AIB in major virtualisation investment

20 Apr 2009

Irish bank AIB has invested in a virtualisation strategy that will see almost 450 physical servers reduced down to just 44 host machines.

It emerged today that AIB struck a deal with European virtualisation consultancy and VMware partner VirtualizeIT to virtualise the bank’s data centres.

In 2007, AIB had almost 600 Windows servers in place, supporting around 8,000 users.

During the past two years, the bank had been forced to deploy between 100 and 200 new servers per year to keep up with demand for new services and applications across the business.

This strategy had led to significant ongoing management overheads, as well as increasing hardware and power bills.

Alan Pearson and Graham Elliott of AIB were jointly responsible for managing the Windows server estate.

“We recognised this growth in server numbers was unsustainable. Each physical machine took up valuable floor space, as well as adding to our management, power and cooling overheads”, said Alan Pearson, enterprise client services manager, AIB.

“We also had a wide variety of disparate business continuity policies to maintain for our applications, which increased the management burden still further,” he said.

Following a proof of concept project with partner VirtualizeIT, AIB deployed VMware Infrastructure 3 Enterprise Edition across its Windows server estate.

“The proof of concept gave us a great deal of information, and we completed a full business case for AIB to go fully virtual. With this data, and the help of VirtualizeIT, we created a full virtual infrastructure platform for the bank”, Pearson said.

The bank consolidated 450 physical servers down to just 44 host machines, improving IT performance and cutting power bills. 

AIB also benefits from improved business continuity, as all applications hosted within virtual machines can be replicated between the bank’s two data centres in real time. This approach provides AIB with one consistent way to protect its applications against downtime.  

“Our virtualisation implementation has provided the bank with a resilient, reliable data centre platform for the future. Virtual Center, a single management platform that gives us an overview of how all our virtual machines are performing across our data centres,” Pearson continued.

“This project also supports the bank’s corporate social responsibility activities. Using virtualisation has reduced the Republic of Ireland and UK operations. Overall, AIB saves around €470,000 in power costs, and has reduced its CO² emissions by an estimated 2000 tons per year.

“Following our decision to move to a virtual strategy, we have not had to purchase a single physical server,” said Graham Elliot, Windows infrastructure services manager, AIB.  “We have achieved significant consolidation ratios across our server estate, but we also benefit from increased business continuity. 

“We ran a fail-over test, and moved 140 virtual machines from one production data centre to another without encountering any significant issues. Without virtualisation, we would not be able to deliver this level of performance back to the bank,” Elliot added.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years