AMEREN: A CUSTOM HOSTING CASE STUDY
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Ameren provides energy to more than 2.4 million electric and almost 1 million gas customers in
Illinois and Missouri. When Ameren decided to outsource the hosting of its customer facing
applications, they chose Connectria not once, but twice. Learn more about why Ameren moved
to a hosted model and how Connectria became an integral part of Ameren’s operations.
Ameren Corporation (NYSE: AEE) is a Fortune 500 company with assets of $23 billion. With more than 9,200 employees, Ameren serves 2.4 million electric customers and more than 900,000 natural gas customers across 64,000 square miles in Illinois and Missouri.
It is the parent company of Ameren Illinois, based in Peoria, Ill, and Ameren Missouri in St. Louis. All of Ameren’s companies together generate a net capacity of 16,000 megawatts of electricity. In order to adequately serve the needs of its large customer base, Ameren has to ensure that they have the proper infrastructure in place for doing so. Ameren’s maintenance and 100 percent uptime of its internal corporate systems is crucial to their business. These systems help Ameren know when and where to dispatch crews when electrical or natural gas issues arise. The uptime of customer facing systems is just as important in allowing Ameren to quickly communicate with the media on where the outages are located.
Ameren turned to hosting in an effort to enable their IT staff to better focus on business processes and needs. Ameren wanted to ensure their IT staff was knowledgeable of key business processes in the delivery of energy. Outsourcing the building and management of servers would free up resources to help achieve this objective.
The Ameren and Connectria relationship dates back to 2002, when Connectria began providing high availability hosting services for Ameren’s corporate web infrastructure. After several years of service, Ameren chose to leave the partnership to pursue strategic contracts consolidation. As a result of the consolidation effort, Ameren began to utilize the hosting services of a larger managed hosting provider, and quickly began to see differences in the levels of service received from the new vendor compared to Connectria.
Ameren’s IT staff felt that its new managed hosting provider was lacking a level of flexibility in allowing timely modification and customization to infrastructures. There was an overall lack of proactive management in the handling of hosted systems compared to what Ameren’s IT staff was used to receiving from Connectria. Ameren knew that expanding its own internal IT organization to support the technologies was not an option, but still felt that a 3rd party vendor was better suited for the position.
Ameren decided to launch another search based on more specific criteria. Ameren wanted a vendor who displayed an expert core competency around supporting a customer-facing environment. Ameren needed a vendor who possessed the ability to provision, manage, and monitor systems. Not only did the hosting provider need to manage and monitor, but also alert Ameren in advance of any foreseen issues. Having flexibility in understanding Ameren’s environment, and the ability to aggregate resources were also on the list of requirements in switching vendors.
In the time frame that Ameren was away from Connectria, technology evolved and advanced. However, one thing remained the same; Connectria stayed ahead of the curve and adopted many of the new technologies that Ameren was interested in. Ameren valued the adept knowledge that Connectria possessed, particularly around VMware, which was something many potential vendors were lacking. Having partnered with Connectria in the past, Ameren knows the superior level of service Connectria is capable of providing and selected Connectria to become Ameren’s custom hosting provider of choice. Ameren had a tight timeline to vacate from their old hosting provider and migrate over, but Connectria assisted with the transition. Connectria helped Ameren with the design and delivery of the migration project plan, and were able to successfully transition earlier than expected.
Today, Connectria supports a variety of Ameren’s applications from their Tier 1 data centers, including internal and external facing systems. Connectria monitors the eCustomer portal, which enables Ameren customers to conduct business online related to their accounts, such as online bill pay and various other types of support. The outage map is also housed and managed at Connectria, and news media outlets use this site to announce where power outages are occurring during inclement weather in Illinois and Missouri areas. Connectria also supports Ameren’s outage analysis system which is used internally to determine where customer outages are happening and where to dispatch Ameren crews to fix problems. Other internal systems related to B2B activities, such as procurement and human resources websites are also monitored by Connectria. According to John Hughes, Managing Supervisor of Infrastructure, “Connectria has exceeded our expectations to provide excellent uptime and availability. They have designed better solutions than we originally asked for, and are willing to customize to meet our needs. Connectria has a culture of getting things done and doing it right. We definitely see a potential to grow our business with them into the future.”
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