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Case Study: Communication & Collaboration Drive Efficiency and Performance for Biopharmaceutical Company

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More than 30 years ago, a biopharmaceutical services company was founded that offers development and outsourcing services to life science companies to optimize health and patient outcomes. In 1987 it began to expand globally. Over the years, its global locations began independently operating their own data centers, leading to tremendous cost and operational challenges. In 2006, the company made the strategic decision to consolidate its data centers to improve its environment and rein in costs. Peak 10 was chosen as the company’s U.S.-based colocation provider.

Enhanced Processes and Best Practices Drive Efficiency

In 2014, Peak 10 was still strictly a colocation provider for this Fortune 500 company. The customer’s employees – including an onsite, full-time equivalent (FTE) – were responsible for managing the company’s hardware, including installations, running cables, racking and stacking, maintenance and shipping. Due to increasing demands for compliance requirements, the company’s IT director began restricting access to its cages to better manage the installation and organization of its racks. Looking to improve efficiencies and better use internal resources, he began a series of conversations with Peak 10 around the costs, processes and viability of outsourcing its physical environment to Peak 10. Impressed by Peak 10’s rigid, best-in-class processes, he engaged Peak 10 in February 2015 to fully manage the company’s physical infrastructure, including migration, installations and day-to-day management. While Peak 10 had always offered incident-based assistance to its customers – such as rebooting a server or plugging in a monitor to give feedback – this was the first customer to use the Remote Hands Managed Colocation service to this extent.

To handle the increased demands, Peak 10 brought on an additional FTE, freeing the company’s onsite employee to focus on other important initiatives. Today, work is completed more quickly than the customer’s 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. work schedule allowed. With Peak 10’s team of technical experts available 24×7, ticket resolve times have improved, decreasing the back log of work from hundreds of unaddressed requests to only several dozens. Additionally, badge hits for data center entry are 5-6% of what they used to be, according to the customer.

Outsourcing these responsibilities to Peak 10 has generated additional benefits for the customer as well. Within a year of impelmenting Remote Hands, Peak 10 had rewired 30-40% of the company’s cabling. By color coding cables and identifying the source and destination of every cable on each end, Peak 10 can easily trace cables through the environment. Historically, the company only labeled its cables with the serial number and cable length, so when a problem occurred, it struggled to quickly identify the impacted cable. With cables now clearly identified, troubleshooting response time has markedly improved from over an hour to 15 minutes.

Replacing existing cables also alleviated cooling issues that previously troubled the company. Peak 10’s strict, best-practice-based guidelines dictate that cables be cut to size. By eliminating excess cabling that blocks server exhaust valves, units experience cooling benefits that extend the lives of the servers. Right-sized cabling also better organizes the environment – a benefit not lost on the customer.

“The aesthetic of the data center is considerably neater and better than it’s ever been,” says the customer’s IT director. “I bring customers through several times a month as part of an audit and they are very impressed by the neatness of the facility.”

Today, via its Managed Colocation offering, Peak 10 handles 99% of the customer’s onsite needs providing tremendous improvements around resource allocation, efficiency, cabling and cooling. Based on the success of this service, Peak 10 now offers all customers the Data Center Technician service, an Advanced Client Services (ACS) offering that provides the Remote Hands capabilities piloted by this biopharmaceutical customer.

Vendor Management Procedures Control Access and Support Compliance

Recognizing that poor controls could potentially expose them to compliance issues, the customer wanted to better control and document access to its cages. Aware of Peak 10’s rigorous and secure sign-in processes, it opted to adopt Peak 10’s access protocols to better manage vendor and nonbadged visitor access to its environment. These entrance and exit practices document who escorted the visitor, what ticket was worked on, and other relevant details. These procedures have improved controls around access and facilitated auditing protocols for the company.

Effective Communication Guides the Relationship

Over their years working together, Peak 10 and the customer have developed and streamlined many processes and procedures. The backbone of this success has been open lines of communication. Weekly, biweekly and monthly meetings are scheduled to ensure processes are working smoothly, directions are clearly defined and everyone continues to be on the same page. These meetings, which discuss everything from day-to-day issues to future direction and initiatives, offer an opportunity to provide feedback and hear suggestions to optimize processes, capabilities and efficiencies. Peak 10 values these meetings and incorporates the feedback it receives to continually improve its products, services and efficiency.

These meetings keep processes moving forward and hone capabilities. According to Justin Groff, technical assistance center (TAC) manager at Peak 10, “[This customer] always brings new ideas and suggestions to the table,” adding that these suggestions offer benefits to both companies. “Their feedback helps us improve our processes.”

Beyond the meetings, Peak 10 provides the customer with some essential reports that help it identify the effectiveness of its processes and determine where further improvements can be implemented. Reports detail power usage, service-level-agreement measures, badge hits and ticketing data, and are designed to keep the customer informed of the conditions and status of the data center. This data also drives decision making.

“The data our reports provide helps us quantify needs,” explains Groff. “For example, after the implementation of Remote Hands, ticketing reports detailed the number of ticket requests and quantified the need for an additional head count within Peak 10.”

To further enhance communication, Peak 10 is in the process of supplying the customer with access to its instant messaging (IM) system. This IM capability will allow the customer to instantly communicate with Peak 10’s TAC, improving response time, easing communication and overcoming language barriers with the company’s worldwide data center team and overseas support groups.

Peak 10 Expertise Guides Customer Initiatives

No company wants to knowingly create downtime. However, due to a lack of resiliency in its network and power connections, the customer was forced to perform quarterly maintenance that required it to bring down its systems for 16 hours, limiting its own customers’ accessibility.

Over a period of four to five years, the customer built an appropriate level of redundancy into its infrastructure, allowing it to reduce downtime during routine maintenance. With appropriate redundancy in place, the company was free to implement a new maintenance procedure, and turned to Peak 10 for insight into how Peak 10 conducts its own maintenance.

Peak 10 shared details of its maintenance cycle including how it manages the process, minimizes downtime, and communicates the process internally and externally. Based on this information, the customer created a new monthly maintenance program modeled after Peak 10’s. The new program operates on a four-hour, monthly maintenance schedule that doesn’t impact accessibility, resulting in a more efficient process that better satisfies its customers.

The customer was also facing challenges around forecasting its growth. At the time, it was very reactive to its data center needs, and recognized the benefits an insightful forecasting model could deliver. The customer engaged Jeff Biggs, executive vice president of operations and technology at Peak 10, in conversations about Peak 10’s forecasting model. Biggs offered insight into key considerations including power needs, space, trending technology and other important factors. He encouraged the customer to contain forecasting to a 12- to 24-month planning window, explaining that technology, business drivers and corporate philosophies change too quickly to make a five-year plan – or anything over 24 months – viable.

The customer compiled the information garnered from the discussions and created a 12-month forecasting plan that incorporates empirical data and other relevant factors to plan for its evolving needs. Today, it is better able to predict and plan for its future.

Inventory Processes Improve Organization and Speed Installation

Peak 10’s customer-centric approach to service delivery has always delivered tremendous value to its customers. However, working in tandem with this Fortune 500 customer offered some exciting, new capabilities for Peak 10 as well.

As Remote Hands was turned up by the customer, Peak 10 experienced a surge in shipments and needed to engineer a process to efficiently accept, store and track packages to better organize its dock and manage inventory. These inventory and management controls provide clear procedures around logging packages into its system, numbering boxes and scanning packing slips to send to customers for their records. As part of its Remote Hands service, Peak 10 also inspects equipment for visual damage and ensures that all parts of the shipment are included. This protocol allows Peak 10 to efficiently track shipments so hardware can be installed more quickly, leaving less inventory sitting idly on the dock. This information is also readily accessible to customers.

Direct Emergency Notification Process Offers an Improved Level of Transparency

To keep it abreast of emergency situations within the data center that could potentially impact operations, Peak 10 worked in conjunction with the customer to implement a direct emergency notification process between the companies. The new system was successfully tested with mock emergencies to ensure the teams from both organizations were able to execute quickly. Now, when an emergency situation occurs, Peak 10 immediately informs the customer so it can monitor equipment and ensure the safety of internal assets, providing direct access to Peak 10 technicians to quickly receive updates.

“If something happens, I don’t have to go look for it,” explains the customer’s IT director, acknowledging the inherent complexity of data centers. “Someone from Peak 10 stands up and says, ‘Here’s what’s going on.’ That forthcoming and transparency gives me a lot of comfort. I’m managing four different data center locations and I sleep well at night.”

Today, this system has been rolled out to other Peak 10 customers to improve transparency. Additionally, this biopharmaceutical company has implemented this successful model across its global colocation providers.

Tailored Solutions with Wide Appeal

Peak 10 has always put tremendous value on providing solutions that are uniquely tailored to the needs of its customers. When this customer requested that Peak 10 update its maintenance notifications to incorporate color, Peak 10 immediately recognized the value of the suggestion and moved ahead with the initiative. By color-coding priority levels users can instantly recognize the severity of an issue, creating powerful efficiencies. This new template has been so effective that Peak 10 has implemented it across its customer base.

A Compelling Future of Continued Collaboration and Efficiencies Awaits

From the outset, Peak 10 has strived to accommodate this customers’ environment within its own. With its collaborative approach to partnership embedded in all its business interactions and processes, Peak 10 has focused on ensuring the customer receives the support it needs and feels valued every step of the way.

“[We] have worked together to sharpen processes and create new ones,” says Groff. “The collaboration and improvements continue to sharpen every aspect of the partnership and its objectives.”

The partnership has also impacted the biopharmaceutical company. “I’ve learned from working with Peak 10 that it’s okay to ask for and expect a high level of service because Peak 10 is delivering it every day,” expresses the IT director. “I hold all the other data centers to the same level of accountability that I enjoy through Peak 10.”

Looking to the future, this relationship is on track to continue to thrive. With its recent expansion within Peak 10 to house a critical production environment, the customer remains focused on maximizing efficiency and productivity, and Peak 10 is ready to assist any way it can. This could mean leveraging Peak 10’s cloud services to gain further cost and resource efficiencies. With its
physical infrastructure already managed by Peak 10, the customer is poised to seamlessly transition its colocation model to the Peak 10 cloud, further leveraging Peak 10’s leading edge technology, expert resources, scalability, 24×7 availability and audit-ready capabilities.

Whatever the next step, the company feels confident Peak 10’s customer-centric approach and high-performing products will deliver a winning solution.

“Peak 10 delivers a great product and has top-notch resources that deliver these products for you, but the relationship is what glues it all together,” explains the customer’s IT director. “You can have great people and great processes, but you need the right relationship to utilize those people and processes.”

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About Peak 10

"Our values are the foundation for everything we do at Peak 10, and are ultimately what enable us to earn our customers' business and their trust."
David H. Jones,
Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest