Coller Capital, a long-standing CenturyLink customer, used its latest IT upgrade to underpin a DevOps approach and the journey to cloud

Coller Capital, the leading player in private equity ‘secondaries’, acquires positions in private equity funds from Limited Partners, and portfolios of unquoted companies from their corporate or institutional owners. Founded in 1990, Coller is headquartered in London, with additional offices in New York and Hong Kong. The firm’s multinational investment team – the world’s largest dedicated to secondaries – has a truly global reach.

In 2015, the firm closed its seventh secondaries fund, Coller International Partners VII, with capital commitments of $7.15 billion and backing from approximately 170 of the world’s leading institutional investors.

Coller Capital runs a variety of applications for fund management, most either developed or modified in-house, as well as other core systems including CRM, Citrix and collaboration tools such as Onbase. After a competitive tender process in late 2015, it renewed its contract with CenturyLink for the second time, extending a relationship that has stretched over six years.

The team at Coller Capital decided to capitalise on the opportunity and use it as a stepping stone in the journey to DevOps following its transformation to the cloud previously, moving to a more hybrid and flexible environment. In fact, Coller now uses five different service offerings direct from CenturyLink: Private and Public Cloud, dedicated Mail Exchange, colocation, and ATS Network services.

Increasing Flexibility

Taking a hybrid approach allowed the Coller Capital team to increase IT flexibility. All non-production systems, that support all internal Development and Test functions, are now on the CenturyLink Public Cloud. All critical production systems – including fund management platforms – are on Centurylink’s private cloud, which adheres to ITIL best practice and is a three-node, fully-virtualised, high performance environment.

Coller Capital is also using CenturyLink’s co-location facilities to host its Application Performance Management and VoIP / Videoconferencing services. The latter makes use of CenturyLink’s ATS / IQ+ Network services, connecting the datacentre in Slough to Coller Capital’s global network, enabling high speed file serving, voice and video services.

The crucial element is that the hybrid cloud environment enables Coller Capital to scale up or scale down at any time. In doing so, Coller Capital has noted a substantial cost saving, whilst maintaining an enterprise grade infrastructure architecture.

Changing the philosophy

The latest step in Coller Capital’s IT evolution was handled as a collaborative effort, which paid dividends in terms of downtime. For example, in October 2015, the ESX environment, firewall and storage was migrated across a two week period without a single hour of downtime. When the team reported the completion of the project to the board, they were astonished – not a single person had noticed any decrease in performance during the migration period.

Moving to a hybrid cloud environment has also enabled Coller Capital to move towards a DevOps software development life cycle where IT developers and infrastructure staff work more closely.

Ian Flavill, head of IT service delivery, Coller Capital said: “We decided that the move to CenturyLink Cloud was the enabler for us, as it gives us a physical platform with virtual servers that can be spun up, down or cloned, depending on our needs. It means our development teams, database specialists and system administrators can work as a cohesive unit. Not only that, but we can commission additional capabilities in very fast timescales.”

According to Flavill, “Under a dedicated platform, we would never be able to do that. We would need to plan ahead, and pay to install more capacity when we needed it, wait for the lead time, and define the parameters. I can’t say we have ironed out all of the cultural problems that come with trying to merge several teams – and we’re still trying to use certain tools to exploit the CenturyLink cloud – but we are much further along the line than we otherwise would have been.”

Under a ‘pay-as-you-go’ model, Coller Capital only pays for the server capacity it needs. Its next planned phase is a move to the Windows 2012 platform – rebuilding all of the servers it moved across from the dedicated platform but under the DevOps model. Although Coller Capital sees DevOps as a journey rather than a binary process, a hybrid environment is the first step towards better collaboration and agility.

“The operational service that we have received from CenturyLink, and the way we work with our Service Management and Account teams, has been exemplary over the years. Moving to a hybrid cloud system was not without its challenges, but now that it’s up and running it has improved our operational efficiency no end,” continued Flavill.

“When you have a dedicated network with one provider and a data centre from another, it’s hard to pin down the source of any given problem. With CenturyLink, you have a degree of synergy with how those things knit together. The CenturyLink team sits in the middle to oversee the service offering – it’s great to work with them as a strategic partner, a relationship we have fostered over many, many years!” Flavill concluded.

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