Your Move to the Cloud: An Interview with Fulcrum Technologies’ Paul Haury

Fulcrum Technologies IT Director Paul Haury sits down with Noel Wurst to explain what made Fulcrum look to the cloud to alleviate the pain points they were experiencing in the field of enterprise asset management. Learn how Fulcrum’s dev/test teams in particular were able to do their job faster, and at a higher quality after moving their environments to the cloud.

Noel: Hello, this is Noel Wurst with Skytap and I am sitting here today with Paul Haury from Fulcrum Technologies. Fulcrum is one of Skytap’s customers, and I wanted to sit down with him and learn more about what Fulcrum does, what they’re working on these days and how they made their decision to go into the cloud. How are you today?

Paul: I’m quite well. Having a good time at the conference.

Noel: Yeah, it’s been really great. It’s been awesome. So, what is Fulcrum doing nowadays? What’s something you guys are working on right now and excited about?

Paul: Well, we have a lot going on. First, what we do is we enable utilities and telecoms to keep track of assets in real time and interface with enterprise systems like SAP and PeopleSoft. We have 3 out of 4 of the largest wireless carriers and, actually, one of the largest utilities that we provide software services for.

Noel: So, what were you doing before you made the decision to embrace the cloud? What kind of pain points were you experiencing that made you want to look into seeing if the cloud was an option for you guys?

Paul: It turned out that cloud technologies started to gel in the right way for us, really at the right time when we having problems. The next element was our customers and our integration points, it’s enterprise software and it has fingers everywhere. It’s complex. We wanted to make our test environment a lot smoother.

What that means is mimicking a customer environment in an enterprise setting as close as possible. We had done this before with our own metal, but we’re talking databases of 60 to 110 gigabytes. That movement of data takes forever, as you’re setting up a dev environment and a parallel test and a UAT and whatever else. So, what we did is started mimicking this stuff in Skytap. Literally, from a cloud usage, taking stuff done, copying it, replicating it was an element that made life really easy. You do have to deal with WAN issues because it’s not on private zone, but you know what? The benefit you get outweighs that maybe a slight delay in connectivity because of WAN elements not to mention the ability to replicate systems at a much faster rate. We’re talking minutes vs. what could be 2 to 3 days.

On a side note, what also was nice to work in a company dedicated to creating cloud services was, as we’ve grown and worked with Skytap, you guys have increased different abilities. The one we like is NAT. We have now absolute identical environments. Some of these things are 3/4 ‘s of a terabyte. We can replicate those in less than 2 minutes.

Noel: That’s awesome. Yeah, it’s always really cool to show people the demos at the conferences like this. When they hear you can replicate data test environments and they just say, “Well, yeah, that’s what the cloud allows you to do,” but then they see how quickly it can be done. I don’t think they have any idea it’s going to be done literally in seconds like that.

Paul: The cool part of that is now you’ve got this team and they have momentum. They’re cruising along. If you have to stop, like in our case, which before was just to build these huge setups then meticulously try to make sure they’re actually the same. Now, it’s like, “go ahead and copy your subs.” We actually make a sub serve from them so that they can do it. They don’t have to rely on our group to do that. We just make sure that the core is in place when they actually do their stuff now, and maybe batch some systems, but once those go into play, they get to roll it out. They get to set it up, spin it up, tear it down and they don’t have resource conflicts, which is also another cool element.

We would have settings where you would have different testing going on and they’d all be hitting the server at the same time. Well, if one test breaks something, it may have a cascading effect and break somebody else’s stuff. You want to isolate to troubleshoot so you could solve the problem. So, now instead of having one, they may spin up three of these huge systems and do their tests on each one individually. Then after they figure that out, then they’ll run them all at once to find if they actually step on each other’s toes.

So, it creates a very nice workflow setup.

Noel: Absolutely. You mentioned enterprise development. What kind of application considerations did you guys have when you were starting to shift things over, specifically, when you were trying to decide what to leave alone, leave in-house, and what to shift to the cloud? How did you make some of those decisions?

Paul: That was kind of cool. We actually had taken the whole enterprise app, but it’s not optimized for cloud elements or anything like that. It’s more of just the cloud infrastructure support. We’ve actually pushed that out to actually having that sitting in the cloud and having customers able to use it that way. We also have still on-prem customers where this whole enterprise set is that we took our section that utilizes field asset tracking and controls, gets that in a space and that’s actually how it’s in AWS. That gives us the ability to have all of them be able to hit this. We have it still interfacing with the customers’ back-end systems, but there way no reason to put it in the back-end spaces which would make it more difficult for their own people to do the work. So, it gets out there in front of their own people, it transmits the information back, which then has a push-pull, updates things and they can actually find stuff more quickly. That element there was where we took sections of it and placed it were it needed to be.

Noel: You mentioned, too, having stuff on AWS and Skytap. I know earlier this week, Skytap just announced their enterprise environments on AWS, and integrating that with Skytap. Have you all even had a chance to start thinking about what kind of advantages that’s going to give you guys?

Paul: Already have looked at that. We started to play with it. It’s pretty cool. What it gives us is, for example, what we have deployed in a production set in AWS is the ability now to put that in the same space as the rest of dev tests. That’s where people are comfortable. That’s where they’re used to working. So, we should see an uptick in efficiency at that point. It’s a lot less work to use the Skytap interface to spin up and tear down these environments. Now it’ll give us a direct connection to this stuff in production deployment.

It’s pretty neat. The next element that we’re actually doing, we also have, I guess we’ll call it a greenfield. It’s a new, we’re making our new enterprise app, you could mark it slash enterprise that actually is built purely to run in the cloud. So, as we get the various elements of the CI set in place, if we can get that to work, even within Skytap, that will give us a huge advantage to have all of our operational elements and dev tests in one space. Then you can have cross-team working where people are very comfortable. I can see that as a really good benefit if we can get to that point.

Noel: Those who are here at AWS or any other events who are still looking to move to cloud, I know not everyone who comes to these have already done that. They’ve just looking to learn, that kind of thing. So, a lot of people are here to maybe make that push as far as that last decision to start making the jump into the cloud. What kind of advice would you give to an organization that maybe hasn’t yet made that decision, but is on the cusp of that?

Paul: First of all, do, whatever you can put there, do it, simply because then you can focus on what is your task at hand, which is usually getting the data to the right people and the right place at the right time. So, with that availability you get in the cloud—that’s there. That being said, take your time and do it right because if you go into it and you do something wrong and it creates a mistake, the emotional effect for people is “Oh, I hate the cloud,” and it’s not the cloud. Technology is technology, wherever I put it. If it’s sitting in your own virtualized space in datacenter, some people like to call that a private cloud, but it’s very own virtualized space, you’re really dealing with similar technologies and concepts, but the risks are all the same. If you don’t have an HA set in place, you simply don’t have an HA set in place and you’re at risk.

The nice thing is the cloud gives you a space where you can pass that to people and create access. It’s nice. I drank the Kool-Aid, simple as that.

The most important part is getting the right buy-off and then getting real understandings and not fudging on what the pitfalls are, and so on. Because as long as there’s a realistic expectation, the adoption is way, way easier. Then to set that adoption into successful steps, then people are more comfortable and you reduce the resistance because if somebody has a sketchy feel, like security is always an issue.

We talk to our customers and clients. Even internally, we talk about it. What’s our security risk for putting this on the cloud? A really scary thing. The truth is, everybody is running various security elements and yet there are limitations with any cloud set for what they’re going to support from a firewalling standpoint and so on. These are all improving. Years ago, there was not, 2 years ago, when we started doing cloud stuff, there were far fewer options for how you could actually work in the cloud with a secure sense. Now, things are way, way better. Companies are basically offering stuff that’s government approved cloud stuff. So, it’s obviously improved to a point where we should be a bit more comfortable.

Noel: Yeah. I think so as well. I think that probably was a result of the amount of push from customers to have that. That didn’t exist a couple of years ago, like you said. Two years of people demanding security. Cloud service providers had no option but to provide it and it’s …

Paul: Do it or go out of business.

Noel: Exactly. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for sitting down with us today. Yeah, have fun for rest of the conference. Again, I’m Noel Wurst from Skytap. This is Paul Haury from Fulcrum Technologies.

Paul: Thanks.

Noel: Thank you.

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