Tech Talk

Transforming and Managing a
Mission-Critical Infrastructure

Industry: Manufacturing

Conversation with
Tony Wong, CIO, Norbord Inc.

 

January 5, 2018

Commerx

Would you tell us about Norbord’s business vision?

Tony Wong

At Norbord, we target to be the market leader in the wood fiber product industry, not only in North American but also globally. And we are not only looking at ourselves from the wood fibre product point of view; we envision Norbord as one of the key leaders providing wood fiber applications. Application meaning any product and services that can benefit from the application of the wood fibre technology.

Commerx

What is the role of technology at Norbord?

Tony Wong

Two-fold: First, to ensure that we have the operational capability in the most efficient way to support our business and operations. That is the foundation piece. The second role is to develop and acquire new business competency to support short and long-term business strategy.

Commerx

What was your key technology challenge at Norbord?

Tony Wong

We did not have the resilience in our existing IT infrastructure, and we did not have the scalability to expand, to realize our business strategic vision. That was the main reason why we made the critical decision to migrate and modernize our existing IT infrastructure at our head office to a cloud-based one. And we needed a technology partner to help us successfully complete this complex project of our mission critical business environment.

Commerx

What was your criteria for choosing your technology partner?

Tony Wong

The depth and the breath of the technology providers; that is what was being evaluated.

From a depth stand point, the full migration project was Mission Critical. We could not afford any down time or the risk of any down time.

If you look at what’s involved in the migration; Nortrack which is a system that involves both HPE and UNIX technology. But it also involved multiple technology disciplines; Nortrack/HPE was just one. Active Directory Services is another one. Networking/Security services is another one. Microsoft environment/SQL are others. And then all the interfaces with all the other systems and the telecom migration that ties into the racks of the Norbord systems.

From the breadth standpoint we needed an organization that has someone who has significant deep knowledge of a Unix environment, as well as knowledge and resources across all the other technology disciplines. A company that understands the impact of inter-dependency and experience in migrating critical systems. Commerx has it all, which allowed the management of all four projects.

Last but not the least, the project management skill set which allows you to manage projects across multiple technology steps. We needed an organization that can actually manage the coordination and integration of the technological solutions throughout the migration project across all these functional steps and technologies. A critical component we used to evaluate all the potential partners and Commerx proved that they have that capability. They excel in managing technology migration projects and that’s why, coupled with all their other expertise, we chose Commerx.

Commerx

How did Commerx address your mission critical project?

Tony Wong

Commerx played a critical role, in fact, I always say an “irreplaceable” role in helping us overcome the challenge. As we indicated that the key challenge is the lack of resiliency and lack of scalability. Commerx helped us to bridge our own gaps in three fundamental ways:

  • Technical depth in managing the environment and the system
  • System integration knowledge that allowed us to set the foundation for scalability
  • Managing complex technology projects

Commerx

What are some of the key results and improvements?

Tony Wong

Our project involved 133 applications on 125 physical servers in multiple locations and 33 terabytes of data.

  • Number one, the infrastructure was simplified. We had 96 virtual IT servers and we are down to 34; that’s a tremendous amount of infrastructure simplification. We know that it will benefit the organization both on management capability and operational efficiency.
  • Number two, we now have an updated infrastructure which is resulting in higher system performance.
  • Number three, with a more resilient and more efficient operational system this enables our people to be more effective and more efficient. Now with Commerx’s professional team that continues to augment our team, we have a trusted partner that provides a real time 7/24 support. This frees up the Norbord internal IT team to do more of our value added products and services.

Commerx

With the completion of the project and adding Commerx Services, how has this set up Norbord for future success?

Tony Wong

With the successful execution of the Data Centre Migration and with Commerx 24×7 Managed Services, we are now absolutely set up at a strategic level for the future. Simply put, we now have a stable operating environment that our IT team does not need to worry about for the next 4 to 5 years, and that has tremendous benefit:

  • We can re-focus our internal IT resources to develop and work on other business capabilities.
  • We now have confidence that our infrastructure will operate properly without the risk of business breakages or downtime for next to 4 to 5 years.
  • With the migration that Commerx helped us with, in terms of migrating Data Centre, I think it is very important to recognize that it is not only a data center migration but also a system atomization and architectural upgrade.

Now we have a modernized architecture and a modernized system environment that frees up our IT resources to focus on many other value added projects, but, at the same time, it gives us the scalability and flexibility to take on any new potential business requirements. This enables the business to actually freely execute the business strategy without the concern of being limited by the IT infrastructure or any system limitations. Now we have a simplified and optimized system that its future proof.

Commerx

How would you describe Commerx? Why Commerx?

Tony Wong

Sure. Commerx is a truly customer value focused IT partner that functions as a “native extension” to any internal IT team.

Why do I say Commerx is a “native extension” of the IT team? There are quite a number of activities that the Commerx team took on in terms of coordinating with our other partners. When Commerx stepped in, it was hard to differentiate if it was a Norbord person or a Commerx person. Truly seamless. Commerx demonstrated a true ownership while dealing with the integration of the complex and multi-faceted project with other companies and multiple partners.

From a personal stand point, I didn’t lose any sleep. I observed the project during its critical points, and the project got executed in such a way that I didn’t have to worry about it. As a CIO, it’s the best result!

Kudos to Commerx! Not only from the technical support stand point but the tremendous project management discipline and skills to execute complex technology projects.

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