A leading global engineering consulting company, Altran specializes in helping customers in the aerospace, automotive, energy, railways, finance, health care and telecom industries with innovation and high-tech projects. Headquartered in France, it operates in more than 20 countries across Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Altran wanted to deploy an authentication gateway without the cost and complexity of setting up an internal infrastructure. It chose a solution based on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server virtual servers running on Microsoft Azure. The Azure cloud provided secure, high-availability support for Altran’s virtual servers — complementing the built-in capabilities of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and giving the company the ability to scale its environment up or down in a flexible and highly cost-effective manner.
Altran has approximately 550 employees in the Nordic region, most of them consultants. Assigning the right consultants to each project — based on their skills and experience — is critical to ensuring successful outcomes. To give its sales and client management teams a clear, up-to-date picture of each consultant’s skills and experience, Altran requires them to maintain a detailed electronic résumé.
Ivar Lyse, business manager at Altran, says, “We are a business that deals primarily in ideas and other intellectual property, so naturally our consultants are our most important asset. We had built an application to store all résumés, enabling them to edit their own data and client managers to search for the appropriate skills, and we wanted to protect this with an access management solution.”
For this résumé application in the Nordics, Altran wanted a platform that was highly flexible and scalable, as well as quick and easy to set up and maintain.
“When we saw that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server images were available on Azure, we never considered any other option.”
Altran chose Access Manager from Micro Focus to provide web-based authentication for users. The plan was to hook the solution to Altran’s existing Microsoft Active directory landscape.
“We wanted to run Access Manager on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) to take advantage of that platform’s natural security and stability,” says Lyse. “We were already familiar with the Microsoft Azure cloud and SLES from other projects, and when we saw that SLES images were available on Azure, we never considered any other option.”
Altran set up several Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines running SLES: one as the access gateway, one as the identity provider and one as the administration console. This cloud environment runs the Access Manager portion of the résumé application.
“The initial setup was very simple: we just selected the virtual CPU, memory and disk resources we needed for each Azure Virtual Machine, and then installed the SLES image,” says Lyse. “We then downloaded and installed the ISO for Access Manager and got started. The IT team was involved in the project and helped us to connect the new Access Manager environment with Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS).”
With its access management solution running on SLES on Microsoft Azure, Altran benefits from flexible monthly pricing based on its usage of virtual computing resources and the ability to scale the solution up or down as required.
“Keeping the operating system updated is simple: we just accept the standard patches that come through the SUSE update channel, exactly as if the servers were running in-house,” says Lyse. “With Azure, it’s very easy to access and manage our virtual environments; for example, there’s no need set up a VPN.”
Running on SLES in the Azure cloud gives Altran what it wanted: a fully flexible, highly available platform for providing round-the-clock access to its résumé application. And the seamless integration of the SUSE operating system with Microsoft Azure results in an easily managed cloud environment. Employees are securely authenticated by Access Manager, and a free-text search within the application makes it simple for client managers to find the right people for each client requirement.
“Putting the solution on Azure removed a whole layer of complexity and cost,” says Lyse. “We didn’t need to invest in our own dedicated server hardware, and we can easily and cost-effectively scale up the solution. For example, we plan to move to a clustered environment in the future to make the service even more robust, which is simple to set up in Azure.”
Avoiding the in-house route also removed the burden of firewall and server administration. This allowed Altran to focus on the application rather than the underlying infrastructure.
“The Azure management console provides an intuitive visual overview of the status and health of our servers, so the environment is easy to manage,” says Lyse. “We could have chosen another platform to run Access Manager, but we were confident that SLES would offer greater stability and availability. Our experience so far certainly confirms this to be the case.”