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Full to the brim

When Investec ran out of room in its datacentre, the banking house had to look at a new design that would be able to keep up with its expanding international business.

Running out of datacentre space has become a common feature among enterprise organisations as of late and thinking of ways to redesign the facility can prove to be quite a handful.

When South African-based banking house, Investec Bank, ran out of room they chose global outsourcer, Unisys, to help find a solution to its space eating problem.

Investec has more than 6000 employees globally including offices in the UK and Australia and has its sights set on standardising its IT strategy on an international scale. Locally the company has a presence in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. It had about 70 servers sitting in its datacentre and was at maximum capacity.

Scaling down

Unisys A/NZ infrastructure management suite services leader, Ben Robinson, said Investec had a global objective to standardise its server, storage and backup environments.

“They were feeling the pressure with floor space, as a lot of organisations are today,” he said.

“That was one of their main pain points, but they were really after business flexibility and the ability to reduce their energy requirements.”

Robinson said Investec had about 70 servers in its core production space which were critical to its business.

“What we were doing was helping them to standardise, consolidate and simplify their environment,” he said.

The Unisys team initially analysed Investec’s overall server environment and how it could consolidate and virtualise its environment.

“We designed a new virtual environment taking into account not just the technology side, because it was production environment that was critical, but also looking at both the people and the processes involved,” Robinson said. “Globally, Investec were going down the virtualisation path. They determined through some vigorous testing that going to a scale-up type system was going to give them better performance and utilisation than more commodity scale-out systems.”

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Trimming the fat

The new design included replacing Investec’s servers with one Intel-based ES7000 machine running a VMware environment and an EMC storage system utilising the OpenScale utility model.

“We virtualised a lot of those servers using VMware technology,” Robinson said. “As we were going along we made sure that there was a sense of team work with real knowledge sharing and transfer, so that Investec’s internal staff was comfortable with maintaining, operating and managing that centralised and virtualised environment.”

Server consolidation will not only help improve Investec’s utilisation rate, it also reduces the amount of space and prevents physical server sprawl. It also gives Investec the ability to adjust its computing requirements up or down and reconfigure infrastructure to meet changing needs as the organisation expands its international network.

“With the new scale-up system, Investec can add new and move virtual machines and has greater flexibility,” Robinson said. “As the business recognises new opportunities to generate revenue, the IT environment can rapidly change and adapt to provide whatever the business needs to be successful.”

The new production environment took about seven months to put in place and Investec is progressively migrating applications across.

“There are things that are still to be completed. We’re doing a lot of the documentation around operational processes that need to be set-up and customised around managing a virtualised environment,” Unisys real-time infrastructure services director Asia-Pacific, Jim Esmonde, said.

Previously, Investec’s commodity servers were running at a utilisation rate of roughly 10 per cent, Esmonde said.

“This is typical of most datacentre environments,” he said. “What we’ve been able to give them is a scale-up environment where the utilisation rate is plus 50 per cent.”

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Reaping the benefits

Reduced power costs and savings from cutting down the number of physical servers in use are just a couple of the benefits Investec can reap from its new datacentre design, Unisys claimed.

“The savings in that area would be very significant,” Robinson said. “The reduction of risk with an improved and much simpler disaster recovery, as well as compliance and auditing, is much simpler when there are fewer systems in place.”

Because of the work done by Unisys on transferring skills across to Investec staff, the company also has the ability to operate its infrastructure on an ongoing basis. Additional services under the agreement include database consolidation,migration to a SQL environment, disaster recovery design and implementation and a redevelopment of operational processes designed to support the virtual environment.

“We look forward to where they’re going in the next six to 12 months,” Robinson said. “They’re not just stopping at virtualisation: They’ve got their eyes open and they’re looking towards a real-time infrastructure, and are going down the automation path as well.”

Unisys had a similar engagement with Investec in 2006 for its South African business.