Technology innovation has been spreading across Italy for years, but the mandated lockdown during the rise of COVID-19 in March and April 2020 proved that Italy’s IT infrastructure can handle a nation of smart, remote workers. Will this change the future of work?
COVID-19 Speeds Digital Transformation in Italy
In this Tech Barometer podcast, learn how Italy’s TXT eSolutions proved their private cloud IT infrastructure worthy when the COVID-19 pandemic forced employees to work remotely. Their CIO says the private cloud is accelerating digital transformation.
In this Tech Barometer podcast segment from May 20, 2020, Guido Ingenito, IT manager turned CIO for TXT eSolutions, said while their IT roadmap hasn’t changed since the pandemic – they’ll keep improving their private cloud capabilities. The only difference is they’re speeding things up with the help of enterprise cloud software.
“We came across the idea to get rid of traditional infrastructure and move to better infrastructure,” Ingenito said. “For us, better infrastructure is one that can scale out according to our real needs and can grant us high availability and better service than ever.”
Jason Lopez: With millions of people in Italy slowly returning to their jobs. One thing which proved its worth during the shelter in place was the cloud. As many knowledge workers didn't miss a beat and were able to work from home, but questions remain with a vaccine not expected until 2021 in subsequent waves of COBIT 19 expected. Where is the new normal for it and the services it provides declinements Guido, Angelo and Janita who comes to us in this interview from bologna. Italy is the group it manager for TXT eSolutions, a provider of engineering software for verticals like aerospace and aviation, car making and transportation as well as technology for the financial industry. The company is a significant player in it and is listed on the Italian stock exchange. We thought it would be interesting to find out how Guido and his team dealt with the change in behaviors of end users working from home rather than in the office and also the things that Guido and his team have learned.
Guido Ingenito: Before the pandemic. We were able to operate our business normally, but due to the pandemic we have seen as much working coming up mostly of the users. We have seen a hiker adoption of a collaboration tools such as Microsoft teams. And we have also seen a few activities of insourcing for customer where the, let's say the smart working was not applicable. We had to insource various systems to still continue to produce a software for them, for the customers. So have seen a huge change from before the pandemic and when the pandemic arises.
Jason Lopez: Gotcha, gotcha. Uh, when you look at, uh, just a small change like this, it may not seem like much, but when you have your end users all relocated from the office out into their homes and working from their homes, how does that affect you?
Guido Ingenito: Initially we had to rethink the way we were working. Honestly, it has not been so dramatic scenes. At least half of my colleagues are working remotely from the beginning of the time, I will say. So there has been a change, let's say business unit two, which were working on premises. These were put to the online environment. And the online was a performance through their houses thanks to the collaboration tools we implemented so far thanks to the um, the it fleet of endpoints we set up. Um, it has been not so dramatic the change on their, on the habits of the end users, but for sure something changed. And what changed is the way they organize meetings, how they reach each other. Uh, and well thanks to the collaboration tools implemented so far it has not been so dramatic, you know, to swap from a condition to another. What is true is that before the pandemic, we were using a half percent of our capacity on collaborative tools. While now we are using them daily, let's say 98% or a hundred percent.
Jason Lopez: Oh, okay. So in terms of going forward, you know, after restrictions are lifted and people start to slowly return back to work, how many of the new ways of working, whether it's the way you work or the way your end users work, are there things in there where you've looked at it where your team has looked at it and said, Hey, that's actually a good idea? I think we'll do this going forward. How much of these new ways of working do you think will stick? Uh,
Guido Ingenito: Yeah, I, I don't know for sure. From my company point of view, the communication was good and we gave a clear instruction to the employees on what to do. So this work is instantly from, uh, let's say office activities cause not working activities. Uh, from the day one we were using the technologies, the tools we have, uh, on our endowments to do business like usual. This has not been the same from our customer's side. We worked, for example, American airlines or Lufthansa and uh, they for sure software the pandemic more with the customer. We are not able to do business as usual due to the restriction imposed by the government basically.
Jason Lopez: Well, you know, you're learning new things. Obviously you're being pushed into an experiment that you had no idea was going to be conducted. Does this change your it roadmap at all?
Guido Ingenito: Uh, I don't think we are going to change our admin. Honestly. We need to change the way we approach our normal lifetime. For example, we will be back with new rules. The offices will not tell for sure the same layout they had in the past, but this will apply also to restaurants. For example, this pandemic came with the opportunity to review the way we were working before. So I think we will look at as much working activities to make them more even more effectively. But the roadmap of a project we have, which were driven by risk analysis and by um, in the risks we remain or most, uh, the same. So we were on a good track before, uh, we'll still move forward with our roadmap of, uh, the finer the initiatives, tweaking them a little bit, but not that much honestly.
Jason Lopez: Well, it sounds like one of the things the pandemic did was it exposed you and your it team for providing services that turned out to be pretty solid. Yeah.
Guido Ingenito: We still need to further invest on business continuity, but it's just tweaking what we have is not the revolution of our posture, you know, to support the users to work.
Jason Lopez: So when you establish these collaboration tools originally, were there any thoughts about how they might come into play during a crisis?
Guido Ingenito: Well, we were not thinking to a pandemic when we designed it. The it landscape politics, the group were uh, thinking about, uh, approaching the design as a roadmap. So when I have been hired at the front, the group two years ago, the first month of activity was all about the finding a roadmap of initiatives which we had to perform to identify weaknesses and solve them in a timely fashion. And also on a budget constraints. We develop a roadmap of different initiatives on all the areas, the application area, the operation area, and the compliance and security. Well, the main driver to our transformation, it's a something we call digital transformation. Really in our company, the main driver has been to the GDPR compliance and the ISO 27 zero zero one certification we had to take for our customers thanks to the GDPR and the ISO certification. We had the opportunity to address every weakness within our perimeter and to arrive to the current situation. So, for example, we had a huge transformation over the data center. We had a huge standardization of the network environment supporting our users. We, uh, implement the new tools to support the software development processes. We concentrated all the source code of our applications within a single repository, which is based on Microsoft Asia DevOp instance. Another topic has been the upgrade of our ERP system, which is still ongoing and is a high demanding project. We did also standardized the end points belonging to our fleet. Introducing um, security measure. We work obviously from the organizational point of view and from the technical point of view. From the organizational point of view, we implemented a structure of a policies which apply to our users and the technology has been supporting these policies. For example, uh, we implemented the most common tools, uh, antivirus, uh, uh, content filtering, uh, plus, um, central CS log, um, uh, tools, uh, but with the compliance in mind.
Jason Lopez: So did you roll out desktop as a service?
Guido Ingenito: Yes, we do. As a software house and providing services to the end customers. Uh, we do use, uh, most of our workloads within the data center to host the VFL servers. As far as the pandemic, we have seen a growth on the usage of the server farm. It's not strictly a beautiful desktop infrastructure is mostly the usage of the infrastructure to be, to support the business processes. For example, the software development or the build processes. We are running to build our software solution basically. So yes, we have seen an increase.
Jason Lopez: Well, Guido, one of the points that I wanted to hit, we had talked about this earlier before we started recording, uh, was about the upgrade that you did a couple of years ago.
Guido Ingenito: Uh, yes, absolutely. Yes. We made the choice of a standard, uh, Nutanix nodes, which are based on Supermicro and they came from them fabric pre-installed. We had to rock them, configure them, and bring them to life. And at the same point of our roadmap of, uh, initiatives, we decided that the tree tire infrastructure was not enough to better support our, uh, business. This has been also driven by a compliance matter. For example, the demand of GDPR about business continuity. But it was at the same pre-market from ISO 27 zero zero one about implementing business continuity processes, which risk analysis in mind. We came across the idea to get rid of the tree dire infrastructure and move to a better infrastructure. What does it mean better infrastructure and infrastructure or which can scale out, uh, according to our real needs and can grant us the high availability or better service lever than ever. So, uh, thanks to the implementation of the project with Newtanics, we identified, uh, the new gears to run our production. Uh, thanks also to all the tools, the software solution, which led us to implement the business continuity processes. So the process with Nutanix has been straightforward. It has been implemented the first week of March and thanks to the patients work done by the sales guys. You need Italy and the system engineers from Nutanix. We have been able to get the gears delivered from San Francisco the 12th of March and get the entire production landscape over the new Nutanix farm in three days basically. So the 12th, we receive it, the gears and on Monday, uh, which was the 15, we were running most of our workload, I would say a hundred percent of our workloads from the new farm. So this has been a project done in a smart working. So I was uh, sitting in my home and uh, and some guys were working on the data center side to get the hardware installed it on the rack. But this has been straightforward and a fast implementation.
Jason Lopez: Okay. So with the upgrade, what are some of the benefits that you've seen so far?
Guido Ingenito: So basically the greatest improvement we find out, uh, among having satisfied the requirements from the GDPR has been, uh, looking at our warehouse running at least 50% faster than before. So we were using to run the same workload on the tree tire infrastructure. And when we went to Nutanix to run the same workload on Nutanix, we had an improvement of a bet for months. As of now, what we were able to do in three hours of a huge intense, uh, calculation. We are now able to do it in one hour and a half. So this has been the greatest improvement we have seen from the pers performance side. Furthermore, we also have seen other kinds of improvements from the user side, which were again on the perception of the performance of the server farm, which has been increased at this time dramatically. So from the business perspective, having a better and more performant data center environment means also the build processes we are running on, uh, delivering on building our software products are done in half of the time. These improves our capabilities in terms of planning a builder and delivery and getting the software solution ready to for the testing phase, you know?
Jason Lopez: Right, right. You know, as you were talking, it kind of made me recall, uh, speaking with Alberto Felicity, uh, last fall about his stories of driving around Italy with, uh, demos in the back of his car. And, and obviously you were probably one of those people that he drove over to see what is your, uh, recollection of those days.
Guido Ingenito: So, uh, we need to do a huge step back in the memory. So, uh, let's say it was, uh, five years ago that I first met Alberto Filizetti and I was working for another company. At that time I was within the ship building industry and we were, uh, building, um, fantastic, uh, motor yachts for our customers all around the world. So the first time I met the [inaudible], it has been lovely at the first scene, uh, for sure the technology that he had to explain me the difference between the treater infrastructure and the hyperconvergent team infrastructure. And, uh, I took it home, uh, the web scale capabilities, the platform head. Basically I'm a returning customer, so have been customer in affinity group and they have been a customer within two weeks. The group in ferati, I had the chance to discuss with the business to take a decision. Uh, the choices were continued to invest on the tree tie infrastructure, which was, uh, just a tactical choice or make a strategical choice. And we went to the strategical choice, which was a based on Nutanix, we had the opportunity to implement a PLM product, which you always are based on a Siemens PLM. So in center from Siemens, uh, the first investment we did on the Nutanix platform was just to support the Siemens PLM afterwards. The initial investment has been paid since we had the opportunity to implement the project on SAP upgrade and we took our ferati group, uh, SAP landscape over Nutanix, which proved the first choice was just good. So we move it forward. We the same technology, we scale it to new workloads and at that time I was one of the first customers running SAP over Nutanix in Italy and probably it was not even a certified the solution, but it was running very nice.
Guido Ingenito: Uh, when I left the fair red team, I joined the group as a group it manager of, of course I had a lack in my environment, which was the way we were, I wasn't using it to play with the data center infrastructure, the way to scale out the way to support our workloads. But after two years have been very proud of becoming again, a Nutanix customer and to take the TXT group workloads over Nutanix as well. So now we can scale out the same way I was using to doing for activity. The project were so successful that, uh, their CRM in. Okay.
Jason Lopez: Hey, I want to ask you a question about yourself and find out a little about who you are and where you came from. When did you first get interested in technology?
Guido Ingenito: Probably it was three years old or four years old and my uncle was working for IBM and had the first experience or IBM PCs. That's my first method with technology. I'm a computer science engineer, so it has been, uh, my field of studies and has been my work, my passion from the beginning.
Jason Lopez: Probably that's quite from the beginning. All right.
Guido Ingenito: Yeah, it was the four years for sure.
Jason Lopez: Guido Angelo Ingenito is the group it manager for TX T solutions. The company is based in Milan with offices in Germany, the UK, France, Switzerland and the U S. You can learn more about them at txtgroup.com. Thanks for listening. This is the Tech Barometer podcast. I'm Jason Lopez. Tech Barometer is a podcast from The Forecast.
Jason Lopez is executive producer of Tech Barometer, the podcast outlet for The Forecast. He’s the founder of Connected Social Media. Previously, he was executive producer at PodTech and a reporter at NPR.
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