• 06/07/2011
    8:29 AM
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LV 1871: Taking Virtualization to the Next Level

German insurance Firm LV 1871 boosted its data center, IT and storage capabilities through the use of "next gen" virtualization, which goes beyond servers and works to eliminate costly NAS storage by creating a virtualized storage SAN backbone.

One of the data center agility concerns was the time and effort it took to re-provision storage with LV 1871’s network-attached storage orientation. “With the SCSI-attached storage, we did not have a dynamic infrastructure that would allow us to quickly re-provision storage when we needed to,” said Triebs. “Instead, we had to concern ourselves with the model of the hardware, the space required, a buy decision and finally implementation. This end to end process could take as long as six to twelve weeks, and it was an expensive use of internal IT resources.”

LV 1871 made the decision to invest in an initially more expensive SAN (storage-attached network) solution that would pave the way for a virtualized storage framework, where different storage media could easily be tiered into fast access, more expensive disk and lower access, cheaper disk—with deployments and provisioning being accomplished in a matter of minutes, not weeks. “The virtual storage backbone not only reduced our internal costs and our speed of response, but it also allowed us to improve our failover and backup mechanisms for our two separate data centers,” said Triebs. “Data mirroring between the two data centers now takes minutes.” The virtual storage backbone has dramatically improved performance. Virtualization has given LV 1871 vendor independence as well, which lends more flexibility to buying decisions. Additional return on investment (ROI) is being seen in the new tiered storage strategy with its reduction of wasted storage space. “It costs us roughly $20/GB for faster access, tier one storage, while tier two, slower access storage costs around $8/GB,” said Triebs. “In our new tiered storage structure, we find that only one-third of our data is constantly accessed and needs to be on tier one, and we have organized our data this way. This is a primary area where we are realizing data center savings.”

Along the way, Triebs and his staff learned valuable lessons about working with virtualized server and storage infrastructures. “One was a simple practice to remember to delete virtual machines when they were no longer needed,” said Triebs. “On the data side, it is also imperative to think about technologies like data deduplication before doing backups, so you do not store extraneous data. Finally, when you consider going to a LAN/SAN virtual infrastructure as your backbone, you need to consider architectural concepts, such as a split fabric with the use of virtual LANs (VLANs)—and when it comes to security you want your DMZ and LAN to be separate from each other, and hosted on separate hardware.”

With the groundwork for its data center set, LV 1871 continues to move forward with IT that supports its products and services. The results so far? “We provide basic services to our customers (e.g., Storage, SAN, System p (AIX) and System x (ESX) with a 7x24 availability of six 9’s (99.999999 percent) that we are meeting for possible transaction processing uptime,” said Triebs. “Our aggregate service level uptime for over 3,000 services that we provide to over 30 separate customer service groups, and that also includes inventory management and customer relationship management (CRM), is 98.5 percent concurrent availability, which means 99.9 percent for each service group. The entire operation for basic services (Data Center Infrastructure: Storage, SAN, LAN, Server-hardware and Operating Systems) is manned by only three IT staff in our data center….We have found that by systematically virtualizing, consolidating, reworking job control and backup, and establishing metrics and performance targets - that we can economize staff and infrastructure costs.”

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