E.N. Bisso is owned by the fifth-generation family descendants of Captain Joseph Bisso. This enterprise quickly expanded to employ the use of steam-powered ferries and tugs. The ferry business grew into a sizable venture and was eventually sold to the State of Louisiana. In 1946 the company was split up and Captain Edwin Napoleon Bisso formed his own company with six tugboats and two heavy-lift derricks, later naming it E.N. Bisso & Son. Today the company is a leading U.S. Gulf Coast provider of harbor tug and towing services.
E.N. Bisso supported its fleet of tugboats via one corporate facility linked to an additional satellite location. For IT services, the company deployed several physical servers connected to a network-attached-storage (NAS) device using Peer Sink for real-time data replication. Although the network size was modest (several SQL servers, hosting email and Exchange Server, Great Plains financial application and terminal server for remote access), the company realized it was allocating too much time to maintaining it. It decided to exit the information-lifecycle-management (ILM) process that keeps many network administrators from performing more-strategic businesses initiatives.
The size of the organization doesn’t matter; all IT infrastructure devices require a number of seemingly unending cycles to track assets. As these assets go through different stages of usefulness or function, IT teams must constantly manage the process, taking them away from other more important tasks and saddling them with mundane contractual obligations, maintenance reviews, cost analyses and procurement paperwork. The ever present specter of ILM does have the benefit of ensuring effective asset management, configuration, deployment and disposal while setting up the technology standards and maintaining continuity.
E.N. Bisso, however, realized that a plausible solution to freeing itself of the perpetual ILM cycle was to use cloud-based IT services. Using these services, companies receive a model that allows them to save money by reducing the costs associated with data center power and cooling bills.
“We needed to free ourselves of managing and replacing hardware all the time,” said Michael Collins, network administrator for E.N. Bisso. “Our goal was to be 100 percent virtualized; it’s more cost effective and places less burden on IT.”
After experiencing an Exchange server failure, the company decided that the timing was right for outsourced IT services and that the email server was to be the first hardware to move into the cloud. Collins decided that the least disruptive way of “freeing themselves” was to take facilities offline bit by bit until they get comfortable with someone else housing their equipment and hosting applications. As devices near the end of their useful life, it’s time to leave the on-premise racks behind and spin-up virtual servers. This walk-before-you-run scenario gave Collins the opportunity to establish a cloud baseline with best-of-breed devices, maintenance and upgrading all taken care of by the cloud provider.
“We did not want to fool with the hardware anymore; we wanted everything moved out,” Collins added.
Selecting a qualified cloud service provider was simple; the decision was based on Collins’ prior experience with Venyu while he was an IT consultant. From 2006 to 2011, he worked for an IT consulting firm in New Orleans. Some of his clients, including E.N. Bisso, used Venyu for offsite backups and virtualization. Collins was hired on full time by E.N. Bisso in January 2012.
The company decided to consolidate its corporate and satellite office networks into one location to provide better support for fleet management and corporate services. Working with Venyu, E.N. BISSO hosted half of its physical servers in a colocation environment, with virtual machines running in the cloud. This new hosted environment used VMware cloud and vCloud Director to manage the entire service from any Internet connection. The flexible cloud-based services allowed the company to continue virtualizing physical devices—benefiting Collins by relieving him of time constraints.
Tugboats need application hosting and support the same as any other organization. Collins is using an invoicing system as well as tracking and vessel-maintenance applications—all web-based and hosted on SQL servers in the cloud. Since he is a one man IT shop, these hosted applications free up a significant amount of his time by not only removing the ILM burden, but also eliminating paperwork. By eliminating many emails and paper-based forms with attachments, Collins has streamlined the process from boats to shoreside.
As a next step, Collins elected to deploy a disaster-recovery (DR) plan. The new DR plan allowed E.N. Bisso to replicate and backup files at the cloud provider, creating a completely redundant service. In addition, the cloud provider’s DR service offers the company a safe and always-on business location to continue supporting the tug fleet with the same IT services—without disruptions.
The horizon cleared and E.N. Bisso found itself steering toward calmer IT waters with cloud services. After taking cautionary steps to virtualize, the company has steamed ahead and converted the following devices and services to the cloud:
- 11 servers (Exchange, Microsoft Great Plains, SQL, MarineCFO and CoreIntegrator)
- Two terminal servers
- Two domain controllers
- Disaster recovery
- Virtualized server for NAS backup
For tugboat captains, clouds can herald dangerous waters ahead. But for Michael Collins, the cloud meant smooth sailing and streamlining the IT infrastructure, support and improving business processes throughout the organization. Simply put, E.N. Bisso’s cloud benefits include flexible virtual and cloud hosting, enhanced network availability and enhanced IT support.
“With these new cloud services, we were able to outsource much of our IT responsibilities, which has enabled us to roll out new IT services in support of our tug fleet,” Collins concluded.