As budgets tighten, IT bosses need to do more to sell the benefits of consolidation, says Andrew Crabb, CIO of TelstraClear.
The telco is several years down the path of a major series of consolidations of servers, adopting virtualisation and now moving to virtualise its desktops.
Following the merger of TelstraSaturn and Clear Communications in 2001, the company integrated the various applications used by the two companies before moving to consolidate its datacentres in 2005.
TelstraClear went from five datacentres to two, with the company also seeking to improve its disaster recovery capabilities. A major driver was to enable data replication for a core suite of applications between two separate centres.
Previously, its backend used a combination of Sun Solaris, Linux, and Unix, as well as some IBM servers running Microsoft Windows.
TelstraClear looked at storage too, with it choosing a hybrid solution consisting of Hitachi and Network Appliances systems, giving the telco a single solution covering both IP-based and fibre-attached storage solutions.
The system, Crabb explains, uses TelstraClear’s nationwide “backbone” allowing it to restore corporate applications in under four hours.
The telco worked with vendors Revera and Sun. They migrated all existing applications onto a shared infrastructure, reducing the number of servers needed and giving further savings in cooling costs, lower data centre space and less power use.
One challenge as a telco was the need to maintain 24/7 operations. Over two months, 25 terabytes of data was moved without interruption to end-users into the newly-installed hardware in Auckland and Wellington.
Crabb credits a combination of buy-in from end-users, coupled with “having the vendors on the ground with us, as part of the team rather than being just a vendor”, as the reasons behind a successful implementation.
However, he warns such virtualisation and consolidation projects need a “defined outcome”, or you will get into a “never-ending loop and never finish”.
“We have done more stuff since then. This is a journey. We are now working through additional server consolidation projects. We are also looking at a virtual desktop solution. There are benefits in relation to power use and upgrades.”
Crabb says recent server consolidation projects have freed up server space for new services for his customers. The newer machines are also more cost-effective, with more computing power, while using less energy.
“We can do a lot more with less,” he explains.
“In some of the consolidation work, it is hard to get a business case. It doesn’t pay back in under a year. But there are other benefits in being current, the capacity improvements and an improved ability to respond.
“In the current climate where you have scarce resourcing and funding, how do you sell this over revenue-generating projects? You really have to put a good case together.”
And as technology changes, he says this also includes getting a secure and sound platform in place.
Following the TelstraSaturn and Clear merger, the new company also had to merge its separate IT departments. Clear’s was outsourced, with TelstraSaturn doing it inhouse.
Crabb was brought over to the company as CIO in 2005, having done the due diligence for the merged entity’s IT operations.
The migration to inhouse work was completed within three months early last year, with Crabb claiming savings in costs, efficiency and that the company gained extra skillsets from newly recruited workers.
“We brought in a project manager who drove that hard, to get the results we wanted,” he added.