Cancer Research UK has enabled IT as a service within its organisation, using VMware data centre management and automation tools to meet spikes in demand from its business.
The charity has been using VMware's software since 2008, when it began a project to virtualise its server estate. Five years later and Cancer Research UK is almost fully virtualised and, after signing an enterprise license agreement with the vendor, has implemented many of VMware's cloud management tools to set up its own private cloud environment.
In order to scale to meet provide more capacity to its two on-premise data centres, Cancer Research UK used VMware software features such as vCloud Director and vCloud Connector to manage its virtualised environment and hook into third-party data centre providers to bring additional resources online.
This gives the company a number of benefits of outsourced, or cloud, computing resources, such as flexibility to scale up without setting up new infrastructure, as well saving on upfront costs for new systems.
“Using vCloud Connector we are able to plug into other people's clouds and use them as our own, and literally pay for what we use,” said Cancer Research's head of infrastructure, Mick Briggs.
“We are able to take advantage of the market as it develops and treat the outsource offerings as commodity items that we can buy into and pay for when we need them. That gives us a tremendous amount of freedom.”
The ability to use resources from other cloud providers, such as SkyScape, has helped the charity in adapting quickly to the demands of the business. Developers are on occasion requested to provide support for new campaigns with tight deadlines. This puts pressure on the on-premise infrastructure to meet capacity demands.
“We have a lot of stuff that comes out of our fundraising and marketing departments that is really ‘we have an idea’. Them having that idea, to them wanting to go live is a very, very short turnaround," said Briggs.
He gave the example of a recent campaign: “We ran a campaign last Christmas through January this year called Dryathlon, involving people not drinking for the month. We heard about it in the middle of November and it was live 1 January, and campaign-wise it was running through December.
“That was a three or four week turnaround, and for a campaign that was as successful as it was, that is great.”
Briggs said that the hybrid cloud strategy allows the infrastructure team to deliver IT as a service.
“For the rest of the business, they don’t want to know what I am doing, and they shouldn’t need to know what I am doing. I should be able to abstract that from them and their systems just run.”
He added: “For me it was always a way of removing the need for them to know what was going on.”