Vistra Energy

Automation powers $350,000 in software maintenance savings

 

Company Background

Vistra Energy is a Dallas-based electricity company with a market capitalization of $6.2 billion. Its retail arm TXU Energy delivers power to 1.7 million homes and businesses, while it generates 17,000MW through Luminant, owner of the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant.

Challenge

The reincorporation of TXU and Luminant as Vistra was the compelling event for creating a full inventory of the IT assets and risks.  Vistra turned to Snow to provide this visibility.  As an aggressive acquirer of wind and solar power assets, Vistra needed an inventory and software management solution that could easily scale as its network grows.

Snow’s Contribution

Snow’s SAM platform has saved Vistra Energy hundreds of thousands of dollars since it was fully implemented two years ago. One hardware maintenance contract was slashed from $500,000 to $150,000 annually as Snow identified what systems were no longer active in Vistra’s IT environment.

Business Benefits and ROI

  • Six-figure annual cost savings
  • Cost avoidance: Vistra hasn’t bought any new Visio licenses in over two years
  • Mitigating audit risk. Vistra’s true-up costs in a recent Autodesk audit was just $1,500
  • Seamless integration of newly-acquired companies.

SAM Hero

James Milburn, IT Asset manager at Vistra Energy, endorses the decision to purchase Snow “It is now our source of record for all software applications, for all of our agreements that we manage, any subscriptions and anything else that we really use.”

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From Energy Future Holdings to Vistra Energy

In 2007, the Texan utility giant TXU Corporation was subject to a $48 billion leveraged buyout, the biggest ever at the time. The new private equity owners restructured the company and changed its name to Energy Future Holdings in 2014. A huge chunk of the business – Oncor, the sixth largest electric utility in the US – was sold off, while Energy Future Holdings’ retail and power generation subsidiaries were reincorporated as Vistra Energy. Assets had to be inventoried and valued as part of the Oncor divestiture and Snow was rolled out to do the job.

Actual cost savings

The reincorporation of TXU and Luminant as Vistra was the compelling event for creating a full inventory of the IT assets and risks.  Vistra turned to Snow to provide this visibility and quickly saw the potential of the platform to save money.

James Milburn was appointed as IT Manager in early 2015 and was clear about his brief from the outset. “Before we got Snow,” he says, “We didn’t really have a mechanism to track what we owned, what we were using. Or have any idea of where we could better leverage our spend.”

Milburn used Snow to make actual cost savings. As an example, in 2016, Vistra’s license for Tableau was up for renewal. As Snow shone a light on the entire IT landscape, Milburn discovered he was running Tableau licenses on two separate contracts: one with Vistra corporate, one with TXU, the retail arm.

“Corporate Vistra had a much higher license count, so that got a better discount than TXU,” says Milburn. “So we pulled the TXU agreement into the Vistra one.” Not only that, but when Snow started monitoring usage, it turned out Vistra had a license for 300 installs, with just 180 active users. “We cut back on 100 licenses,” Milburn concludes. A quick sum: a reduction in the maintenance count by 100 at $400 for each license equals a saving of $40,000.

“Before we got Snow, we didn’t really have a mechanism to track what we owned, what we were using. Or have any idea of where we could better leverage our spend.”

James Milburn, Vistra Energy

Soft cost savings­­

Snow helped Milburn to avoid unnecessary spending, with Microsoft his biggest win. In early 2015, before Snow was up and running, Vistra bought 400 Visio licenses as part of a new Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft. “We did that before we knew what we actually needed,” recounts Milburn.

A few months later, using Snow, Milburn realized he had far more Visio licenses than actual installs. “So we decided to stop ordering any more Visio licenses, instead we harvest unused ones for reuse. This way, we’ve deployed more than 100 copies of Visio without having to purchase a new license.”

Similarly, Milburn has made savings with Adobe, taking advantage of upgrade rights. He found 200 unused licenses of Acrobat 10. For any new requests, he would just buy upgrade packs instead of purchasing later versions. As upgrades are considerably cheaper than a new license, Milburn has made significant cost savings in this way.

Vendor audit savings 

The best – and only – way to prepare for vendor audits is to have complete visibility of your IT estate. This can lead to some very unexpected savings. “We recently completed an audit with Autodesk,” Milburn says. “They had a tool for us to run, but also accepted some of the data that was in Snow.”

The vendor was impressed with the Snow data which, unlike its own, also showed usage. This proved crucial. “It revealed we weren’t as clean as we should be with our Autodesk estate,” Milburn continues. “We had an issue with not uninstalling previous versions when we upgraded.”

As part of the audit Autodesk counted every version installed, potentially taking Vistra well out of compliance, something Milburn was able to counter with the information provided by Snow showing that while Employee X had AutoCAD 2015, 2016 and 2017 installed on his PC, he had only used the latest version in the past year. “Shame on us for not uninstalling the old versions. We should have done it. We didn’t do it, but we could prove we hadn’t used them.” In the end, Vistra was fined just $1,500. “It seriously could have been in the tens of thousands of dollars if we hadn’t been able to provide some of the data we were able to get from Snow.”

Hardware savings

One of the internal audits that Vistra carries out regularly is around a hardware agreement it has. Before the company implemented Snow, it had to verify manually whether or not its systems were active. Ideally this had to be done monthly, but with some 250 systems it became physically impossible. Now Snow verifies the systems in a matter of hours. The monthly systems check has slashed the hardware maintenance agreement from $500,000 to $150,000, “Just by no longer paying for support on systems that we no longer have in the environment,” explains Milburn

The future

With Luminant continuing to diversify aggressively into sustainable energy generation one of Milburn’s challenges will be to consolidate the new companies into his IT estate. Having gone through this process already using Snow it will be a more straightforward going forwards. “Snow’s automation has made life much easier and saved us lots of time: what would traditionally have taken us weeks to do, we now do in a matter of hours,” Milburn concludes.

 
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