REDMOND, Wash. — March 21, 2013 — Pedcor Companies recently deployed Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V and System Center 2012 to enable better IT services for the business, replacing previous solutions from VMware Inc. Based in Carmel, Ind., and founded in 1987, Pedcor employs 550 people to develop, construct and manage both market-rate and affordable housing communities. To date, Pedcor has developed more than 17,000 apartment units in 14 states throughout the Midwestern and Western United States.
Microsoft Corp. recently talked with Sumeeth Evans, vice president of Information Technology, Pedcor, about Pedcor’s private cloud implementation and his vision for the company’s technology future. He discussed why Pedcor chose Microsoft over VMware and, ultimately, how Microsoft is keeping Pedcor ahead of the curve.
Microsoft: Why did you start thinking about Windows Server and System Center to address some of the challenges that Pedcor faced?
Evans: One of the biggest challenges that the company faced was finding a general sense of direction about how IT could empower our business to do more. We had gone through a nice big bubble in the industry, where we grew rapidly and expanded from a very small company to one that needed to provide more IT services across the board. Though we’re a midsize company, we have enterprise-scale needs because of our many locations and the logistics of our business. When the recession hit the real estate market, Pedcor went through a slow period, which gave us the opportunity to rethink how we did IT, get a handle on costs and get our people more productive.
When I came to Pedcor in 2011, we began to reevaluate our relationship with Microsoft mostly because our Enterprise Agreement was up for renewal. We had been working with VMware, so we needed to decide if we were going to move to Microsoft for full end-to-end delivery of services and applications or go with multiple vendors.
We decided Microsoft is where we wanted to be for two big reasons: added management capabilities with the System Center products as part of our private cloud initiative and because it just made financial sense to have everything under one comprehensive agreement.
Microsoft: What IT management problems were you trying to solve?
Evans: First, we wanted to have a way to not just manage the servers or the clients independently but also manage all the end-to-end devices, the services and, most important, the user experience. The premise of all of this is that we wanted to free up our IT team from doing regular, mundane, repetitive tasks and position us to solve the business needs of our multiple business units.
Another reason we chose to provide a managed cloud type of service is because we wanted to change the perception of IT from a slow-moving behemoth to an organization that could resolve issues and deliver solutions quickly. Our bottom line was to free up IT so we could deliver solutions that would make our users more productive.
Microsoft: Tell us more about what led you to choose Microsoft.
Evans: There were multiple reasons. First of all, the financial aspect I mentioned earlier. Having a full Enterprise Agreement that covered every product we used was key for us. We were also excited about all the new features that were coming with Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012. There are multiple built-in features I could name — including scalability, live migration and replication for disaster recovery — that compared favorably with other solutions.
Those features were just the icing on the cake, though, because we knew we would be able to do more with the new versions. That is ultimately why we chose Microsoft.
Microsoft: Has your private cloud made life easier for employees and your IT team?
Evans: Yes. In multiple instances, end users and business department managers have thanked us for being so much more efficient. We get direct feedback from end users as well. I believe we are well on the way to changing the image of IT for our end users, and it’s only going to get better. I tell users, “You don’t have to worry about the issue. We’ll fix it and you can get back to work.”
Here’s an example for you: Before we started deployment 18 months ago, our IT team would end a good day with 30 to 40 open tickets for end users. Since we deployed, we have less than 10 open tickets each day. Even in those cases, it’s usually because we are waiting on something beyond our control. So not only do we have fewer problems, but also we are also able to get to them more quickly because we have the right systems in place.
One of the other features we deployed is DirectAccess. We have users who travel with their laptops and who formerly had to use virtual private networking or get an additional connection to access a file server or other resources. Now they don’t have to think about it anymore. With DirectAccess, they just get on their Windows 8 laptop and they’re always connected. They can get any file share they want and launch any application without having to do a secondary task. It’s as if they are in the office. We get feedback every single day about how people love that feature in particular.
Microsoft: What trends are you currently watching in the technology landscape?
Evans: The big obvious trend is the cloud, and we are totally invested in that. We’re building our own private cloud and building it in a way that we can hybridize it with a public cloud such as Windows Azure. And that’s really the biggest part of it: to have a fully automated cloud and be able to offload some workloads into the public cloud in a hybrid way. The future could be a fully public cloud deployment where we may not even need applications on-premises, so we have to be ready for that. Our IT goal is to get as close to that as possible.
Being able to manage all the devices in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) world is also a big trend. Tablets and other form factors are extremely important, so being able to provide these services in conjunction with the BYOD trend will be big for the future of IT. For Pedcor, we are trying to figure out what end users really want on this front and deliver the right solutions.
Microsoft: What is the most important information you would like readers to understand?
Evans: I believe that Pedcor is doing IT in a way that small and midsize businesses would not normally do things. We are thinking about solutions in the way that large enterprises would because there’s a lot of power there with the System Center toolset.
And I’d remind readers that the cloud hype is real. There’s a real value in being able to build an automated, scalable and elastic cloud solution that will work for your company for the long term.
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