Virtualisation is AB Foods' cuppa

Virtualisation is just the cuppa for Associated British Foods (ABF). d The £8.2bn maker of staples such...

Virtualisation is just the cuppa for Associated British Foods (ABF).

The £8.2bn maker of staples such as Twinings teas, Ryvita biscuits and Silver Spoon sugars is centralising and shrinking its Intel server farms from around 600 dispersed units into a single, redundant farm of about 450 servers for about 6,000 desktop units.

The two-year project, which should complete at the end of 2009, will save 20% to 30% in operating costs and about £1m a year in capital costs, ABF IT directorTrevor Hanna told Computer Weekly.

Hanna said ABF ran a "very federated" organisation that covers grocery and ingredients manufacture, the Primark retail chain, and agricultural products. All the divisions ran autonomous IT shops. The new centre consolidates some 70 sites owned by five divisions made up of around 16 business units.

The scale of consolidation is not as aggressive as some similar projects, Hanna said. This was because the business units are responsible for both their businesses and their IT applications such as JD Edwards, BPCS, Microsoft Dynamics, Lotus Notes and others.

Hanna's responsibility is to host the applications and to provide the means to access them. "We are here to give the business units exactly what they want," he said. "They are all different, which is why we can get few economies of scale. That's why we have no intention of going to a single ERP system the only common applications are Office and e-mail," he said.

The shared data centre centralises most of the hardware and network infrastructure. The main suppliers are IBM for blade servers that run VMWare and the Microsoft management toolset, Hitachi for the storage network and AT&T for the wide area network.

Hanna will give a full description of the project at the 10 December meeting of the Corporate IT Forum.

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