SaaS provider saves big with BlackIron Data

Software as a service (SaaS) provider BlueSun Inc. managed to drastically cut its IT costs by consolidating its managed hosting contract with separate providers and handing over the hosting of its mission critical activities to BlackIron Data’s latest Tier III data centre in Markham, Ont.

BlueSun is a privately owned Canadian company.  The company’s WealthServ flagship suite of SaaS applications provides integrated back and front-end technology for financial and insurance companies such as Canadian Tire Financial Services, CIBC, TD Waterhouse and Transamerica Life Canada. BlueSun’s clients access WealthServ via the Internet using standard Web browsers.

“The core of our business is to provide an outsourced service to clients where we run the applications and house their data,” said Steven Wilson, COO and CFO of BlueSun. “Our clients just access the applications and data over the Internet.”

Since 2004, BlueSun has been buying hardware to store the applications needed by its clients and installing the hardware in a BlackIron data centre in Markham just a few minutes drive north of Toronto and a redundant BlackIron site Ottawa.
BlackIron is a subsidiary of Primus Telecommunications Canada, a company long known for its telecom and hosted PBX business.

However, when BlueSun acquired another company in 2009 it “inhertited” another managed hosting relationship with a different data centre service provider, said Wilson.

“We came to the conclusion that having two data centre providers didn’t make sense because of the extra expenses involved and the multiple relations to manage,” he said.

Deciding which provider to keep depended on its ability to provide the security and service sought by BlueSun’s clients, said Simon Tomlinson, CEO of BlueSun.


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“Given our focus on the insurance and financial services sector, having a data centre with rock-solid security and 100 per cent application availability is critical,” he said. “Our data centre environment must also pass numerous audits to ensure it complies with strict regulatory requirements.”

Advancements such as the widespread use of cloud technology also drove BlueSun to review its approach to outsoruced data centre services and their need for a more robust disaster recovery strategy.

BlueSun’s annual planning cycle began in 2012 at the same year Blackiron was finishing construction of its new Tier III certified data centre in Markham. As BlueSun’s service contract renewal scheduled for 2013 got nearer, the company decided to move all its hosted services with Blackiron.

BlackIron’s new Markham data center is a multi-tenant facility with a 30,000 square feet raised flooring space capable of housing 1,000 server cabinets.

“The facility is the only multi-tenant data centre in Canada to be awarded Uptime Institute’s Tier III Certification for Design and Construction,” according to AJ Byers, president of BlackIron.

The building also employs a LEED- certified, environmentally friendly cooling system which passed testing well beyond the average Tier III testing. “The assessment challenged the electrical and cooling infrastructure, loading it to 170 per cent of design capacity to demonstrate its true ability to operate without failure,” said Byers.

The move, according to Steven Wilson, COO and CFO of BlueSun, enabled his company to migrate from a legacy environment with clients supported on stand-alone dedicated servers, to a virtualized environment with a reduced number of physical servers.

The transition and purchase of new hardware to install in the BlackIron data centre was the largest purchase BlueSun had ever made, according to Wilson, who said the acquisition still enabled them to realize substantial savings.

“The money we saved by moving to a single colocation solution represents a 60 per cent savings and amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually,” he said. “The savings more than makes up for the capital investment we required.”

Tomlinson said another reason for their decision to move with BlackIron was the service provider’s flexibility – BlackIron was willing to revise open up its existing contract and revise it with new terms and conditions that boosted BlueSun’s disaster recovery posture.

Now, two sets of BlueSun infrastructures in the Markham and Ottawa data centres are set up as an active-passive configuration.

Snapshots of the primary production environment being sent to the Ottawa facility several times each day, ensuring fast, efficient disaster recovery for BlueSun and full business continuity for its clients.


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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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