Clough, headquartered in Australia, is an engineering and project-services company serving the energy, minerals, water, infrastructure, and power markets worldwide. Its services range from early concept evaluation and feasibility studies to design, construction, commissioning, and long-term asset support and optimization.
Clough has seen key markets go through a period of uncertainty as a result of the global economic downturn. Despite the negative impact on its business, Clough saw the situation as an opportunity to establish a leaner, more cost-effective organization, with a larger global footprint that could deliver more value to customers. The company began restructuring its operations and acquiring a number of businesses in different countries, including the United States and Scotland.
Emma Whitty, vice president of IT at Clough, was tasked with devising a program to transform the company’s IT. “I needed an IT infrastructure that was agile, global, and efficient. We needed to be able to repurpose our financial and intellectual capital on activities that were core to our business, not the management and maintenance of infrastructure,” she says. Historically, Clough ran a traditional on-premises IT infrastructure. Employees accessed locally based applications, and the bulk of the company’s IT came from three data centers based in Australia. Emma Whitty looked for a solution that would enable Clough to scale IT capacity quickly and “go global in minutes,” enabling the business to quickly integrate companies it was acquiring into its corporate network and launch new offices in weeks.
Why Amazon Web Services
Emma Whitty chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) to deliver Clough’s transformational IT strategy because she saw AWS as the leader in the cloud-services field. Clough partnered with ASG—an IT managed-services provider and Advanced Partner of the AWS Partner Network—to design, deliver, and support Clough’s environments on AWS. Clough, ASG—led by General Manager of Strategic Services Michael Simkovic—and AWS Professional Services worked together to migrate the company’s three data centers to AWS. “Besides decommissioning three data centers, we were establishing a number of secure, highly available environments that would be easily accessible to authorized personnel around the world,” says Emma Whitty.
Working together, the three parties designed and deployed an environment on AWS that provides key business applications, including an enterprise-resource-planning suite. Alongside the IT environment is an AWS-delivered mobile app platform, supporting 13 applications, some of which can be deployed by Clough clients. The third environment is virtual desktop infrastructure for Clough engineers across the globe. Clough, ASG, and AWS established the virtual desktop solution featuring Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances as the compute nodes and Amazon WorkSpaces as the virtualization platform. The environment also features AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) for end-user authentication, and AWS CloudFormation and AWS CloudTrail for resource management and control.
Today, Clough is a more cost-effective organization, driving greater innovation and customer value as a result of its transformational IT program. “We’ve reduced our IT capital and operational costs by 70 percent and 50 percent, respectively, since we began working with AWS,” says Emma Whitty. “We also reduced server costs by 33 percent as soon as we moved to the AWS global solution.” According to Emma Whitty, application availability is running at 99.999 percent and network latency is low.
As part of its cost-reduction strategy, Clough switched to an IT-management model where ASG provides Clough with both managed services and strategic support. Emma Whitty oversees an IT leadership team that includes ASG personnel and works closely with AWS. Together, they’ve created a flexible IT platform where AWS provides a global IT resource.
Emma Whitty uses the example of a new Clough office in Houston, Texas to highlight how agile the company’s IT has become. She estimates it would have taken about three months in the company’s previous environment to install the IT infrastructure to support a new office. A lot of this time would have been spent negotiating contracts with suppliers. Now that Clough works with AWS, it has taken the company no more than one month to line up and deploy IT services for all 50 employees at the office. “By working with AWS, we spent just one-tenth of the IT costs for a new office in Houston,” Emma Whitty says.
Aside from cost reductions, AWS helps Clough employees be more innovative and deliver improved customer service. Clough’s virtual desktop makes it easy for engineers to access applications when working remotely. According to Emma Whitty, engineers often work at client sites and need to make design changes while on the move. “They can access the AWS virtual desktop during client meetings and can work on design edits on the spot,” says Emma Whitty. “This helps our engineers deliver a far more responsive level of service to customers.”
Clough is now set up to rapidly deploy on a global level without investment in legacy systems and operating models, breaking the capital-expenditure-investment cycle traditionally attached to remaining at the forefront of technology. “While the improvement in performance is a major benefit, the most significant achievement of the migration to AWS is the change from infrastructure being something I need to worry about, to a state where I am buying compute power as I would a utility,” Emma Whitty says.
“We’ve reduced our IT capital and operational costs by 70% and 50%, respectively, since we began working with AWS.”
Emma Whitty, Vice President of IT