FTD moves from on-prem data center to Google Cloud VMware Engine with SADA’s help



FTD delivers flowers anywhere thanks to a modern Google Cloud infrastructure and technical expertise from SADA, An Insight company



INCREASED Transaction capacity by >2X

REDUCED Facility operating costs by over $1 million

ELIMINATED Over 40% of virtual machine sprawl

Bringing flowers to your doorstep with data connectivity 

Holidays. Graduations. Job promotions. Weddings. Birthdays. All these occasions call for flowers, especially when you cannot be there in person to celebrate with loved ones. This may mean sending flowers to the other side of town, across the country, or even abroad. 

FTD is a century-old company whose business solution is at the center of this timeless courtesy. FTD supports an online network of florists spread throughout the world, allowing customers to send same-day flower deliveries to anyone, anywhere, with just a click. “We’re not a company that just sells flowers but more so a technology company that enables it,” explains Steve Ridley, VP of Infrastructure at FTD.

To keep member florists and customers happy, FTD’s online platform must provide a seamless engagement experience from search to purchase to delivery. This is especially critical in peak seasons leading up to Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. To achieve this, FTD maintains a robust and highly available data infrastructure combining both on-prem and cloud components. 

Business challenge

Replacing an antiquated on-prem system

Despite success in growing their business from the telegraph era to the digital era, FTD suffered from hardware challenges due to aging infrastructure, as well as storage limitations. “Our aging set of infrastructure was due for a replacement cycle,” recalls Ridley. “We couldn’t even upgrade our version of VMware due to hardware incompatibility.”

The company was running out of VM (virtual machine) storage space and had experienced instability within their on-premises data center, increasing the risk of costly outages. “The breaking point came when we decided to sell our headquarters buildings in Downers Grove, Illinois, and were required to vacate due to repurposing of the facility,” says Ridley. 

Measuring cloud benefits against alternatives

FTD considered three replacement options: moving existing hardware to a colocation facility, upgrading to new hardware, or migrating to the cloud. “We considered a lift-and-shift migration,” says Ridley, “but without excess capacity, that would have been difficult to coordinate with minimal downtime, and a physical migration increases hardware failure risk.”

Similarly, a hardware replacement would have involved purchasing, deploying, and migrating to a separate data center. The significant capital expenditure for hardware and licensing, not to mention the inherent lack of elasticity, was a turn off.

“The ability to decrease capacity is important because we have quite a lot of legacy infrastructure and applications,” says Ridley. “We wanted to sunset these apps and simultaneously reduce capacity, which is difficult to consider if you’ve just bought $1 million worth of hardware.”

Ridley’s team decided on a cloud migration due to its cost-effectiveness, operational advantages, and elasticity. This was made easier because FTD had an existing presence in Google Cloud, and they were familiar with Google Cloud’s managed service Google Cloud VMware Engine (GCVE)

“GCVE would eliminate the need for us to spend a significant amount of capital on hardware and licensing,” says Ridley, “while saving on operational costs as well as support costs for the hardware.”


Migrating to the cloud in stages 

The complexity of FTD’s legacy applications, lack of subject matter experts, and incomplete data led FTD to seek support from SADA. “There are complex idiosyncrasies in our applications and we’ve accumulated a decent amount of technical debt,” says Ridley. “SADA was recommended to us by our Google Cloud account team to assist.”

FTD’s 29-week migration from on-prem to Google Cloud involved multiple phases: discovery, architecture, buildout, and active migration. The team’s goal was to migrate hundreds of virtual machines (VMs) to GCVE, while leveraging SADA’s technical expertise and flexibility.

Discovering applications and understanding their place

In the discovery phase, SADA evaluated FTD’s VMware ecosystem, assessing existing applications and understanding their place in the broader data ecosystem. FTD had close to 700 VMs. 

In addition, various applications were obsolete, and many applications had unique requirements that impacted their suitability for migration. SADA helped FTD navigate competing priorities, resource constraints, and availability of application testers. 

The discovery and architecture phases determined a suitable GCVE Landing Zone and migration plan, setting FTD up for a realistic migration protocol. “SADA was super flexible in working with us,” says Ridley. “There was just no question that we would continue with SADA for the subsequent phases.”

Migrating virtual machines in waves

FTD’s SADA-facilitated Google Cloud migration was targeted toward allowing FTD to decommission obsolete applications and enhance institutional knowledge, while improving infrastructure resilience. “We participated in close collaboration with SADA,” says Ridley. “We were able to determine which virtual machines went in each wave in almost real time.”

Though Ridley’s team was new to moving virtual machines to GCVE, they aimed to migrate an average of 20 VMs per wave and accomplish each wave within a week. Ultimately, SADA helped FTD move 325 of nearly 400 virtual machines to be migrated, while equipping them to migrate the remainder on their own. To maintain continuity of service and application performance, database nodes were moved in the same waves as dependent applications and their VMs. FTD’s major database migrations included:

  • Standalone and clustered SQL Servers
  • Primary/secondary and multi-master MySQL clusters

“SADA brought a lot of technical expertise to our virtual machine and database migration,” says Ridley. “SADA’s know-how was indispensable because we really didn’t have the experience or resource capacity to gain that experience quickly.”


Reducing administrative overhead

Besides providing an opportunity for cleanup and modernization, FTD’s cloud migration reduced administrative overhead while enhancing scalability and predictability in operating costs. Plus, FTD is now on a fully supported version of VMware. “The migration allowed us to upgrade VMware, which we couldn’t do previously because of hardware incompatibility,” says Ridley.

All this is possible because Google Cloud manages the infrastructure components in its data center, thus reducing administrative overhead and risk for FTD. “So we don’t have to worry about that overhead any longer,” says Ridley. “This allows us to focus on more important things and redeploy resources on business-critical tasks.”

Planning enabled by cloud elasticity

Cloud elasticity gives Ridley’s team the option to deploy to multiple geographic regions for increased availability, while putting variable operating expenses within their direct control. “The elasticity offered by Google Cloud does wonders for our planning,” says Ridley. “It gives us the ability to rapidly scale the number of nodes, at the push of a button.”

The flexibility to implement a multi-regional capability positions FTD for an improved business continuity posture that could prevent meaningful revenue loss in the event of a localized outage. “Trying to deploy in more than one location previously would’ve required a second data center, additional hardware management, and licensing,” says Ridley. “Now these capabilities are within our grasp.”

Reducing hardware costs, increasing transaction volume

After discounting the cloud transition upfront costs, the long-term comparison of Google Cloud to the hardware alternative is stark. “By moving to Google Cloud, we avoided over $1 million of hardware costs, and vacating our facilities eliminates millions of dollars annually in operating costs” says Ridley. “And we don’t have to pay for VMware licensing directly. Plus, we didn’t have to renew support contracts on existing hardware or purchase support on new hardware. There’s also more savings to come because we have some longer-term contracts that have minimum spends. Once those contracts expire, so do those costs.”

“One of the big value-adds for FTD is the ability of Google Cloud to take care of VMware licensing,” says Ridley. “That’s especially true with the recent acquisition of VMware by Broadcom. Many people are unsure what that means for licensing. But because Google Cloud now deals with VMware licensing, we just run it and don’t think about it much.”

More modern and resilient infrastructure also supports higher transaction volume. During FTD’s 2024 Valentine’s Day peak, the new GCVE environment proved capable of supporting more than twice as much transaction volume as the on-prem VMware environment did during the previous peak, improving ROI. 

Ultimately, SADA’s relationship approach, technical proficiency, and flexibility were instrumental in the project’s success. “Thanks to SADA we have a much more resilient and elastic infrastructure,” concludes Ridley. “There’s just more capability now.”

Overall, as a result of working with SADA, FTD was able to:

  • Conduct a migration from an on-prem data center to GCVE in 29 weeks
  • Move 395 virtual machines
  • Save over $1 million in hardware costs
  • Eliminate over 40% of outstanding virtual machine sprawl
  • Enhance scalability and operating cost predictability

Hear more from FTD 

Get more insights into FTD’s transformation with this bonus interview.

SADA’s discovery approach forced us to ask questions, look closely at our applications, and revisit not only their ownership but also their importance. Do we need this application? What is it doing? Is it business critical? If not, how difficult would it be to achieve that functionality differently and get rid of that application? That approach enabled us to decommission 310 of 700 VMs. They’re gone now. We eliminated over 40% of our VM footprint. That was a huge outcome.

— Steve Ridley | VP of Infrastructure at FTD

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