest team through a process of designing and building a MVP with Lean Product Development practices. Geene challenged the team to incorporate all stakeholders that would provide insight to user experiences.
A series of kickoff meetings (including rituals like daily standups, sprint planning and demos) led to the inception of a connected system with the usage and billing all-in-one. It was an MVP that was designed solely with a customer’s point of view in mind.
Cloud Elements’ developers worked alongside ViaWest developers and through those consultation sessions, ViaWest made extensive use of the Full API Interactive Documentation.
“Cloud Elements made the developer documentation easy to consume for our team, which we really appreciated when we needed to describe to our extended teams how our different systems were going to interact,” said Carolan.
"Cloud Elements made the developer documentation easy to consume for our team, which we really appreciated when we needed to describe to our extended teams how our different systems were going to interact."
Jason Carolan, CTO
Success Leading to Additional Projects
After the variable billing system was created and approved, the Cloud Elements and ViaWest teams partnered to design a framework for future-proofing services and that also addresses data collection. This was accomplished by using the Cloud Foundry platform, which is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), providing community members with a choice of clouds, frameworks and application services. As an open-source project, there is a broad community both contributing and supporting Cloud Foundry.
The framework for future proofing and data collection will provide developers using java a strong architectural platform that supports future growth. When kicking off this project, Carolan explained, “We chose to continue working with Cloud Elements on the Identity Management System for a lot of the same reasons we started on variable billing. We wanted to work with a cloud partner that can help build a scalable platform, and we all wanted to build something that could be customizable, and taken into the future.”
Four-Part Solution Set, and Growing
The four primary solutions created in partnership with Cloud Elements were cloud usage (and variable billing), identity management API services, a partner ordering platform and a hybrid support portal using Eloqua and SugarCRM systems.
“Cloud Elements’ expertise in designing cloud integrations gave us the ability to scope the work and create an MVP quickly. With Cloud Elements we can write once to the Cloud Elements uniform API and then use multiple times—a very important attribute when interacting with the CRM system.”
Success Measures By Results
ViaWest is more than just a numbers business. The results gained were evidenced by key improvements to customer experience. Carolan measures success by the team’s ability to deliver on budget and on time. “It would have taken 2-3 times as long to get to market without Cloud Elements. We would have had a steep learning curve, and potentially required additional manpower, to accomplish what we did with Cloud Elements.”
Words of Advice From Jason Carolan
“Be prepared for the unexpected. Who knew a productive session with Cloud Elements in designing MVPs would lead to our decision to involve the right people right from the beginning?” We shifted the way we plan and prioritize internally – and was definitely worth it to take the time to think clearly about the ‘Art of the Possible’ with Cloud Elements.”
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