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DAS Builds Twin Data Centers to Serve Internal Users

During a previous era, decentralization seemed like a good idea for Diversified Agency Services. The holding company for more than 200 marketing, advertising and communications agencies in parent company Omnicom Group's portfolio, DAS had allowed its IT infrastructure to grow organically, plugging new agencies into its sprawling network and letting them continue to make their IT decisions locally.

Two years ago, however, saddled with excessive duplication of equipment and services and facing an uphill battle on the governance front, DAS' leadership decided to switch strategies. The company would ditch its fragmented infrastructure and redefine itself as a multitenant service bureau for its agencies, powered by a private cloud.

The centerpiece of that transition was the construction of two new data centers--located in Atlanta and Phoenix--that will act as one co-located data center, says CIO Jason Cohen. DAS certainly will get backup and disaster recovery benefits from the two data centers, which were completed last year, but the idea is for both to serve as fully functional data centers that support different components of the business.

"This model is more energy efficient, and it represents a major benefit to DAS and its customers in regard to the ability to securely manage the networks and handle resources in a more strategic manner," Cohen says. For instance, "One data center might have more high-availability disk capabilities versus the other. Where systems are located depends on needs of that system."

Cohen says the new data centers, the cost of which he could not divulge, are built to support various models of cloud resources--infrastructure as a service, platform as a service and software as a service. At least initially, they're weighted toward IaaS as the company focuses on getting all of its agencies connected to the new infrastructure. Cohen says DAS is about halfway through that process, and that it will be 90% complete by the end of the year.

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Platform capabilities will stem from the company's expertise with VMware, SharePoint and database technologies, he says, while many SaaS services will flow from expertise with Exchange, Secure FTP, Microsoft Dynamics ERP and Cognos business intelligence. Cohen says the company is already piloting a SaaS offering of SharePoint.

"We have dedicated resources to support those application stacks as well as with direct expertise at the agency level," he says.

Among the back-end services the data center will provide to agencies--once DAS' newly centralized AT&T ring network is completed--are shared IT support, email and file-sharing security, streamlined financial processing and scalable servers that will allow agencies to dial compute resources up and down as they're needed. Cohen says the goal is for the company's data center and network resources to eventually be 75% virtualized.

The new data centers ultimately will enable DAS to satisfy a number of needs within the business, including more inter-agency collaboration, increased agility, and improved mobility. Cohen says all of these represent critical improvements for a growing 17,000-person company that supports a half-dozen employee profiles with varying needs.

"There's a tremendous amount of pressure to deliver information faster, always on, never down, and much more cost effectively," he says.

Even with the foundation of DAS' new data centers complete, Cohen says, pressure will only start to dissipate once he has all the pieces of the new infrastructure in place.

For the time being, says Cohen, "I live in the 11th hour every day."