With the goal to champion and reimagine the health and well-being of every community in America, Walgreens uses BMC Software’s solutions to deliver on this. Here, Tim Perkins, Director of IT, Walgreens Boots Alliance, talks to me about why it chose to work with BMC, some of the challenges the organisation faced ahead of the collaboration, his involvement in the data centre side of the business and how the company is able to conquer the opportunities that lie ahead.
What does your job role entail and what does this look like day to day?
Currently I’m responsible for data centre hosting and hybrid solutions. This involves Disaster Recovery and making sure there’s the business acumen and understanding of our application roadmap so that we have a better understanding of how we move forward with our initiatives – whether it’s on-prem or whether it goes to the cloud. With that, we have a heavy mix with our vendor management. We want to make sure that we have our managed services, so in the event that there’s any issues from infrastructure, we have those support teams in place to support the application levels.
How far are you involved with Walgreens’ data centre makeup?
We have what’s known as life cycle management, where we have a three-to-five-year period where we look at the infrastructure from compute storage, making sure those infrastructures are at a compliant level and that they don’t go to an end-of-life support. We go through a budgeting refresh cycle periodically to make sure we can continue to meet those future growing demands on the applications.
How important is uptime and how do you manage the infrastructure to ensure smooth operation?
From an uptime perspective, we take a lot of our business-critical applications and put them into high availability platforms. We do provide a faster mean time to recovery and failure based on how we can bring things back from a backup or relocate them from another location. That is a critical priority of ours, especially in areas where it’s tied to pharmacy and to supply chain and logistics. Those are the key areas we focus on to ensure we meet our customers’ needs.
What challenges were you facing ahead of your work with BMC?
The challenges I was facing, specifically with the product we use today, is that we had a single point of failure with our mainframe. We had our enterprise batch solution running on the mainframe and my CIO gave me a call one day and said: ‘I’m very concerned that if this environment fails, what happens to our batching? What happens to all our orders that need to go to distribution centres and to our supply chain?’ So, he challenged me to come up with a solution and look for a product that we could switch to from the one we were using and because we already had a partnership with BMC with our Helix platform and my peers in the UK were already leveraging the same product, we wanted to focus on perhaps using this as a global solution. That then drove us to make sure we were partnering with BMC to drive that same type of platform in the US.
Why did you decide to work with BMC and how did it stand out from the crowd?
One of the reasons was that we had already established a relationship with BMC. Another reason is the commitment and ownership that it has behind its product and service. The features, functionalities and where we were wanting to progress our business model as a company fell in line with what we found in the BMC solution.
How robust is your Business Continuity plan and what areas do you prioritise within this?
In this specific area, our key decision was removing that single point of failure for Business Continuity. Now with our new solution, which includes leveraging the Control-M platform from BMC, we were able to architect this in the cloud environment to where we have more of a robust high availability solution, but we also have the capability of shifting it over to different regions within the cloud as well. So it gives us that better MTTR than what we had when it was something which was running on-prem with the other solution.
How has BMC met the criteria you required and how scalable has its solution been for you?
It’s been very scalable. One of the things we look forward to is that as we continue to ramp up more of our job scheduling in the platform, BMC has communicated to us that it has another SaaS platform. Right now, with the solution we’re using, it does have that capability, but we’ve seen some of the future releases of the newer model that’s coming out which definitely falls in line with where we want to go from a consumption model that we own within our own subscription, as opposed to fully being supportive in a SaaS model.
One of BMC’s key messages is being able to help its customers conquer the opportunities that lie ahead – how are you now able to conquer the opportunities that lie ahead?
One of the areas that we didn’t have in the past is self-service and the orchestration and especially the automation piece. This puts us in a better position for our developers to bring that control more to the developer level – for example to manage jobs, reschedule the logging, being predictive and proactive – as opposed to having someone in middle support who may not understand the application and the programming behind what it takes to make sure those jobs have the proper interdependency.
Now that puts that control into the developer’s hands, as opposed to an ops person who says ‘Job started. Job ended. Successful’. When something goes wrong in between, you want someone who can quickly jump in and remediate the issue compared to just opening up a ticket.
How would you describe your Digital Transformation strategy and how has it evolved since your work with BMC?
It’s helping us to focus more on change – doing things more automated, rather than always being hands-on. I liked an example I heard recently, where you have software talking with software and resolving – you never will remove the human even though it’s human-less. But yet you have a solution, you’re moving towards that goal of being able to automate self-orchestration. And that’s what we look forward to.
What advice would you give to others starting out on a journey like yours?
When it comes to data centres, understand what your TCO is and look at ways to streamline your costs. In my space, I would say you will never get rid of your data centre, so therefore you want to make sure that the applications you choose for a cloud solution are compatible. Not everything is meant for the cloud, so make sure that it’s a hybrid solution so you can ramp up and ramp down, that it’s portable – and make sure that you understand that as you want to be able to quickly adapt and change. You want the best of both worlds: you have that on-prem solution for that which is close to the business, and you have those other solutions at the Edge to meet those customers and your partners.
What does the future look like for IT and what does the future hold for the data centre space?
There are two ways of looking at it. The way I picture data centres is that you have those which you own and you have those which are colocation – so you still own assets, but you’ve gotten rid of your property. And then the other one is a SaaS model and you just pay as-a-Service. Those are choices that each business has to make depending on which best fits their model.
Some people may love to continue to have that control over their data centres, but it’s more about what are my investments – am I in this for the data centre business, or do I just need a service? That model is unique per company. There always will be a data centre – even Amazon, Google or Microsoft are data centres. It’s more about what are my costs, my TCL on a regular Year-over-Year expense, etc. If you can reduce that technology debt and put the ownership on someone else, you just need to be provided with the service for your applications.Click below to share this article