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Helping Aidmatrix deliver critical humanitarian relief assistance via the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud platform.
With Accenture’s help, Aidmatrix successfully moved its infrastructure onto the Microsoft Windows Azure cloud platform. In so doing, it has saved some 20 percent of its costs and now has the ability to scale its services up and down as needed by the humanitarian agencies it supports.
The Aidmatrix Foundation Inc. is a nonprofit organization committed to providing supply chain management, fundraising and volunteer management solutions that in turn help relief organizations procure, manage and deliver aid when humanitarian crises arise around the world. More than 40,000 business, nonprofit and government partners use Aidmatrix’s solutions to mobilize more than $1.5 billion in humanitarian relief each year.
While Aidmatrix had historically managed its applications from third-party data centers in the United States and several other countries, the organization recently decided to move the provisioning of its IT infrastructure to the cloud. Aidmatrix believed a cloud-based IT infrastructure would not only lower its operating costs, but also allow it to access additional computing capacity as needed.
Ultimately, Aidmatrix selected Microsoft Windows Azure as its cloud platform because of its high efficiency, agility and ease of use. Also important was the fact that Windows Azure is hosted at one of six data centers worldwide, meaning that Aidmatrix’s critical applications would almost always be hosted close to a disaster area.
Microsoft suggested that Accenture and Avanade—an Accenture majority-owned company dedicated to helping clients maximize returns on their Microsoft investments—be engaged to help migrate and integrate a number of critical applications to the new platform. Aidmatrix agreed.
In addition to having extensive Windows Azure skills and experience, Accenture brought a deep understanding of the Aidmatrix organization, its technical environment and its business objectives. For nearly 10 years, Accenture had provided technical and consulting services to help the organization chart a course toward high performance. As Michael Ross, Aidmatrix vice president of delivery, said: “We had a long relationship with Accenture, so we had no questions about the quality of the work that would be delivered or the experience that would be brought to bear.”
The joint Accenture and Avanade team managed the design, development and migration of several core applications from Aidmatrix’s legacy data center environments to the cloud. Once the applications were in working order in the cloud environment, Aidmatrix assumed testing and production responsibilities. Throughout the project, Microsoft provided technical expertise and guidance as issues emerged.
The migration program was carried out in a series of phases over six months. Specifically, the joint team:
Developed a customized operations framework to simplify the system, resource and data monitoring that was necessary during the transition.
Migrated the Aidmatrix Network Online Warehouse application, which is used to manage purchased and donated inventory contained within humanitarian relief warehouses.
Migrated the Aidmatrix Virtual Aid Drive, an application that enables organizations to conduct fast and easy-to-implement humanitarian relief fundraising campaigns.
Migrated the Aidmatrix Network In-Kind Donations Management application.
Additionally, the Accenture and Avanade team helped Aidmatrix determine the best timing for migrations of critical applications such as the Aidmatrix Network Online Warehouse Plus application. As Aidmatrix’s Ross pointed out, such guidance helped lower the cost of initial migrations and ongoing application maintenance.
With the help of Accenture, Avanade and Microsoft, Aidmatrix has transitioned from an environment comprising a mix of Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 and other technologies to an environment standardized on Microsoft .NET Framework 4, SQL Azure and Windows Azure platform technologies.
According to Ross, “the level of technical experience and knowledge that Accenture and Avanade brought was really helpful—both in terms of their ability to perform at a high level, as an extension of our organization, as well as their ability to deal with a rapidly changing technology set.”
For Aidmatrix, the new cloud-based Windows Azure platform offers a number of distinct advantages:
Elasticity and scalable capacity to meet unpredictable demand.
An accelerated ability to bring new and critical applications to market. For example, prior to the Windows Azure solution, it took up to four weeks to deploy applications and secure the necessary computing capacity to support the humanitarian agencies. Today, those applications are made available in a matter of hours.
Cost savings of approximately 20 percent, due to the reduction of the number of servers Aidmatrix needed to own or lease.
An improved ability to store massive amounts of logistics data that can be used for business intelligence analyses.
Together, these advantages are helping to ensure that Aidmatrix has the ongoing ability to provide fast, reliable and invaluable support to humanitarian agencies that, together, serve millions of people in their times of greatest need.
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