Proof-Of-Concepts to Design Better Solutions

Jim DiMarzio, CIO, Mazda North American Operations
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Jim DiMarzio, CIO, Mazda North American Operations

Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) has had success using Microsoft solutions for an area outside our normal consideration  for Microsoft support. The solution is hybrid cloud storage using Azure and an appliance from Microsoft’s acquisition,  StorSimple. The backup and archive of data has been traditionally done using tapes and off-site storage to meet disaster  recovery requirements. We never considered Microsoft when talking about this area. Discussions were always concerned with  changing the tape units or the backup process.
 
"With the cloud hybrid storage model, the team realized they no longer had to spend time and effort sizing storage required,  evaluating/ purchasing storage devices, and networking/ communications"
 
In the past year MNAO has established a disaster recovery site and moved away from the cold/warm site contract it had with a  DR services provider. This opened the possibility to back up directly to equipment at the DR site. However, when the team  presented to me all of the pieces, including: the size of the storage needed, costs for hardware, floor space, and  communications lines/speeds, it was not a viable option. The immediate reaction was to go back to improving the tape backup  and the off-site storage. That is until a conversation with Microsoft about Azure and an offer to try out a StorSimple  device. It didn’t immediately register in our minds that this would be a solution we could use to replace the entire tape  backup process. It took the on-site proof-of-concept to get the team thinking about how they could apply this solution.
 
As a side note we have moved to doing more proof-of-concepts within the infrastructure area to better understand products and capabilities. This has provided some faster evaluations and utilization of hardware and software. Microsoft goes a step  further with proof of concepts. They will set up a lab environment and bring your staff in or help set up an in house proof  of concept. This includes assistance from Microsoft or a Microsoft partner to support the proof of concept.
 
One other area for CIOs to consider is ensuring to provide some discussion and idea sharing time with the Microsoft account  manager. Our account person has been very active in bringing new items to us—even if there is no apparent application for us. The Mazda team may not move forward with all of the Microsoft solutions, but it will often help formulate future technology strategy knowing the focus from Microsoft. 
 
With the cloud hybrid storage model, the team quickly realized they no longer had to spend time and effort sizing storage  required, evaluating/purchasing storage devices, and networking/ communications. They worked with Microsoft to plug in the  StorSimple appliance and began testing the move of daily backup files to Azure. So they went from doing work they don’t  really like (planning) and instead were doing what they enjoy which is implementing and seeing results.
 
The use of the hybrid cloud storage gave MNAO some other advantages that were not anticipated, such as being able to  immediately restore files versus recalling them from offsite storage and waiting for them to show up. It also gave us the  ability to have a start point for disaster recovery of the previous day. One other advantage is the cost. While this did not  start as a cost savings opportunity, the team realized it would provide savings and would only increase in cost as the data  being backed up grows. Of course the team is now learning to manage what and how much data is being backed up. We will need  to control the growth.

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