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Simplifying Infrastructure Management with Microsoft Solutions

by Marly Hazen McQuillen
27. July 2015 07:00

James Hanauer, CTO and VP Engineering of CTSI-Global, and Art Saisuphaluck, Solutions Architect and R&D Lead of CTSI-Global, recently provided their expertise on Microsoft Solutions for a special Microsoft edition of CIO Review.

Simplifying Infrastructure Management with Microsoft Solutions

Throughout my career, I have had the luxury of fulfilling various roles responsible for steering the technologies used by enterprises and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers. What I have found to be ubiquitous in each role is the need to have the right people around you to develop joint strategies and a joint vision. Gaps in knowledge and experience -- for IT or other subject matter experts -- present the risk of an organization falling into a mostly maintenance or survival mode. I consider vendors as part of my team, so I look for them to have a vision and the ability to execute just like any other team member. Microsoft is a technology provider that has continued to meet the current needs of many IT organizations globally while also contributing to the future of the technology landscape.

Microsoft's effort in establishing technology platforms is key to ensuring organizations remain agile and focused on business value. Successfully establishing platforms that meet the need of IT teams and business operations requires having a unified focus in providing solutions for your infrastructure team, development team, and the vertical business functions of the organization. With Microsoft Solutions, CTSI-Global is able to keep the costs of training, development, and operations down since the solutions Microsoft offer fulfill the needs of both our enterprise operations and our product research and development teams.

Our primary Solutions Architect and R&D Lead, Art Saisuphaluck, has utilized Microsoft Solutions to enable our existing teams to achieve more in many areas such as advancing our DevOps adoption, simplifying infrastructure management, strengthening our high availability, increasing our product development throughout, and improving quality. He is enthusiastic about the direction Microsoft is headed.

"I'm always looking at our processes to see where we can gain the most efficiency. Years ago when Microsoft expanded the enterprise capabilities of Hyper-V, I was thrilled because our current staff could leverage it to address the server managerment needs of the infrastructure team while also addressing the testing and resource needs of our R&D team. Hyper-V provided a means for reducing our rack space and power consumption while increasing server density and maintainability. The developers are able to utilize predefined machines for isolated testing of software. The Live Migration capabilities of Hyper-V allow the virtual machines to be migrated across hardware boundaries without the need shut them down. Windows Server Datacenter enhances the value of using Hyper-V by providing a better means for cost control in its virtual machine licensing model," says Art.

Our development team utilizes Microsoft .NET and Microsoft SQL Server to provide robust solutions quickly, so they spend a significant amount of their time in the Microsoft Visual Studio IDE. Developing applications in Microsoft Visual Studio has brought regular increases on our ROI as Microsoft advances coding functions -- such as refactoring capabilities -- and continues to integrate the IDE with their server technologies and their Azure cloud technologies. Since Visual Studio has native support for the Microsoft Web API REST services framework, HTML5, CSS3, and rich JavaScript development, the developers can stay in the Visual Studio to develop, test, and debug services and applications while also having the ability to spin up and manage VMs, connect to SQL Server, provision Azure resources, and deploy into isolated testing environments -- all within Microsoft Visual Studio.

Since CTSI-Global provides a hosted suite of transportation and logistics services that are customizable extensions to ERP systems, we are always enhancing our testing capabilities to improve quality and prevent regression. Using Microsoft's Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V, PowerShell, and Visual Studio in our testing solution, we were able to establish an automated method of creating ad-hoc testing environments that isolate changes for various levels of testing.

Microsoft's evolution of Azure is beneficial to anyone utilizing Microsoft products. Since they are using their own technologies -- like Windows Server, Hyper-V, IIS, SQL Server, and Visual Studio -- to build Azure, Microsoft becomes a major consumer of their own products. This means that needed features and bugs that Microsoft observes will be much closer to the perspective of their customers. Features needed to enhance Microsoft's ability to evolve the Windows Server versions that organizations use on-premise. A feature in Windows Server 2012 that relates to cloud capacities and has helped us is the ability of VMs to leverage virtual fiber channels for attaching SAN storage directly to a VM."

Microsoft is serious about the cloud and specifically Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). This initially became apparent to me when Scott Guthrie was moved from Corporate Vice President of the Development Group to Corporate Vice President of Cloud and Enterprise in 2011. His work over the development group dramatically changed the development experience with Microsoft technologies, and he is doing the same throughout Azure and Microsoft's cloud enabling technologies. Under his guidance since 2011, Microsoft Azure has gained a solid Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering that is simple but powerful to use along with many additions to its PaaS offering. The Azure platform services now comprise of Azure SQL Service as a service, Azure Active Directory as a service, Azure Websites as a service, Azure Service Bus, Azure Mobile Services (NodeJS as a service), Azure Media Services, Azure BizTalk as a Service, Azure Traffic Manager Service (Global DNS as a Service), and Azure Machine Learning (Data Analytics as a Service) as examples. To increase adoption, Microsoft offers a free version of the Visual Studio development environment, and to enable community involvement they open sources many parts of the .NET framework. To CTSI-Global, this shows Microsoft has a vision toward the future of their platform while executing solutions for business today.

CTSI-Global is a company with 60 years of experience in the transportation and logistics domain, and like Microsoft we have a vision of adoptiong modern technologies and methodologies to package and deliver our expertise to our customers in a way that is simple to leverage for all areas of the organization while continuously delivering value along the way.

As CTO, the technology solutions and platforms provided by Microsoft allow me and my team to spend more time with decision makers focusing on how to build the company and less time implementing and managing specific technologies. Having time to work on business strategy is vital now that the role of the modern CIO consists of being a strategic business partner and solutions provider in the organization.

Freight Payment: From Data to Intelligence

by Marly Hazen McQuillen
14. July 2015 08:00

It’s not about the data you accumulate; it’s what you do with it.

John Powers, The Journal of Commerce

Transportation costs account for as much as 10 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, and the number is similar for more developed economies worldwide. Unsurprisingly, shippers and their logistics providers are more than ever looking toward their supply chains to unearth cost efficiencies and control their ultimate cost of delivered goods.

Critical to their efforts is the ability to identify, garner, manipulate and interpret the seemingly countless data elements associated with a single freight movement. These range from macro analyses of costs by country of origin to the granularity of delivered cost by individual SKU number. Savvy logistics professionals are turning to “business intelligence” partners to help them fine-tune their transportation chains.

“40 to 50 percent of shippers in North America outsource to an FAP provider. While this percentage is lower outside of North America, the number of international companies outsourcing is on the rise,” said Kristy Sutton, vice president of freight payment operations, CTSI-Global, referring to freight audit and payment services. Larger companies in the United States are even more invested. “An estimated 60 percent of major corporations in North America currently outsource their freight payment function as a result of high labor, processing and technology costs. While the concept is still somewhat new in Europe, we are seeing increased interest in this type of service,” reported Tom Zygmunt, Cass Information Systems’ manager of marketing and business development.

Read more: "Freight Payment: From Data to Intelligence"

INFOGRAPHIC: Delivery Drones Prepare for Liftoff

by Marly Hazen McQuillen
23. June 2015 08:45

The FAA has received hundreds of requests from companies that want to fly commercial drones. Less than 7% of these requests have been approved, and those that were approved face severe restrictions. A beta version of Amazon's proposed drone program has been approved for more thorough study on Amazon's grouds (or skies).

Check out CTSI-Global's infographic, below, for details!

Delivery Drones Prepare for Liftoff (INFOGRAPHIC)

Download printable PDF

Video: 'Thought Leader Life' Interview with CEO Ken Hazen

by Marly Hazen McQuillen
12. May 2015 08:15

Thought Leadership Life logoRecently, Mitchell Levy and guest co-host Jim Canfield interviewed Ken Hazen, President and CEO of CTSI-Global, for the business leadership podcast Thought Leader Life.

As part of a month-long series called "Lonely at the Top," Levy and Canfield focused their questions on the role of the CEO, both among peer CEOs and regarding how best to lead employees. Hazen also addressed generational attitudes toward different communications technologies.

Some of the most interesting quotes from the series have been captured in an ebook of "Aha moments," which can be read here. Here is a sample of "Aha" quotes from Hazen's interview:

  • "As the CEO, you become personally invested in the organization. You take care of the employees and their families." - Ken Hazen
  • "In any organization, it's important to have mutual loyalty between the CEO & their team." - Jim Canfield
  • "CEOs don't pay people to say, 'Yes'. You pay people to think." - Ken Hazen

Watch the full video below or check out the audio podcast:

Employee Satisfaction

by Marly Hazen McQuillen
4. May 2015 08:00

Recently, our President and CEO Ken Hazen shared his thoughts on LinkedIn about how to encourage employee satisfaction.

Recognition and being heard are the keys to keeping and growing employees long term.  I have done MBWA (Management By Walking Around) before it was a thing.  We have had picnics, bowling leagues, baseball and soccer teams, Star Awards, VIP Awards, baseball and basketball ticket giveaways, lunches (we call them Hogaramas), etc., but the most satisfying (besides handing out an arbitrary bonus) is walking up and saying thank you.  Preferably in front of their peers.  Private one-on-one time in my office or their office or cubicle is excellent as well.