Over the last 100 years, Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction has consistently demonstrated forward thinking by bringing our best capabilities and the latest technologies to projects. Our work includes San Francisco’s iconic Transamerica Pyramid, The Getty Center in Los Angeles, and the Salesforce Tower, a joint venture with Clark Construction Group and soon to be one of the tallest office buildings in the western United States.
Innovation is a cornerstone of our forward-thinking approach. Back in 2004, we started getting ahead of the curve in the construction industry by pioneering the concept of “building-information modeling.” This virtual model for coordinating construction allowed stakeholders to work remotely yet collaborate on critical construction projects. Today, we are transforming how buildings are designed and constructed by employing innovative digital technologies, including virtual-machine 3D modeling. Given the growing importance of technology in our business, the strategic importance of our data center infrastructure to support these digital tools has also increased.
The critical nature of our data centers became very apparent through two disruptive events. First, in 2014, a San Francisco power outage temporarily shut down our operations. Second, a building fire at our Los Angeles offices and data center forced us to relocate for several months.
These events provided a wake-up call to our company: we needed to move our systems, data, mission-critical applications and cloud infrastructure to a more robust business-continuity (BC) and disaster-recovery (DR) colocation environment. At the same time, our company was increasingly using cloud platforms—Microsoft Azure and Office 365. We needed fast, reliable access to the cloud so we could optimize our collaboration, file sharing, development, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and financial applications for both our employees and partners.
As we examined data center options, two objectives were at the top of our list:
Safeguard business continuity. We needed a more resilient interconnection and data center environment to host and protect our core systems, data and applications. This platform needed to enable reliable disaster recovery. It also had to provide a high-availability environment for failover from our on-premises data center to the cloud.
Support increased cloud-based collaboration. We also needed a high-performance, low-latency interconnection so our employees and construction partners could better use cloud-based collaboration applications, such as email, SharePoint and Office 365 Suite, as well as file services. And looking ahead, we also wanted to have a ready pathway to move other on-premises applications to the cloud.
Having the Right Foundation for Applications: Today and in the Future
In searching for a new Silicon Valley home for our data center, we wanted to find a solution that provided a more robust and reliable infrastructure than we could build ourselves. As we examined our options, every time we turned around, the Equinix name came up as the leader in the market.
By selecting the Equinix Platform, we were able to move our business-continuity and disaster-recovery infrastructure to a data center environment with greater than 99.99999% uptime. Interconnection between our primary IT infrastructure at Equinix and our on-premises failover and DR environment eliminated the need for our IT staff to make decisions on when to go into DR mode. Our DR process that typically took hours to complete has been nearly eliminated by moving data to the cloud, reducing potential disruption to employee and partner productivity. DR is also much simpler in the cloud. In the event of a disaster, we can take advantage of Equinix’s and Azure’s uptime for the best course of action instead of restoring DR to one of our offices.
To address our second objective of improving collaboration, we sought the best possible connectivity to our cloud-based environments. This feature would enable our applications to run as fast and as efficiently as possible—and help us get them up and running as soon as possible. Our previous cloud connection was through an Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) virtual private network, but it was too slow because of high latency. By employing solutions hosted in the cloud, we have improved the collaboration experience with other project stakeholders at much lower costs.
The Equinix Platform provides interconnection to the Microsoft Azure and Office 365 platforms with vastly better cloud access and application performance. For example, we now host our VDI farm at Equinix, which enables virtual-machine 3D modeling. The VDI environment has direct access to Microsoft Azure with consistent two-millisecond latency over the Equinix high-speed, low-latency network backbone. Equinix’s Cloud Exchange is the conduit to go from the data center for our VDI environment to resources such as Azure and Office 365 without latency issues.
Our move to a new data center environment has also positioned us to have fast and easy access to additional cloud services for future application migration, such as cloud-based PBX for voice over IP (VoIP). Because the infrastructure is already in place, the door is wide open for us to adopt that next new piece of cloud technology to enhance our business operations.
We can run virtual meetings out of the data center, requiring fewer high-speed Internet connections from our construction sites, reducing our costs and improving our productivity. The absence of a robust, high-quality centrally location VDI solution at our data center would have translated into expensive IT hardware and device costs at our construction sites for these live meetings.
This capability is a great example of how we used an Interconnection Oriented Architecture (IOA) to ensure low-latency business connection and continuity to our VDI environment for our employees located at construction sites. Most of our data now exists either at Equinix or Office 365. Equinix maintains it in a secure environment, using far more-reliable infrastructure than what we could have afforded in an on-premise scenario.
The benefits of interconnection and the cloud have included flexibility, cost, convenience and performance, allowing our employees to focus on their main tasks. We’re excited to be leading the industry with our digital transformation and having everything online, ready to run and expand our business.
About the Author
Jason Warmby is Director of Information Technology for Hathaway Dinwiddie.