Sometimes technology truly is a force for good. Like when a data center infrastructure update, for example, frees up money and other resources that can instead be used on “wishes” for kids with serious illnesses.
Bipin Jayaraj is vice president and CIO of Make-a-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit that grants wishes to children diagnosed with critical and life-threatening medical conditions. These wishes range from swimming with dolphins in the Caribbean to building an army-themed fort to becoming Batkid for a day.
“On average, it takes $10,500 for a wish, and we do around 15,500 wishes a year,” Jayaraj said. “So it’s always a decision to spend $10,500 for a wish. Or do you want to upgrade a laptop or harden a firewall?”
Anyone whose heart isn’t two sizes too small would choose the former. Working with VMware cloud provider partner PhoenixNAP and standardizing on VMware software-defined infrastructure has allowed the organization to save millions and that can be spent on granting these wishes, Jayaraj said.
“Imagine 60 chapters running their own infrastructure models compared to what we are enabling through the VMware model,” he said. “With VMware, at a much lower cost using virtualization technology, I can have all of them centralized into our cloud and colocation models.”
Make-a-Wish has 60 chapters across the U.S., and its national office is in Phoenix. Each chapter has its own personality and team — and until fairly recently they also had their own on-premises infrastructure, running disparate applications and storing sensitive data including financial and medical information.
“From a security perspective, we didn’t know where the data was, and how secure it was,” Jayaraj said.
Batkid and Colo
The nonprofit started its cloud journey in 2011, moving legacy hardware and applications to PhoenixNAP’s colocation facility. Then Batkid happened, and that put a new sense of urgency into the plan.
In 2013, Make-a-Wish granted its biggest-ever wish, and turned a 5-year-old cancer survivor into Batkid for a day. The boy helped the Caped Crusader save San Francisco from the Joker and became an overnight superstar. People all over the world followed Batkid’s adventure on social media, and it brought so much traffic that the Make-a-Wish Foundation website crashed.
“The Batkid story turned technology around for Make-a-Wish,” Jayaraj said. “When we put a number on the loss of not having a website up and running, so someone can feed off that info and donate, it was in the millions of dollars of revenue lost. That’s when Make-a-Wish decided to go colo.”
It decided to move all of its chapter infrastructure and workloads to PhoenixNAP. “They were able to provide us with several use cases including security and cost savings,” Jayaraj said. The cost savings, he added, “was definitely in the millions that we were able to shave off right off the bat.”
The organization spent the last five years consolidating individual chapters’ infrastructure and moving workloads to PhoenixNAP’s cloud platform, which is built on VMware architecture. It uses vSphere compute and NSX networking and security. Almost 50 chapters will be onboarded by the end of this year, and the project will be completed by the end of March 2019.
“Once that is done, we will all be in this true-blue-one model, which is going to enable multiple benefits like a uniform user experience,” Jayaraj said. “The true benefits of IT are going to come out.”
But it’s already seeing benefits, such as the ability to scale to meet demand during heavy traffic times (like during the holidays) without crashing the website. And enabling “lean and mean” IT operations teams, thus freeing up more employees to work on wishes. Some of the bigger chapters like New York City and San Diego have been able to re-skill three or four people. “The entire staff is only 35 to 40 people, so this is huge,” Jayaraj said. “They were running IT with three or four people, so using NSX and vSphere allows them to do more revenue-generating stuff to enable more wishes.”