Bank's server consolidation and virtualisation strategy yields returns

With VMware virtualisation and a new SAN architecture, a financial services firm extended well beyond hardware consolidation and toward improved infrastructure management. This project won at the VMworld Europe 2010 user awards for best virtualisation and server consolidation project.

As its infrastructure expanded, Bankadati became overwhelmed with its high number of physical servers. As the server hardware exploded into more than Bankadati could manage, the Italian financial services firm turned to VMware virtualisation and Compellent storage to solve its space and management issues.

Credito Valtellinese Group had undergone several banking acquisitions that -- despite bringing several business benefits -- had also created a complex and overlapping business infrastructure. So the company decided to virtualise its server hardware and change its storage area network (SAN).

"We had to find a way to decrease our effort in managing physical servers and to speed the delivery of new platforms for our applications," said Christian Manza, the departmental systems manager at Bankadati.

A badly needed server consolidation
When Bankadati began the project in TK year, it was badly in need of a hardware consolidation. Server hardware was hogging physical space, staff was bogged down in configuring and management of the infrastructure, and these problems were getting in the way of aiding business.

So the bank consolidated its 350 physical servers into a mere 16 with Fibre Channel and iSCSI connectivity. The company now runs and manages more than 800 virtual machines (VMs) in its infrastructure.

We had to find a way to decrease our effort in managing physical servers and to speed the delivery of new platforms for our applications.

 

Christian Manza, departmental systems manager at Bankadati,

The company revamped its infrastructure with VMware ESX Enterprise software and redesigned its two data centres, based in Sondrio, Italy, and Milan. At both data centre facilities, Bankadati uses Microsoft Windows Server 2008.

The server consolidation project offered serious benefits, including the ability to self-manage its new virtual environment. According to Manzia, once basic configurations are set, staff don't need to be trained experts in storage to manage it.

The company lacks IT staff with skills and experience, so it chose virtualisation and storage technology that allows the bank to best allocate the resources it does have. This enables them to solve business problems quicker.

"We tested virtualisation with VMware ESX, and it gave us immediate benefits," Manzia said. "So we started a physical-to-virtual programme to virtualise most servers in our two data centres."

New SAN requires less in-house expertise
Once the server consolidation part of the project was complete, Bankadati focused on expanding the pre-existing legacy storage solution that had reached its capacity limits.

The company wanted to revise its whole architecture, which supported email server management for about 6,000 users on an Exchange 2007 platform. The first step was to transport its email server to a new SAN.

"We also had to change our storage due to a lack of space," Manzia added. "Many storage vendors were evaluated, and we found Compellent's Storage Center was the best choice for us; indeed, it gave us a huge benefit with its virtualised storage concept."

According to Manzia, although Bankadati purchased "only" 40 TB of new storage, it now has more space to manage its data, compared with its previous technology. Before it moved to Compellent storage, the company used EMC Corp.'s Clariion SANs, which required technical expertise because external consultants were required at a cost of around $1,300 per day. In addition, the solution was hard to modify, so it caused downtime for the company and the provisioning process was lengthier.

Bankadati is pleased with its automated tiered storage, which is called Data Progression. This enables the company to manage and reconfigure storage only when the data is inactive. Data that is not frequently accessed, which is the majority of most emails, is transferred to cheaper, less power hungry SATA disks. According Bankadati this saves time for the company, as previously the task was performed manually based on a trial-and-error approach.

For all the news from VMworld Europe 2010, click here.

Kayleigh Bateman is the Site Editor of SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.UK.

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