As Europe’s largest independent manufacturer of power transformers, SGB-SMIT’s success hinges on customer proximity and time-to-market. After doubling its global footprint in five years, however, SGB-SMIT’s operations were fragmented, and growth was becoming challenging. The company needed a platform that delivered new levels of scalability, and the ability to share business-critical tools securely with engineers worldwide. Having originally contacted Bechtle to analyze and replace hardware, SGB-SMIT saw a clear opportunity to map out a way forward for the business.
Salvatore Cassara, CIO at SGB-SMIT Group, recalls: “We started working with Bechtle in 2016. Together, we initiated a program to transform SGB-SMIT’s IT function into a state-of-the-art department, introducing new hardware, new systems and a cloud-based infrastructure.”The first thing the Bechtle team realized was that SGB-SMIT had a very complex IT set-up. Its data centers and sites were spread across the world, with locations in Africa, Australia, Europe and the US. An initial target was to create a virtual group data center to deliver all services to every employee.
Philipp Dumhard, Head of Emerging Solutions at Bechtle, explains: “It was not technically ideal to create and develop an on-premises data center in each region. It soon became clear that to really deliver the best possible end-user experience, a hybrid multi-cloud setup would get the best out of each hyperscaler for SGB-SMIT.” The solution was to develop a private cloud in Frankfurt, hosting business-critical engineering tools. Bechtle then introduced VMware Cloud on AWS™, running SAP applications, followed by Google Cloud VMware Engine, and crucially, VMware Horizon®, the business’ virtual desktop environment. “In terms of data center virtualization, VMware is the absolute leader,” notes Peter Fisch, Team Lead Infrastructure & Cloud Solutions at Bechtle.
According to Cassara: “Bechtle was both our technical and commercial support. The team helped us to introduce VMware, understand it in greater depth, and see how it could solve our problems. VMware Horizon in particular was a completely unknown product for us. Bechtle helped us understand the advantages of using it, and how to roll it out to the entire organization.”
Fisch notes that it was a strategic decision to bring VMware Horizon into place. “We made the switch because our customers have had a lot of good experience using Horizon in graphic and workload-intensive environments,” he explains. Horizon is now available in each cloud, on AWS, Google and SGB-SMIT’s private cloud. All these resources can be managed from a single pane, enabling Bechtle’s managed service unit to quickly fix outages on any desktop whenever they occur.
VMware Horizon then, unexpectedly, took on new significance. “Once the pandemic started, within two weeks more than 600 users were set up on Horizon,” Dumhard recalls. “It was the perfect solution for SGB-SMIT, as with its previous data center set-up it would have not been possible to give access to all these employees in such a short time.”
“The move to the cloud allowed us to very quickly and very smoothly pivot from purely office-based working into home working,” adds Cassara. “There was no panic; we knew exactly what needed to happen. The infrastructure was in place; we just had to flip the switch.”
Fisch continues: “There weren’t the resources in the Horizon environment in the private cloud to manage user workloads, so we expanded to VMware Cloud on AWS. This environment is still up and running, and users can still work from home or the office as they want. The process was very straightforward.”
Bechtle was one of the first IT companies in Germany to set out a sustainability vision, and while it continues to develop and recommend services to customers both from a technological and commercial perspective, it also focuses on building a sustainable setup.
Dumhard says: “This is where VMware has a huge impact with the possibilities of virtualization. For example, in combination with Google Cloud VMware Engine we now have a carbon-neutral data center, which has a very positive impact both on our and our customers’ sustainability initiatives. Now, I can’t think of any consultancy project without looking at the sustainability footprint.”
He continues: “The most important part after development is operation. We manage and operate all data centers for our customers with our managed service unit. We show customers’ IT staff, and also end users, how to really use the technology and get the best from it. We deliver nearly all of SGB-SMIT’s IT function as-a-Service for them.”
Cassara recalls numerous misconceptions in the company about virtualization and the cloud, with many people skeptical about moving in that direction. “Bechtle provided support to solve every problem we faced during the roll-out, and we managed to convince the entire organization that it was the right decision,” he says. “Whatever problem you have, you know Bechtle has a solution.”
“We were a very localized company, with IT systems in each location,” Cassara continues, adding that this was a nightmare for security. “It’s more important than ever to have a reliable and secure environment for all users the world over. VMware is the glue that holds our multi-cloud strategy together. It allows us to share resources, tools and data between Amazon, Google and our own private cloud environments.”
The next set of services that Bechtle is looking to implement is a complete VMware NSX-T® Data Center stack to standardize SGB-SMIT’s network environment. Fisch notes: “We’re building a proof of concept. Using our 24/7 service desk at Bechtle, we’re aiming to make business at SGB-SMIT even more secure.”
Click here to learn more about SGB-SMITT and Bechtle’s customer case study. To learn more about VMware’s Partner organization and to find a trusted Partner for your business, visit our VMware Partner Connect page.