Xerius is a group of organisations that manage a service desk for entrepreneurs, a social insurance fund, a mutual insurance association and a recognised actor for the payment of the My Family growth package (the former child benefit).
The service desk for entrepreneurs provides administrative support to companies in the event of a start, change or termination. The social insurance fund protects and supports more than 175,000 self-employed people and managers. The mutual insurance association specialises in supplementary social insurance for the self-employed and My Family takes care of the payment of the starting amount and the growth package for families. Xerius has its headquarters in Antwerp and the organisation has 370 employees, 55 of whom in the IT department.
The latter were confronted with an infrastructure partner who decided to phase out his data centre. Xerius saw that decision as an opportunity to thoroughly examine the existing infrastructure. The company hired Arxus: not to create a copy of the old data centre, but to find the most suitable solution for every piece of technology, in the public or private cloud.
A quick summary...
- Redrawing the existing infrastructure environment
- Migrate from the existing environment to the public or private cloud
- Defining a cloud roadmap for the future
- Azure first strategy for new applications
- Pragmatic approach when migrating existing applications
- Solid basis for further growth in the cloud
- Complete control over own infrastructure
- Increased operational reliability
- Better service
“We always think Azure first, but we are pragmatic. Together with Arxus and our own IT staff, we decide on a case-by-case basis what the best solution is, public or private cloud. ”
Dirk De Bast, Xerius
Challenge: Redrawing the infrastructure towards public and private cloud
The roots of Xerius lie with the Flemish Economic Federation (Vlaams Economisch Verbond). The organisation shares that background with HR service provider SD Worx. When the computerisation of business administration started to take off in the eighties, Xerius surfed on the IT infrastructure of SD Worx.
"We were two separate, independent organisations, each with their own applications and software development," says ICT manager Dirk De Bast. “Our applications only ran on the SD Worx infrastructure. It was an approach that resulted in an interesting economy of scale.”
But times are changing. Hardware no longer makes a difference and companies opt for ways to reduce their own data center. "The time was ripe to look for a different solution." The idea of building a new data center and running it in-house was never a serious option. "It soon became clear that we would also leave the infrastructure to an external partner in the future," explains Dirk De Bast.
No lift and shift
In the old setup, really everything from Xerius ran in the external data centre: application servers, databases, websites, network, telephony, etc. "We didn't have any infrastructure of our own," Dirk De Bast explains. This principle encouraged Xerius to really tackle the infrastructure issue. "We did not want a replica of the existing data centre, no lift and shift," says Jan Vanhoof, technical lead at Xerius. “The entire project was the reason for us to review the entire infrastructure and to find out which solution would yield the best results, both technically and operationally. Together with Arxus, we have formulated a roadmap for the private and public cloud in very concrete terms.”
Solution: Azure first strategy
“The internal client network, the connections between the offices and so on: we really had to review everything. Together with Arxus we have made the right assessment for every issue,” says Dirk De Bast.
Public or private cloud?
For example, Xerius chose to centralize its telephony in the Arxus data centre. For various web applications, it turned out not to be useful to make an intermediate step via a private cloud: they now run in the public cloud, via Microsoft Azure. On the other hand, Xerius did not want to install the child benefit application in the public cloud. "Just because it is a very business-critical application, we preferred the private cloud via Arxus."
Azure first strategy
Xerius uses Azure first as a strategy today. By definition, new applications are housed at Azure. "Yet we mainly opt for a pragmatic approach," explains Jan Vanhoof. "The hybrid approach is the best solution today."
Arxus made sure to provide the required server park in its private cloud. This allowed the use of the old data centre to be phased out step by step. To complete the exercise, all employees were immediately given a new laptop with Windows 10 and access to Microsoft Office 365. "The SharePoint servers have been transferred to the private cloud,” says Jan Vanhoof. “But that too will change later. The roadmap includes Microsoft Teams and OneDrive, among others.”
Result: higher operational reliability and better services
Thanks to the completed process, there is now a basis on which Xerius can continue to work. "We are in control of the infrastructure again," says Dirk De Bast. “We literally went to the old data centre to see what we had and how we could remove it there. Now that the exercise is over, we notice that reliability has risen sharply. We can also count on a much better service.” Until now, the focus has mainly been on the application landscape, but there will be more on the agenda in the coming period. “We want to systematically reduce the use of old technologies, strengthen our disaster recovery plan, etc.”, says Dirk De Bast. “Arxus helps us to follow technological evolutions and helps us to take the right next steps.”
Xerius compared the offer of a handful of parties and selected Arxus's proposal. “We were looking for a company with a hands-on mentality that bears witness to entrepreneurship, just like we do. In the first place, we wanted a partner, not just a supplier, "says Jan Vanhoof. “We were immediately charmed by Arxus, both through the technical solution and the drive and mentality of the company and its employees.”