WWT’s Advanced Technology Center (ATC) is a place where customers and partners can stand up small-scale versions of prospective solutions, review product demonstrations, evaluate reference architectures and participate in hands on training classes. Recently we stepped up our investment in the ATC, bringing on an operations manager with 15 years of IT management experience, Mark Dougherty. Mark works with a core team running the ATC, which is complemented by an eco-system of WWT pre-sales engineers and technical architects with specific expertise in subjects ranging from data center design, core networking, cloud infrastructure, virtualization and collaboration.
With a couple months under their belts following a roll out of new “sandbox” functionality, I invited Scott Miller, Director of Virtualization and Cloud, to talk about some highlights, and here is what he had to say:
A unique offering of the ATC from just showing demonstrations of products is the ability to build custom demo environments based upon specific client needs. Leveraging technology from VMware, we can provide our clients a Virtual Data Center (VDC) platform, which is essentially a hybrid small-scale cloud we’ve built for customers to slice off pieces of isolated infrastructure to use for evaluating solutions within a private architecture built to the exact requirements and parameters of their real data center environment.
In the case of one customer, a global telecommunications provider, the task at hand was to evaluate a new version of Citrix XenApp, an application management and virtualization technology, as well as NetScaler, with an eye toward the service delivery appliance’s load balancing capabilities. Within our ATC, we provided them their private VDC, to access with their own unique secure remote access login ID’s, giving the customer the ability to invoke test and development conditions remotely so they could put the Citrix technology through the paces as if it were happening in their native data center setting.
It can be cost prohibitive to stand up a proof of concept environment to assess a technology’s potential for successful deployment in an internal production environment. The ATC provides a cost effective alternative for customers to explore leading-edge solutions.
Creating infrastructure settings is only a part of the ATC, with WWT Professional Services (PS) support adding engineering and delivery “muscle” to the raw data center architecture, including the hardware, software, cooling, storage, and power. Another important aspect of the ATC is readily available demos that are up and running with real-time capabilities for use in customer engagements. One federal account manager noted he’s seen a nearly 90% success rate with clients who utilize the ATC to evaluate products and solutions, and this is largely attributed to the availability of an immediate deep dive technical experience, which can target the exact requirements a customer is facing, with no delay.
A commercial client of ours, Maritz, needed hands on exploration of Vblock architecture, in order to review their options before purchasing equipment or making any changes to their infrastructure. WWT utilized the ATC to provide a proof-of-concept lab to demonstrate the benefits of the improved Cisco Nexus switching architecture. WWT’sATC team created specific test scripts, Visio drawings and step- by-step procedures, then walked the Maritz team through numerous test scenarios, such as configuring virtual PortChannel (vPC) in multiple topologies, demonstrating an In- Service Software Upgrade (ISSU) as well as testing the impact of vPC peer link failures, entire chassis failure of the Nexus 5000 switch, and power supply failures on the Nexus 2000 and 5000 switches. Because of WWT’sATC, Maritz could see first-hand exactly how the new technology would work in their environment.
As they were able to engage the technology directly at the ATC, the Maritz team could immediately see just how the proposed solution could increase bandwidth utilization with the vPC feature of Cisco Nexus switches. They could confirm that the high port density of the Cisco Nexus switches would significantly increase network performance and witness non-disruptive upgrades using the new architecture. Instead of just promising benefits, WWT was able to prove them based on the testing done in the ATC.
A final note on the ATC reflects its application in support of our internal marketing-related efforts surrounding activities such as Geek Day, which is our technology showcase focused on best of breed data center, collaboration and virtualization practices, and other events such as vendor-specific roadshows requiring demos and other real world solution examples. A refreshing alternative to PowerPoint driven marketing efforts, as we are now using the ATC as the basis for crafting finely tuned technology presentations that customers can experience in real-time as a real solution using the real gear and software they may be purchasing. The best way to develop confidence in a prospective solution is hands on experience, and we believe the ATC has reached a point where it offers this in a variety of architectural reference points, quickly and effectively.
Thanks, Scott, for the update…we will have more to come on the ATC later in the year!