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Unplugging the data center

John Dix | May 2, 2014
Nathan McBride joined AMAG Pharmaceuticals in 2008 with an ambitious goal: to rebuild IT using as little internal infrastructure as possible. He succeeded.

This is kind of starting to get towards the Fall/Winter of 08, and a vendor came out of the woodwork that offered offline backup. They would basically install an appliance and take care of all of the backup. So that was kind of our first step, our first foray. So then we said, "We have backups, now what else can we do?" And more and more vendors started to merge as you we probed deeper and deeper.

But it was about that time that we realized that this whole thing was going to be inhibited by two things:  One was what were we going to do with email, and two, what were we going to do with authentication? 

Google Apps had been available for business for almost a year and a half by this point, but we were apprehensive about going that direction. But we did our due diligence and we all used Gmail in our personal life, so we did a company survey. Turns out almost half the company was using Gmail in their personal world, so we had a big migration campaign and did all this communication stuff and migrated over the Gmail.

How many clients?

By this time there were about 250. So with Gmail in place we were left with Active Directory. We knew this was going to be a problem because the more we looked at it the more we realized that to make this venture successful we would have to get rid of it. 

For example, in order to mature we had to be able to give employees back the rights to their equipment so they would stop calling the help desk with problems. In order to get rid of that we had to get rid of group policy, we had to get rid of domain administration. We had to get rid of these things and they all kept pointing back to this deprecation of Active Directory. So that was ultimately the plan.

But what became clear to us in a very short amount of time was Active Directory had become almost a virus because it infiltrated everything we did. We had let it, as most companies do, spread everywhere, whether we wanted it to or not.

Isn't that part of its appeal?

Yeah, if you have an internal data center you want it everywhere. The redundancy and the authentication is great, but when all of a sudden you realize you don't want it anymore, it's practically impossible to clean off every counter. 

So we thought out a process for how we would get rid of it step by step, and for the most part the process was relatively painless. We started by giving everyone in the company their local administrator password and told them they could do whatever they wanted. You can install whatever you want. And so we started this process of enablement, where people were walking around or emailing each other saying, "Hey. Did you know you can install a new version of Firefox that just came out, or a new version of iTunes, blah, blah, blah."  


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