Coates Hire preps for the future with three-day Azure shift

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Australian equipment rental company Coates Hire is preparing for a future where it can leverage machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities to deliver new solutions for the business, suppliers, and customers.

To kickstart the journey, the 135-year-old company has announced partnering with Microsoft to overhaul its information systems, transitioning 300 virtual machines and seven core applications across to Azure.

See also: Microsoft Azure: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

The transformation took Coates Hire three days.

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The company previously had its systems spread across two data centres, but with a hardware refresh due, the decision was made to just send everything to the cloud.

“We worked out that it was significantly beneficial from a cost perspective to actually transition to Azure as a platform, but more importantly, it also helped us drive efficiency to support those other strategic needs, from a digital transformation perspective,” Coates Hire CIO Ben Waterhouse said.

Coates Hire has branches in more than 160 locations across Australia, offering more than 1 million pieces of equipment for rent.

“If you go past thinking simply about IaaS and you start to think about platform and what you want to do in the future, and what you need to be able to do in the future, suddenly the Azure environment become a much more compelling conversation.” Waterhouse added.

Coates Hire has existing Microsoft investments in Office 365, .Net, SQL Server, and Xamarin, which it leverages for mobile application development.

See also: Microsoft Office 365: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

The company is already rolling out APIs that will allow its systems to integrate with others. One of the first will be a safety-focused solution that will make equipment manuals accessible on a smartphone.

According to Microsoft, this application sees Coates Hire working with workforce and plant management technology firm 3D Safety Systems.

Through this partnership, Coates Hire presents internal data to the 3D Safety platform via the API which then makes that available to customers so there is no longer any need to print off safety documentation when large heavy machinery is hired.

Coates Hire is also finalising an IoT-based application that the company hopes will up its efficiency.

“If you sit back and actually look at the whole [total cost of ownership] — so licence costs, storage costs, maintenance costs, colocation costs, power costs, support costs for the hardware environment — and you start adding those all together, the proposition is far more becoming,” Waterhouse added.

“You then add the soft benefits about around scalability and ease to deploy and speed to deploy, and it’s a very compelling [total cost of ownership].”

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