We often read about the issues companies face in adapting to their growing cloud environments. As cloud-based services grow to take over more of the IT footprint, corporate technology leaders face numerous decisions about the technologies they need to support those services, as well as the management tools they need to keep them running optimally.
What we don't read as much about is what cloud providers need to meet the needs of those companies. Suffice it to say, supporting an expanding cloud-based customer population brings its challenges. Just ask SysAid Technologies, which in recent years expanded its helpdesk software to a SaaS delivery model.
When Israel Lifshitz first wrote SysAid's IT service management application in 2002, he designed it to be deliverable as a service over the Web. But, sensing that his potential customers weren't quite ready for that model, he opted to go to market with an on-premise version, the company's CEO, Sarah Lahav, said in a recent phone interview.
For the next nine years, SysAid sold its software exclusively on premise. Then, in 2011, it pulled the trigger on Lifshitz's initial vision, establishing a multitenant SaaS environment with a co-location provider in the U.S., where the bulk of its customers were located.
By 2013, adoption of the SaaS version was brisk. It wasn't long before the company started to outgrow its infrastructure.
"We couldn't scale up as quickly as we wanted," Lahav said. Not only did the environment place constraints on SysAid's growth, but the company also had grown unhappy with its virtualization technology, which Lahav described as overly complicated and thus difficult to scale.
"We lacked redundancy and the management was too time consuming," she said.
SysAid decided to make two big switches: It modernized its virtualization platform on the latest VMware technology, and it migrated its data center to a co-location provider that could support that new technology.
The goal was to ensure that the company's infrastructure wouldn't get in the way of serving a fast-growing roster of SaaS customers. "The more customers we have, the more input/output operations per second we generate, thus requiring faster disks to improve database performance," Lahav said. "As we grow, we have more and more incoming connections. We have to make sure our firewall and load-balancing systems don't become the bottlenecks of our service."
[Get advice for reducing unplanned downtime in "Tips For Preventing Data Center Outages."]
What's more, the new virtualization platform has enabled SysAid to further reduce the number of physical servers it supports, which "means fewer hardware malfunctions and less management overhead," she said.
Now that the experience of a data center migration is behind it, Lahav has one critical piece of advice to other software companies. She wants to help them avoid having to rethink their infrastructure down the line.
"When you plan the environment, don't think about how many resources you will require now. Think about how much you'll need tomorrow or next year," Lahav said. "You don't want to end up with a service that can only scale to one side of the matrix, thus forcing you to clone your environment instead of scaling it."