CIO, Trans Austria Gasleitung GmbH
Alessandro Santucci is the Head of the ICT Department of Trans Austria Gasleitung and responsible for about 200 personal or departmental workplaces, all the IT and TLC systems including two Virtual Private Cloud datacenters located in Ireland and a technical infrastructure connecting the Headquarters with more than 20 manned and unmanned stations located in Lower Austria, Styria and Carinthia.
Trans Austria Gasleitung is a company of about 160 employees that transport natural gas via the TAG pipeline through Austria and it is the main artery of the natural gas network in central Europe. The TAG pipeline network consists of three parallel high-pressure natural gas pipes, 380 Km in length for a total of about 1,140 km pipes and five compressor stations, from the Slovakian/Austrian border to the Austrian/Italian border. More than 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas are transported through the pipeline system every year.
Movie with Alessandro Santucci
In conversation with Alessandro Santucci, CIO of Trans Austria Gasleitung GmbH
Why We Use the Cloud
In recent years, TAG has faced a business transformation and expansion, and we had to quickly grow our ICT infrastructure and systems. Going into the cloud was the easiest and fastest way to achieve our goal with reasonable investments.
Where Cloud and Where Not
In the past, and even now, we are maintaining all the systems that control the physical infrastructure, meaning the gas flow, turbines and so on, in a traditional environment. But we have moved the main systems related to the management of our business processes, meaning the commercial side of our operation, into the cloud. We use Infrastructure-as-a-Service solutions from a large provider, Amazon Web Services, as well as Software-as-a-Service products provided by Microsoft in the Azure environment for personal productivity and mobile device management. Within the IaaS solution, we also sometimes use database services. What we are not currently using is Middleware-as-a-Service, because although we have decided to migrate our business process into a cloud architecture, we want to maintain the composition of the business process in this environment, which is primarily a service-oriented one, within our own architecture.
Which Cloud and Which Not
We have been using the cloud for our ERP system, the geographic information system, and the business-to-business platforms since we installed them. As mentioned before, we also have a SaaS solution for personal productivity.
Monitoring the Quality
The cloud services provide extensive tools for monitoring compliance and costs, and even for applying policies established by our company. We have therefore been able to instate our policies and put in place suitable monitoring systems and cost control. We trust these instruments, but at the same time we have established independent monitoring for some critical functions to give us a four-eyes approach to checking and verifying the quality of the services we are using.
Testing New Clouds
We establish test cases suitable for our business in agreement with the potential providers, trying out the cloud services and comparing them directly. We try to involve our business in the testing as much as possible to establish usability and determine whether the service matches our expectations, but also to evaluate the technical aspects. We also frequently use external advisors who can provide us with more information about the quality and international reputation of potential cloud providers.
Optimizing the Cloud
We regularly evaluate the cost of our services and apply optimization strategies that change over time based on our experiences. What we are currently doing, for example, is to simplify and optimize the use of our servers: For example, we have servers that are used 24/7, and for these we can make payments for one to three years in advance to reduce costs. Other servers, like those for development and testing environments, require a “start and stop” strategy, meaning that they are activated only when needed. These servers are therefore usually procured on a pay-per-use basis. In total, such optimizations can generate reductions in our cloud costs of more than 30 percent if applied sensibly.
We constantly perform such analyses, as well as comparisons between cloud services and traditional environments, for precisely this reason. If we find that certain services are better suited for traditional environments, we will operate them that way. We recently began such an evaluation for licensing, because we have seen that some providers who offer database services in cloud architectures are changing their licensing and commercial strategies, so that the Database-as-a-Service variant may actually cost more than buying and installing an appropriate database license on a virtual server.
Security and Cloud
Security is an increasingly important topic, which is why we have launched an initiative to check the security of our infrastructure with direct involvement of the service providers and cloud providers. We want to achieve the best possible level of security by leveraging all the possible functionalities that the providers offer.
Finding Cloud Experts
It is difficult to find knowledgeable ICT staff—especially in regard to cloud services, since they are a young technology and experience with cloud setups is not yet very widespread. Where we do have people with this knowledge, we need to invest to maintain it, as the cloud providers frequently update their products.
Cloud – the Solution for SMEs
The cloud is the most effective way for small and medium-sized businesses to achieve suitable infrastructures providing high service levels and redundancy with a reasonable financial investment.