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A Team Player: ProServeIT finds Microsoft Azure to be the best fit for the unique needs of the Canadian dairy industry

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What goes into making a glass of milk? Huge amounts of data and a strong technology infrastructure behind it—at least in Canada. Canadian dairy farmers pride themselves on producing some of the best milk in the world. To deliver that milk to consumers, they must adhere to certain rules and regulations, both federal and provincial. To manage these processes and ensure adherence, each province has an official agency—a milk board—that serves as the interface between dairy farmers and the consumer markets. Each provincial board effectively manages their supply chains with similar IT requirements. The only major difference by province is legislation.

BC Milk learned of ProServeIT from their counterparts at the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO). ProServeIT and DFO dug into the business and started researching IT duplication across the Canadian dairy industry.

ProServeIT quickly realized there was a solid opportunity for the boards to combine forces. Jaime McMahon, VP, Sales and Marketing at ProServeIT calls it “a rich opportunity to share information and leverage economies of scale between the businesses, and do something creative.” Eventually, BC Milk and seven other provincial milk boards combined to form a single IT management organization.

The infrastructure came with numerous requirements. According to McMahon, “We needed to align to data sovereignty. There needed to be data isolation, there needed to be a way for provinces to enter and exit if they so chose. This needed to be scalable. It needed to follow best practices, and it needed to be managed by a neutral third party.”

Milk and the cloud

After considering many alternative solutions, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), ProServeIT was able to convince BC Milk that Microsoft Azure would best fit the unique needs of the industry. They understood that Azure provided the scalability and multi-tenancy needed to ensure provincial data segregation and control. Furthermore, as the first Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP) in Canada, ProserveIT could handle their cloud-based infrastructure needs with a common support model and flexible licensing.

“The [Microsoft] solution took all of that [difficulty] away. It was a one-stop shop. We could just buy the service and we wouldn’t have to worry about how many servers we’d need,” says Rob Delage, Senior Director, Finance & Operations, BC Milk. “It dealt with some of the risk, the uncertainy, (and) the governance issues.”

Continuing a successful partnership

BC Milk and the other dairy boards now trust ProServeIT with their IT environment. Together, they’re implementing Office 365 tools, such as Power BI, and looking forward to learning about what’s going to be available next. Since a central team manages IT, the dairy boards can keep their attention on the dairy business, from the cows to the customers. Because they share IT expenses, they can put some of that money back into ensuring a Canadian glass of milk is among the best in the world.

Azure in Canada means more business for partners like ProServeIT

The need for cloud-based hosting solutions in Canada extends beyond the milk industry. According to McMahon, ProServeIT has several customers “champing at the bit” to get into the Canadian Azure data center. “Having an Azure data center located here helps make customers feel safe and more comfortable with cloud-technologies,” he explains. “For customers [who are] resistant to the cloud, or still uncertain of what it is, assuring them that their information is kept on Canadian soil could be a huge push.”

Some businesses, such as federal, provincial, and healthcare organizations, are contractually obligated to keep their data in Canada, McMahon notes. Others may be driven by internal organizational constitution or the demands of their customer base. By ensuring a local presence, Azure providers, such as ProServeIT, can gain the trust of those who are hesitant to move to cloud technologies.

“These data centers are a huge tipping point. The floodgates are about to open,” says McMahon.