Professional Engineers of Ontario opt for a single provider as part of IT transformation

It was a case of having lots of vendors but a lack of support for its entire technology stack that drove the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO) to look for a single throat to choke.

That throat was CentriLogic’s, and the licensing and regulatory body for professional engineering ultimately replaced four vendors in October 2015. The first goal was to consolidate all IT outsourcing activities to a single vendor to reduce complexity and risk.

Acting director of IT Zico Sarmento spearheaded the transition and said CentriLogic was selected through an RFP, and won in part because of its overall level of certification, including ITILPCI and ISO – certification is something PEO needs and understands.

“As a regulatory body we required these certifications,” he noted.

He said even with four vendors handling its IT hosting requirements, including a prominent global hosting provider along with separate providers for Internet connectivity and device management, PEO still couldn’t outsource all or even most of its application hosting needs. Its managed hosting provider could support only Windows applications, said Sarmento, leaving PEO to internally host and manage its Oracle and Linux systems with a six-person IT staff.

With its previous vendors, it was very difficult to procure additional space and capabilities when PEO needed it. “We didn’t have the ability to create an ad hoc virtual machine even it was to just temporally test something.”

Sarmento said PEO wanted to work with a provider that could handle its full stack and reduce its vendor footprint while offering greater flexibility. Even more important was avoiding the periodic outages caused by its previous vendors when they made changes or performed routine updates to production systems. “During outages there was a lot of finger pointing,” he said. “And even with all of those vendors, we didn’t have support for anything besides the Microsoft stack. We were paying a lot to be in the situation.”

Meanwhile, PEO’s membership is growing at a rate of four per cent a year and its old hosting environment wasn’t adequately supporting the organization’s more than 80,000 individual licence holders and 11,000 interns, as well as the 35 chapters across the province that PEO interacts with. “We do a fair bit of work with associations in other provinces and nationally,” said Sarmento. “We have a fair amount of external collaboration requirements.”

PEO also authorizes more than 5,000 businesses to offer engineering services.

PEO wanted its new provider to handle the bulk of its internally-hosted systems to free up time and resources for it to develop and enhance its core services, said Sarmento. It also wanted to consolidate its production environment while having a separate one for test and development. “The vendor footprint just to host it created quite a bit of confusion at times,” he said. “It was chaotic and unpredictable.”

PEO also need better disaster recovery capabilities as the old model involved restoring from backup tapes, said Sarmento. “We were looking for something a little more real time.” Strategically, it also wanted to move away from a largely paper-based environment to a digital one, which includes deployment of an ERP system and making better use of its existing SharePoint investment. “We’re still a paper driven organization but we’re moving away from that.”

Making this transition has been a two-year journey for Sarmento. His target to move everything over to CentriLogic was the end of October 2015, and it was pretty much complete two weeks earlier than that. PEO’s production environment is based in Mississauga, Ontario with a disaster recovery site in downtown Toronto, which just getting some final touches done, he said.

The managed services PEO is using from CentriLogic include monitoring, storage, intrusion detection and prevention, dedicated firewall, network and on-site support. Sarmento said the availability of the organization’s critical applications has been 100 per cent since December, and its ERP implementation is underway per the strategic plan thanks to the flexibility PEO now has. A VM can be spun up in hours if necessary, he said, when it previously would have taken days.

One of the only real hiccups PEO experienced during the move was an interruption in its LAN extension, said Sarmento, and although it was not in the scope of work, CentriLogic made sure there was an LTE connection in place as a temporary alternative. “We lost some speed, but didn’t lose any continuity. It certainly supported our business for the day we ran on it.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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