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Cloud Native/NFV

For Boys Town, Private Cloud Ain't Heavy

The not-for-profit Boys Town's IT infrastructure needs to be agile to meet the organization's mission of providing childcare and healthcare services across the US.

To that end, Boys Town is migrating to a private cloud infrastructure, so it can achieve the agility that users demand while keeping costs down.

Though Boys Town is a not-for-profit, it faces many of the same concerns that for-profit businesses face. Its users run a variety of applications, on both mobile and desktop. They demand greater agility, and if Boys Town's IT department doesn't deliver, they'll go to the public cloud to get it.

And as a not-for-profit, IT faces even greater cost burdens than a for-profit company.

"As a nonprofit you don't want your IT organization seen as swimming in buckets of money and resources," Jamie Pearson, vice president of IT and Boys Town, tells Enterprise Cloud News.

Boys Town is one of the largest childcare and healthcare organizations in the US, in operation for 100 years. It is implementing software-defined networking (SDN) in two data centers that support the Boys Town village, 12 sites across the US, and a variety of Web-based programs.

The village, in Omaha, Nebraska, includes fire and police departments, schools, 60 family homes and health clinics, along with a hospital. The organization also offers Boys Town National Hotline, a free service open 24x7 offering counseling by phone, chats, text and email. IT supports the hotline.

Boys Town's infrastructure needs to support legacy applications and new, internally developed applications, with five-nines availability and a supporting cloud operating model.

Boys Town is implementing SDN using Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). It worked with Sirius, a national solutions integrator, to assist with the implementation, and got up and running in three months.

SDN allows Boys Town to achieve continuous integration and deployment, while automating operations, including test, development and deployment, security and the entire lifecycle, Pearson says.

The transition is still under way. "We are actively in the process of transitioning all data center resources off legacy cores onto the new ACI data center infrastructure," Matt Welna, senior director, IT operations, tells ECN.

ACI doesn't involve significant cost increase -- it costs the same or less.

"You just have to be willing to be an early adopter," Welna says. ACI is new technology, and for now there are some difficulties, but the payoff is flexibility. Welna says he expects ACI will become easier to install over time.


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ACI also gives Boys Town vendor independence, says Welna -- a statement that's surprising given Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s reputation for vendor lock-in. But most other vendors, such as EMC and VMware, work with ACI; the same isn't true for other SDN architectures from smaller vendors. "Arista is phenomenal but that doesn't mean every vendor out there will have that level of integration" Welna said.

"As we move forward with our private cloud initiatives to eventually become a hybrid cloud, the Cisco cloud environment will give us the most flexibility," Welna says. "Eventually I can see us extending our ACI SDN into a public cloud."

Boys Town is currently using ACI to connect two data centers that are 12 miles apart, and eventually can see extending that to multi-state connectivity. ACI's network automation means they don't have to worry about details of configuring servers, disaster recovery, business continuity, and other issues, Welna says.

SDN also brings the development and infrastructure teams together to collaborate, Pearson says.

— Mitch Wagner Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn profile Visit my blog Friend me on Facebook Editor, Enterprise Cloud News


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kq4ym 6/12/2017 | 9:44:41 AM
Re: Boys Town I hadn't heard much about Boys Town for years it seems. I hadn't realized they were such a large organization. But, it certainly makes sense that they would be upgrading as noted to handle the data coming in. I would suspect that would also be used by their development office to handle improved fund raising duties and make the operations there much more efficient as well.
mhhfive 6/9/2017 | 2:59:44 PM
Re: the plight of non-profits.. > "Put every dollar you can onto the front lines. Spend what you need on IT, but not more." 

Agreed. I was just pointing out, or trying to, that it's already hard for NPOs to spend money on administrative things. It can be counterproductive to save on some IT and lose out on being able to be more effective or productive in the long run.
Mitch Wagner 6/9/2017 | 12:53:15 PM
Re: the plight of non-profits.. I think that Boys Town has the right attitude. Put every dollar you can onto the front lines. Spend what you need on IT, but not more. 
mhhfive 6/8/2017 | 3:25:53 PM
the plight of non-profits.. > "you don't want your IT organization seen as swimming in buckets of money and resources.."

That's a sad comment on the state of charity organizations and non-profits. The "Ice Bucket" challenge gave ALS about $115 million to put towards research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig's disease. That sort of viral sensation can't be replicated too frequently, but it's hard on non-profits to accomplish their goals if they're constantly being criticized for "wasting" resources.
danielcawrey 6/6/2017 | 8:35:25 PM
Re: Boys Town The cloud is all about reducing costs. For those on a really strict IT budget, these solutions can allow organizations to a lot more with less. 
Ariella 6/6/2017 | 1:21:29 PM
Re: Boys Town @Mitch certainly, as it was already about 2 decades old then. But they already envisioned a computer operating like Google, finding our answers to questions about all sorts of things. I don't think real life computers go anywhere close to that at the time when they were used primarily for calculations or maybe to play chess.
Mitch Wagner 6/6/2017 | 1:19:12 PM
Re: Boys Town I remember Desk Set. Saw it in the late 70s. A nostalgia trip even then!
Ariella 6/6/2017 | 12:48:24 PM
Boys Town I don't believe I've seen that particular film, but I'm sure it's good if Spencer Tracey was the star. He's performed well in all the films of his I have seen. BTW I think all of us who work with computer issues should see Desk Set.  
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