Kensington combats complexity with systems management tools

Kensington Mortgages, a FTSE 250-listed specialist mortgage lender, has begun phasing in systems management software to gain better control of its sprawling IT infrastructure after 10 years of rapid growth.

Kensington Mortgages, a FTSE 250-listed specialist mortgage lender, has begun phasing in systems management software to gain better control of its sprawling IT infrastructure after 10 years of rapid growth.

The firm, which offers mortgages through intermediaries to borrowers who cannot meet the lending criteria of traditional lenders, has about 300 staff and an equivalent number of desktops spread across seven sites.

But it is also currently managing more than 200 HP servers and has identified a need to manage its IT assets more strategically to cope with future development and ensure systems availability.

With initial testing nearly complete, the firm will roll out tools from CA's Enterprise Systems Management and Business Service Optimisation software suites by late March to start measuring and managing its IT environment, rather than relying, as it has in the past, on short-term tactical fixes.

Sean Catlin, chief infrastructure and security architect at Kensington Mortgages, said gaining a better view of systems resources would help minimise system downtime and help the firm monitor service level agreements as it moves applications to hosted services providers.

Senior management would also gain a better top-level view of the business, including a breakdown of the firm's various systems. "In the past we have dabbled with niche tools, but they did not provide sufficient business value or benefit," he said.

"The CA tools will provide a real-time view of servers and status, and group servers together as services, to give a more strategic view. The tools also enable daily, weekly or monthly reporting to help us proactively manage our resources rather than reacting to situations as they arise."

Catlin said the growing complexity of Kensington's IT infrastructure made the tools a necessity, but it was difficult to measure the project's return on investment. "Bringing in the system should cut the time it takes for us to fix problems, but it is hard to put a figure on the likely gain."

But one measure that would soon be apparent was a likely reduction in staff costs, he added. "In the past we have had to regularly use contract staff, but the new systems should give us more of a fixed cost base."


Mortgage lender's multi-site IT estate

Kensington operates across seven sites, including a head office in West London, a disaster recovery centre in Southampton and a recently opened business support centre for 150 staff in Reading.

Its hardware infrastructure includes a mixture of more than 200 HP DL360s, 380s, 560s and 580s servers. Kensington uses Microsoft exclusively, with more than 300 desktops running on Windows XP on a Windows 2003 server.

Its core online mortgage application, Epos, is an in-house application built on the .net framework on SQL servers. Epos uses several mortgage engines which are a combination of bespoke and adapted third-party components.

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