Hotel chain brings home savings from consolidation

The centralisation has halved Millennium's telecommunications bill, says VP

An overhaul of the IT infrastructure supporting its 31 New Zealand hotels has delivered significant savings for Millennium Hotels and Resorts, which operates the Copthorne and Kingsgate hotel brands.

The company consolidated and centralised servers and storage across its chain and deployed Citrix to achieve notable improvements in IT efficiency and support and other savings of nearly $1 million in the projects first year of operation.

Before the consolidation, each hotel had its own server-housed reservations system. Microsoft replication occurred between the hotels and head office every half hour.

“That process wasn’t working all that well,” says Eli Salant, Millennium’s VP of information technology. “Reservations were being lost in the replication.”

This was leading to check-in delays. It was also hard to deploy new versions of software, such as anti-virus, and there wasn’t enough control over the remote systems to ensure the system was safe from viruses born on devices such as memory sticks. On top of that, the servers and other hotel hardware were old, with some PCs still running Windows 95, and needed replacement anyway.

The solution was based around a Citrix server consolidation and the creation of a 2TB Hitachi Data Systems storage area network (SAN). This cut costs and improved control over the environment as well as facilitating the delivery of new software.

“We bought six brand new Citrix servers connected to a centralised database and application server,” he says. Microsoft’s Active Directory is used to control access to applications and hardware is largely locked down.

“We hardly have any ‘thick’ client PCs,” Salant says. “These are for the general managers and in the business centres only.”

Hewlett-Packard supplies the thin clients and Acer the other hardware.

At the centre of the project is the new Hitachi Data Systems SAN. Before the consolidation storage was directly attached to the servers but the change has delivered improved disaster recovery and also supports growth, Salant says.

It took 36 hours to restore the old database. This can now be done in two-and-a-half.

Salant says the centralisation has halved Millennium’s telecommunications bill, allowing a 2Mbit/s pipe into one Christchurch hotel to be downgraded to 512kbit/s. There have also been huge cost savings in maintenance, which now all happens in head office, rather than remotely. The total number of servers has been more than halved.

One of the most difficult parts of the project was fine-tuning the Citrix deployment.

“You need to understand Citrix before deploying it,” Salant says. Once you get the fine tuning right it is superb, but it takes a lot to get it right.”

Salant offers one tip — don’t have the Microsoft real-time clock in your Windows task-bar — this makes each client update every second. Salant says the next stage of the project is to virtualise the environment, which is happening now.

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Tags technologyconsolidationCitrixcentralisationsan

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