Building a private cloud for government agency Wigo4it
Building a private cloud for an IT service provider of the four major cities of the Netherlands presents many challenges, but the real work only comes when the technology is deployed put to use. As IT architect Jean-Paul van der Ham says: “I found building a private cloud for Wigo4it the nicest, most challenging and most educational project of my life! I would do a few things differently next time. “
Since the decentralization of social assistance in 2009, many municipalities have been collaborating with each other in this area. The four major cities, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht, are a prime example. There is a joint organization for improving digital services to everyone in social assistance: Wigo4it. In practice, they are mainly busy with the management and building of municipal applications and with initiatives to improve IT services.
From data center to private cloud
Because of the shared services to several cities at the same time, Wigo4it has been working with its own private data center for years. They are now switching to a private cloud, where many processes are automated. The benefits are great: More (freedom of choice) for the staff by introducing, among other things, self-service and the automation of work processes.
As an IT architect, Jean-Paul was responsible for the design of the Cloud environment. He ensures that agreements are met and that the development team can work as efficiently as possible. The core of the project was the SDDC, an abbreviation for Software-Defined Data Center. With this you can automate and organize almost any kind of work, all accessible from a self-service portal.
Jean-Paul: “The data center consists of three blocks, namely: computer power, storage and network. Since these areas all are specialties in their own right, we put together a team that included experts in each of these areas. The entire construction is primarily based on VMware ESX, vRealize suite and NSX. ”
“The challenge was mainly that this private cloud had to work as well as any reputable private cloud, such as Azure or AWS. On the one hand, that makes it a very interesting assignment. Who doesn’t want to build their own Azure? On the other hand, there are few best practices from it. Especially when it comes to procedures. In order to limit the risks, we have technically made use of proven technologies and software, with all documentation, updates and support being properly arranged. ”
An artistic vision
The focus of the assignment was mainly on execution, Jean-Paul’s said; “The main thing is how you make the three blocks of computer power, storage and network work together within a private cloud. How do you organize them in such a way that they function optimally towards the user? This is not just about installing some software, it requires an almost artistic vision to design and coordinate all functions so that they achieve the common goal. ”
Drastic cultural change
Just when Jean-Paul felt he was getting a grip on the situation, obstacles presented themselves; “Technology is certainly a major challenge,” explains Jean-Paul. “But pales in comparison to the challenge getting the entire organization involved in this drastic change in work. To give an example: the developers can now generate their orders automatically with the self-service portal. This makes it a catalyst that is needed for the intended cultural change from Wigo4it to a DevOps organization. It changes roles, responsibilities and many work processes. “
This is also the most important learning point Jean-Pau takes away from the project; “If I do such an assignment again, I would first teach the (future) users how to handle their new technology and then implement it. In addition, it is important to clearly communicate why this transformation is needed and what they can benefit from it. ”
An assignment with potential for the future
For Jean-Paul, the importance of this assignment cannot be underestimated. “With the construction of this private cloud, we have entered new territory. At the same time, it is an area that is promising for the future. There are a huge number of companies and organizations that now have their own data center and will switch to a private cloud to a greater or lesser extent, with all the associated benefits. It is still an innovative step, with few best practices to follow. We had to determine the rules ourselves and that made this project the most fun, challenging and educational that I have ever carried out! ”
Are you also considering switching or using a private cloud? And can you use some extra expertise for this? Then contact one of our experts for more information.