Mirvac embraces the cloud, cutting OPEX by 40% & proving adaptability during COVID
Mirvac is a leading, diversified ASX-listed Australian property group, with an integrated development and asset management capability. With over 45 years of experience, Mirvac – renowned for constructing high quality residential properties across Australia – also own and manage assets across the office, retail, industrial and build-to-rent sectors, with over $23 billion in assets currently under management.
Mirvac were ranked #7 on Fast Company’s 2020 World’s Most Innovative Urban Development Companies list, and focus on being a visionary leader in ‘reimagining urban life,’ living and workspaces. Says Chris Pogson, General Manager of Technology for Mirvac, “We are uniquely positioned to help redefine cities in Australia and to leave a positive legacy.”
The motivations for change
To meet the growing needs of their business, Mirvac realised that they had to modernise their technology landscape, and exit their on-premise data centre. Key business and technology drivers for the shift to cloud were:
- The need for a more stable and reliable core infrastructure. They were constrained by physical data centres, resulting in stability issues (for example, due to high power consumption).
- The requirement of a more flexible OPEX-led operating model, away from lumpy CAPEX.
- The ability to ramp up service delivery capabilities and increase speed-to-market of new offerings.
- Be equipped to innovate and scale. Pre-AWS, the limited capability of their physical data centre meant that every time a project scope or requirement change occurred, additional data storage had to be procured in the form of physical disk space. As these disks needed to be shipped from Singapore – a six-week lead time – the team’s productivity and innovation processes were severely hampered.
AWS was chosen as their cloud provider, as Mirvac’s AWS consumption could ramp both up and down, facilitating cost efficiencies and true scaling based on actual business needs. High availability, stability and full optimisation of workloads through an automated application stack were other key criteria for selecting AWS.
Key success factors of the rapid migration
Building the cloud foundation
Versent were selected through a competitive process to orchestrate Mirvac’s lift and shift of 180 servers and 112 business critical workloads (high risk environments, such as the business’ core financial and operating systems, and services requiring high compute capability for graphic intensive processes) to AWS in just seven months. As these workloads were highly visible functions of the business, it was imperative to actively manage and mitigate risk of the migration.
According to Joshua Lopez, Cloud Technical Director at Versent, “We put in place an Enterprise Native Cloud solution (ENC). This solution implements critical cloud security, compliance, and foundational controls on AWS to support the migration to, and transformation of workloads in, AWS. The solution was ratified by AWS Solution Architects, ensuring it aligns with the Well Architected Framework.”
Versent then built a migration factory with automation at its core to orchestrate the migration of all on-premises servers into AWS. This ensured that the repeatable migration process was executed accurately and without error for all 180 servers.
“We absolutely benefited from Versent’s deep cloud migration experience. Their battle-hardened IP in their pre-built patterns factory and processes reduced the manual migration effort per workload from 4 hours to only 15 minutes. Versent fast-tracked our migration, prioritising cost optimisation with efficiency in mind,” states Pogson.
Versent deployed AWS Discovery Service across the fleet of servers to allow for all interdependencies to be discovered. Versent mapped out the varying complexities amongst the critical workloads, as well as uncovered workloads that could be retired. This process gave Mirvac assurance that no integrations would be disrupted or missed in the transition to AWS.
Versent also partnered with CloudEndure, utilising their product, Live Migration, to facilitate data replication from all 180 servers. This was instrumental in ensuring the least amount of downtime for the workloads and provided Mirvac with confidence that all data would be replicated into AWS prior to any of the migrations that would take place.
A unified, blended team
Says Pogson of the collaboration between the Mirvac and Versent teams, “There was a great cultural fit between our two companies. I don’t think this is something that you should downplay. We operated on a blended team approach, where the incredibly talented, high calibre Versent engineers were co-located with our teams at our head office. We really came together to execute on this migration smoothly, with Versent guiding us every step of the way.
“Ultimately, the close partnership really facilitated the rapid migration. It was a 7-month project from inception to closure, with the actual migration phase within that timeframe. The best testament to the success of the project was that the cutover had zero business impact. The majority of business users didn’t have any inkling we had migrated to the cloud,” continues Pogson.
Continuous cost & capability optimisations
Pogson says, “Versent, via their COTS and pattern-led frameworks, enabled us to seamlessly lift and shift, and to rapidly access all the AWS capabilities and move to the optimisation phase. Through the migration project, we really solidified our partnership with Versent, and expanded our relationship.”
Today, Versent Managed Services is providing 24/7 operational capability for Mirvac’s entire AWS ecosystem, including:
- AWS core foundational components
- Operating system management
- Ongoing patching, backup & file sharing products
- Ongoing cost management, reporting & optimisation
- Site Reliability Engineering
“Versent have been instrumental in enhancing our commercial outcomes, with their continual focus on cloud economics, with performance in mind. Using tools such as Stax during the optimisation phase is incredibly important to identify wastage, and pinpoint areas we could optimise. We have stripped out over 40% of the running cost of our AWS platform over a four-month period. We have gotten down to single-digit percentage wastage within our environment, so it’s really tightly optimised,” continues Pogson.
Focus areas of optimisation includes improving Mirvac’s Disaster Recovery capabilities, leveraging one-click automation to enact DR at speed, as well as continuing to identify further automation opportunities and improving their overall orchestration processes.
Pogson advises, “I can’t stress enough, for those that are thinking of migrating to AWS, or have recently done it, the criticality of optimisation. It’s not a once-off event, it’s something that you should be doing continuously within your cloud environment to make sure that it’s managed to excellence.”
Dean Robinson, Versent’s Managing Director of Managed Services, says “First and foremost, the Versent Managed Services team and Mirvac Digital have formed an outstanding partnership. Our services have evolved extensively over the many years of service we have provided Mirvac, since their migration.
Mirvac can now leverage by design, the reliability and scalability of AWS to provide the business confidence that the platform will be able to scale with their projected growth.
Says Robinson, “We feel as though we have not only provided Mirvac with quality service levels, but also continued to add value through cost management of the cloud platform as well as providing expertise in specific technology areas to help Mirvac explore and advance further business improvements. Our long-term goals are aligned with Mirvac. Such is the strength of the partnership – we are provided a voice on their technology strategy and assist wherever possible by leveraging the wider Versent Group for expertise in Mirvac’s strategic agendas.”
Pivoting during COVID-19
Mirvac’s AWS platform was instrumental in delivering organisational resilience, as exemplified by their ability to react swiftly to the macro changes stemming from the global pandemic. The enablers for resilience – the right stability and risk profile; flexibility and speed-to-market; and the ability to scale quickly and securely – were already in place when the spread of the virus upended the way society and businesses operate.
Pogson asserts, “Our ability to be able to quickly and smoothly react to changes brought on by the pandemic is a powerful testament of the capabilities of AWS and our partnership with Versent.”
As Mirvac employees and sub-contractors work in high-risk environments – large commercial construction sites – Occupational Health and Safety have always been front and centre for the organisation.
“We pulled the trigger to shift to remote working very early on, well before government guidance and restrictions were enforced. Protecting our employees, customers and stakeholders is paramount,” says Pogson. “We were in an executive meeting on a Friday when the decision was made, and I sat there with utmost confidence to advise my peers that we could very quickly expand our computing capacities, and that our core infrastructure capabilities were not a blocker at all to that decision.”
Had the lockdown restrictions occurred when Mirvac was still operating on-premise, it would have taken six weeks to ramp up to the new remote working arrangement. As such, critical teams were able to move to remote working the following Monday.
“Despite being an architectural practice with massive computing needs (due to complex, resource-hungry 3D modelling / rendering apps), we were able to get up and humming in a remote working situation at 100% capacity without missing a beat. Our architects and designers were able to continue delivering, at full productivity, on projects worth billions of dollars,” says Pogson.
Case in point – Mirvac Design’s continued productivity and architectural excellence won them the Silver Best Mixed Use Construction award at the recent 2020 Sydney Design Awards.
“In talking to my peers both within and outside the industry, that’s not the situation that every company found themselves in. Quite a few organisations have had to cut corners or spin up solutions and capabilities that weren’t great from a cybersecurity standpoint, or had a lot of tech debt. And they’re now having to deal with those ramifications.”
Continues Pogson, “Mirvac was able to not only adapt quickly, but we did it on solid, secure foundations. As we had built our cloud framework the right way with Versent and AWS, we could scale and do it securely. Mirvac provides a salient example to other organisations that have not already invested in robust cloud platforms, and struggled to pivot during these challenging times.”
What’s in the future for Mirvac?
Mirvac continues to capitalise on their AWS platform, now having a solid foundation to innovate on and leverage modern capabilities. Digital transformation is a primary focus, with a new Digital division and the appointment of a Chief Digital Officer, whose remit is to accelerate and deliver exceptional customer experiences by leveraging digital technologies.
In a year where many companies and whole industries were stymied by the pandemic, Mirvac won the Australian Financial Review BOSS Most Innovative Property Construction and Transport Company for their rollout of BuildAI, a live video data analytics capability for monitoring construction site safety to identify potential hazards.
Some other use cases in development include:
- For build-to-rent (or multi-tenanted) assets, Mirvac is augmenting the physical environment with digital experiences. For instance, features such as digital signages, keyless entries, and contactless parcel pick-ups.
- Fomenting Mirvac’s IoT capabilities. Cloud underpins network connectivity to edge devices such as building sensors and HVAC systems. Mirvac is able to now leverage the deep capabilities of AWS IoT services and integration capabilities to build digital services from the CX layer, bringing great overall experience to building tenants.
“We are mindful that we can’t, and don’t want to, do everything ourselves,” states Pogson. “Partnering is a huge component of our strategy for digital transformation. The profound expertise of partners like Versent enables us to deliver solutions at speed, pre-empt, and respond readily to market dynamics.
“COVID-19 has had long-lasting impact on all industries and our asset classes. For instance, what is the future of retail and large shopping centres? What is the purpose of the office? We need to partner with thought and technology leaders to be at the forefront of innovation and be able to adapt. Our cloud platform has already given us a leg up in that respect.”