Back to Business with HBC
- Back to Business with HBC
- Coventry University
- Coventry University Revisited
- Deep Insight for AWS Migration
- DELL / EMC
- Gravity R&D
- Integrating Several Legacy IT Departments
- International Financial Services Provider
- Large Car Manufacturer
- LeasePlan, AWS and Device42
- Maxihost Datacenter Ltd.
- Migrating 40,000 Servers to a Private Cloud
- Netcetera Group Ag.
- SoftBank Corp.
- TP ICAP
- World’s Largest Virtualization Company
- Company: Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC)
- Industry: Holding company that operates at the intersection of retail and real estate
- Location: Headquarters in Toronto and New York City
- Solution: Device42
Founded in 1670, HBC (Hudson’s Bay Company) is North America’s oldest company. The organization is a holding company of portfolio businesses that include retail and real estate investments. The company’s assets span top markets and prime locations across Canada and the United States and include Saks Fifth Avenue, Hudson’s Bay, and Saks OFF 5TH.
“IT is constantly changing. Just keeping up with refresh cycles was becoming a storm due to volume, not an advantage,” says Hugo Lima, Principal Engineer, HBC. “We’re in the retail business, not the data center business. As our primary goal is to provide optimal business capabilities, and every second or dollar we spend managing hardware or a data center, is a distraction from creating business value.”
To support its customers, growth plans, and shareholder value, HBC knew they wanted to reduce the amount of data centers that they own, starting with the largest facility, and leverage the public cloud providers. HBC’s IT team decided to start the streamlining process by moving resources out of its largest physical data center in Jackson, Mississippi. Their plan was to shut it down without any negative effect on the business. To do this, they would have to move into multiple cloud environments, including IBM Cloud for its AIX footprint and Microsoft Azure for other resources. To start the migration, the team required full, detailed visibility into its entire current environment including infrastructure, applications, and dependencies between all resources. Decades of old IT complexity stood in the way.
“HBC has grown significantly through mergers and acquisitions. It includes a lot of different platforms. Our IT estate also has many home-grown and off-the-shelf applications that span across its different platforms and data centers,” explains Shakib Shayegh, director of the infrastructure team, HBC.
Lima adds, “HBC recently sold Lord & Taylor. This left a lot of systems in Jackson, still turned on, doing things, but we’re not so sure what those ‘things’ were. We needed to correct this.”
HBC’s enterprise also includes multiple operating systems with resources in Windows, Linux, and IBM AIX. Shayegh explains: “AIX is a key OS for us, it’s a workhorse, but it’s one that has kept getting harder for us to manage,” he continues. “Many of our AIX subject matter experts had moved on over the years, and there aren’t a lot of AIX subject matter experts out there to hire, which created many problems for us.”
Some AIX applications were left untouched for long periods of time. This compounded the visibility challenge. “Over the years, IT teams refined workloads so well that they could run for years without a reboot, but they knew this couldn’t go on forever,” Shayegh continues. “To migrate a workload like this, we would have to hire a whole army of people to figure it out and execute. This was simply not an option for us.”
AIX complexities were only a part of the larger challenge. Home-grown applications also created so-called “unknown unknowns.” “In the application business, if you have someone focused on developing an app for the company for many years, and they get up and go one day, it’s very hard to transfer their knowledge and understanding to someone else,” Shayegh says. “A real grasp of those older home-grown apps is extremely difficult to transfer to other people. We had many examples of this kind of missing information across the entire enterprise.”
“Our team didn’t have a single, reliable configuration management database (CMDB) or other tool we could use as a unified source of truth for the data center. We began to assess our situation by literally just walking through the whole data center,” says Shayegh. “We collected IP addresses and other information in spreadsheets, but nobody knew about how it all fit together. We were missing many critical details across the environment, including information about our many applications.”
Teams from within HBC and from their service providers tried a series of different software tools in an attempt to shine light on the data center. “Other tools simply couldn’t give us what we needed,” says Shayegh. “They had a ‘black box’ model that produced Excel files with millions of rows of raw data that had to go into another tool to even begin to provide dependency mapping. It took a lot of time moving data back and forth to correlate it and get anything useful.”
Consultants at HBC suggested that the project team should look at Device42 as they could potentially provide the visibility they needed in its complex IT environment. “We reached out and connected right away with the Device42 team,” Shayegh says. “Once we saw it, we knew that we had found the right solution. We signed up within two days of the start of the 2021 new year.”
HBC started with a brief, 14-day challenge with Device42. In that short timespan, the HBC team determined what they needed. They implemented the core solution with application dependency mapping (ADM) and shortly added on Resource Utilization to help with right sizing efforts for their cloud workloads.
Device42’s discovery shined a bright light on the entire IT estate at HBC’s Jackson facility, including Windows, Linux, and AIX resources as well as home-grown applications. Device42 discovered service communication and application configuration details so that HBC could accurately identify cross-platform dependencies.
“Device42 has brought us a baseline of visibility that shows all we were missing–things we hadn’t seen at all before. We used the topology maps to create affinity groups,” explains Shayegh. “This changed the entire conversation we could have with the application teams. We could now show them how our resources and applications fit together.”
“This worked with our Windows teams, too. We could fill in the dependencies between Windows, AIX, and Linux, adds Lima. “Having this kind of detail is the most valuable part of what Device42 provides to us.”
“With Device42’s visualization models, we can show interdependencies across different operating systems. We can see an application name and the footprint it has on the server in one view. That allows us to work together very effectively,” explains Shayegh. “We regularly now have some tough but necessary conversations with senior leadership using critical data from Device42. We can migrate with confidence”
“Device42 provides visibility and a single source of truth that bridges gaps that once existed between teams that need to collaborate,” says Lima. “All we had before were spreadsheets–long lists of resources that couldn’t show how they depended on each other. When we had conversations with app owners, they only saw their app in its own OS, which doesn’t tell the whole story.”
“We also have to thank our Device42 Customer Success solution architect, for everything he has done for us,” says Shayegh. “At every step he’s been there to help and make sure everything worked.”
“There’s no question that Device42 is the right technology for us, but the people at the company are also an important bonus,” says Lima. “As a relatively new person here at HBC, I relied on Device42 subject matter experts to bring me up to speed quickly with how the solution can help us. The Device42 team has always been there for us with answers.”
“We officially started the data center shut down in the spring of 2021,” says Shayegh. “The sheer quality and detail of the data Device42 provides gives us confidence. It has completely eliminated guesswork.”
HBC plans to keep using Device42 to help continue migrating, improving, and managing their IT into the future. The enterprise includes other data centers in Toronto, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, which they plan to keep as a part of their hybrid enterprise.
“Jackson is just the beginning. We plan to open up the data from Device42 to the whole company,” says Lima. “We’re starting with all the application owners, and providing read-only
access to everyone else. The cloud engineering teams have access as admins for Device42. Currently 250 have access and are using Device42 to do their jobs, and I expect that number to grow.”
Shayegh concludes,”With Device42 our whole company can now focus on the business we do best–not searching for answers in a data center. It’s changed how we see and manage IT. I can’t even estimate the enormous value it has delivered to us.”