Published on 19-Dec-2011
"I looked at all the big players out there. And the main thing I kept coming back to with IBM was that their solution allowed us to keep moving forward at a nice rate and at a low cost." - Brian Stearns, IT director, Global Connections
Travel & Transportation
IT/infrastructure, Business-to-Consumer, Business Continuity, Business Resiliency, Connectivity - High availability, Connectivity - High volume, Energy Efficiency, Enterprise Modernization, Green/Sustainability, Information Infrastructure
From its headquarters in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kansas, Global Connections offers travel club memberships designed to help people save money on vacation accommodations, leisure benefits and name-brand merchandise purchased through the company’s buying service. Beyond these membership services, which Global Connections offers to hundreds of thousands of customers, the company is also involved in resort management and development services.
As the company began exploiting the power of virtualization, it saw the need for greater processing performance to meet growing demand.
Global Connections implemented a solution that includes IBM® BladeCenter® HS22V servers. The servers function within a multivendor IT environment that includes a BladeCenter E chassis, a BladeCenter H chassis, HS20 servers and IBM System Storage® DS4300 and DS4200 storage.
The IBM solution reduces database query times from 30 seconds to four seconds, reduces power consumption by 20 percent and enables optimized virtualization.
For most people, vacations are a way to get away from business. But for Global Connections, helping people with vacations is their business. From its headquarters in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kansas, Global Connections offers travel club memberships designed to help people save money on vacation accommodations, leisure benefits and name-brand merchandise purchased through the company’s buying service.
Beyond these membership services, which Global Connections offers to hundreds of thousands of customers, the company is also involved in resort management and development services. The combined popularity of these business offerings has fueled rapid growth at Global Connections. In 1996, the company had just two sales offices. Now, Global Connections operates 17 sales centers across the United States, including locations in Florida and South Carolina.
Virtualization demands exceed available capacity
Powering this growth was a multivendor IT infrastructure that over time had become insufficient to keep up. The company relies on more than 60 websites running Microsoft SQL Server to allow customers to book vacations and sign up for membership packages, and these websites are all created, maintained and hosted internally using custom in-house software.
With a staff of just three IT personnel and offices in various states, the company years ago decided that the best way to manage this distributed infrastructure would be to use VMware solutions to create a highly virtualized server environment, says Brian Stearns, IT director for Global Connections. But over time, it became clear that a new, more powerful consolidated server solution was needed to boost reliability, performance and scalability in this virtualized environment.
“We had about 20 different servers running all the different services we needed for our network, and we ran into a lot of problems with reliability,” explains Stearns. “Basically we were having a server failure about twice a quarter. That just wasn’t the way we wanted to run our business moving forward.”
Stearns began looking to IBM and others for solutions. The company’s existing infrastructure included IBM BladeCenter E and BladeCenter H chassis, HS20 blade servers, as well as IBM System Storage DS4300 and DS4200 and various third-party hardware offerings.
IBM solutions aid business operations
Ultimately, Stearns says the company selected BladeCenter HS22V servers featuring Intel Xeon processors to propel its server capabilities moving forward. “I looked at all the big players out there. I looked at Dell, I looked at HP, I looked at IBM,” says Stearns. “And the main thing I kept coming back to with IBM was that their solution allowed us to keep moving forward at a nice rate and at a low cost.”
Chad Lyons, director of technology services for Global Connections, says the decision to go with IBM meant the company could keep the blade servers it already uses. “What we ended up doing was taking the new HS22V blades and sticking them in the old H chassis and then over time we could then take the old chassis out and put our new blades in. So in essence what we did was we made it a lot easier to upgrade slowly, even during business hours,” says Lyons. “The HS22V blades have great performance and they’re very reliable. They’ve never gone down on us, ever.”
Key features of the BladeCenter HS22V include 18 DIMM slots with support for up to 288 gigabytes of DDR3 memory, up to two 1.8 inch solid-state drives and enhanced power management capabilities, resulting in more and larger virtual machines per blade at a reduced cost.
Saving energy, boosting performance enables efficiencies
Stearns and Lyons both note that the benefits of the new solution have been substantial in an environment that is now 95 percent virtualized.
“The biggest thing it’s allowed us to do is to have more servers through virtualization,” says Lyons. “And we also can crank up the performance. As a result our employees can work more efficiently and easily so they can get their jobs done more effectively.”
One of the key benefits of the solution is the Intel Xeon processors, notes Stearns. “The Intel Xeon processors had all the technology that we needed at a great price,” he says. “It was really the right fit for what we needed.”
The efficiency of the HS22V servers has led to significant cuts in energy savings in a smaller physical footprint while delivering exceptional performance across the organization. As a result, customer database queries for common names like Smith have dropped from 30 seconds down to 4 seconds. And overall power consumption is down about 20 percent from the old solution due to the efficiency of the Intel Xeon processors and the fact that the HS22V solution functions about 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than their previous solution.
Realizing the power of virtualization with IBM
What’s more, virtualization has allowed the company to rapidly accelerate the time required to deploy new servers in the production environment. Says Stearns: “Now that we’ve gone to IBM BladeCenter and virtualization, we can get those kinds of things done within hours instead of weeks. Not only do our techs not have to come in on the weekends to service equipment, but anything we need is at our fingertips and we can deliver to management the solutions they need within days instead of weeks.”
Stearns says IBM delivered the best combination of knowledge, support and technology. His advice to others? “If you’re looking to virtualize, do your homework and I think you’ll come to the same conclusion that I did: IBM is definitely the company you want to move forward with.”
For more information
Contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit us at: ibm.com/systems/bladecenter
For more information about Global Connections, visit: www.exploregci.com
Products and services used
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