Insurance firm Allianz Cornhill is close to completing a major project to move six datacentres spread across separate business units into the firm’s Guildford headquarters.
The consolidation is part of a drive to cut operating costs by £25m within two years. It has already improved the reliability and availability of the firm’s IT systems, mainly by centralising and simplifying IT, after several years of acquisitive growth left the group with a distributed technology infrastructure.
With the physical move nearly complete, Allianz has also begun rationalising its Windows-based servers using VMware virtualisation software. The programme is expected to reduce the firm’s server count from 600 to about 300 by the first quarter of next year.
IDC analyst Dan Fleisher said Allianz Cornhill’s strategy was becoming more common, as firms looked to make big savings by reducing staff and infrastructure overheads. “The era of one server to one application will soon be over. So long as firms are not looking to dramatically expand their infrastructure it makes sense to consolidate,” he said.
Roy Cawthra, technical services manager at Allianz Cornhill, said the firm’s six divisions had operated relatively autonomously, and one of the main challenges posed by the project was convincing each business of the project’s importance.
“To make the case more strongly, we sought advice from Diagonal Consulting and deployed HP Openview [which provides management information on system performance] as a way of proving that a remote, centralised datacentre could make things better,” he said.
“Information provided by Openview has convinced the businesses that there is no lack of responsiveness in the new systems, and by extending automated alerting to many more components and services it is helping us to improve reliability and minimise downtime.”
The consolidaiton has also improved business continuity. Some of the remote sites had been relying on tape for back-up, but the Guildford datacentre is mirrored in real-time with an off-site back-up datacentre under a contract with Sungard.
Read leader article: Consolidation challenge
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