Published on 04-Aug-2010
Validated on 01 Nov 2012
"We expect to make important savings in terms of office space, electricity and air-conditioning, hardware licensing and maintenance, and above all, IT support. As a result, our total cost of ownership should be reduced by 33 percent, and we expect to see a full return on investment within 18 months." - Seán O’Donahue, Group CIO, Reliance Security Group
Reliance Security Group
IT/infrastructure, Business Integration, Energy Efficiency, High Availability , Optimizing IT, Optimizing IT, Workload Management
IBM Business Partner:
Reliance Security Group is one of the UK’s leading specialists in the security sector. The four companies within the group’s Security Services division provide security manpower, stewarding and crowd management services, electronic security and remote monitoring, and custom security solutions for projects and events. Two further companies make up the group’s Facilities Management and Business Process Outsourcing divisions. In total, the group employs more than 9,000 people at 33 locations.
Each business unit within Reliance Security Group was responsible for its own IT infrastructure – which led to a proliferation of servers at different locations, managed by separate IT teams. The company decided to centralise in order to reduce costs, increase standardisation and improve overall IT security.
Reliance created a new central IT team, which worked with Great Benefit, an IBM® Business Partner to replace the existing hardware with a new infrastructure built on IBM System x3650 M2 servers. The servers are held at a highly secure co-location facility, and can be monitored and managed remotely using the IBM Integrated Management Module.
Reliance has replaced 47 old servers with just 24 new System x® machines, reducing rack-space requirements and maintenance costs. Co-location cuts facilities costs and boosts security, reducing the risk of unauthorised access to servers. Reliance estimates that total cost of ownership will be reduced by 33 percent, and full return on investment should be achieved within 18 months. Average performance in the company’s Microsoft® environments has increased by 185 percent.
Reliance Security Group is one of the UK’s leading specialists in the security sector. The four companies within the group’s Security Services division provide security manpower, stewarding and crowd management services, electronic security and remote monitoring, and custom security solutions for specific projects and events. Two further companies make up the group’s Facilities Management and Business Process Outsourcing divisions. In total, the group employs more than 9,000 people at 33 locations across Great Britain.
Enabling IT transformation
“Two years ago, when I joined the company, IT management was basically decentralised,” comments Seán O’Donahue, Group CIO at Reliance Security Group. “We had a variety of servers from several different manufacturers, including Dell and HP, and even some old IBM Netfinity® boxes. These were distributed between a number of server rooms at different locations, and were managed by several local IT teams.
“One of my top priorities as Group CIO was to modernise this infrastructure, in order to boost performance, reduce costs, and – most importantly – enhance security. Reliance works on some very important and sensitive projects for large companies and government organisations, so our own internal security is absolutely critical. Moreover, to meet legal and regulatory requirements, we needed the new infrastructure to be not just secure, but provably secure.”
Finding the right way forward
Reliance decided on a strategy of centralisation, standardisation and consolidation – and began by uniting the various local IT departments into a single team that would be responsible for IT across the group. This team began drawing up a blueprint for the transformation of the IT landscape, and consulted Great Benefit, an IBM Business Partner, for advice on the best ways to achieve its objectives.
“We looked at various options, including big, complex virtualisation solutions from HP, Dell and CISCO,” says O’Donahue. “But our cost-benefit analysis showed that it was better to keep things simple and flexible. Where it makes sense to virtualise, we are doing so – but in general we prefer to rely on standard, dedicated, Intel® processor-based servers which are easier to manage. And once we had made this decision, it quickly became clear that IBM System x was the most cost-effective platform. Moving to a lights-out data centre environment meant that we needed hardware and support from a manufacturer we could rely on.”
Building a new infrastructure
Great Benefit helped the Reliance team replace 47 of its existing servers and introduce a full failover environment with just 24 IBM System x3650 M2 servers. Of these new servers, 16 use quad-core 2.26GHz Intel Xeon® E5520 processors, while the remaining eight use the more powerful X5570 processors, which run at 2.93MHz. The larger machines are used for the company’s most demanding applications, which include Microsoft Exchange and several business-critical Microsoft SQL Server® databases requiring uninterrupted 24/7 availability.
“Great Benefit was an ideal partner for us throughout this project,” comments O’Donahue. “Their consultants have vast experience of how to successfully manage this kind of strategic change, as well as the in-depth technical knowledge required to select, scope and size the hardware. They have first-hand experience of running corporate IT departments, and they work as an integral part of our team, helping us to sustain a high rate of change. Moreover, their contacts within IBM are excellent, which allows us to get access to the top experts if we ever need help with a particularly complex technical challenge.”
The new servers are running in a highly secure co-location facility, and are managed remotely using the IBM Integrated Management Module technology. The servers remain locked in their own enclosure at the facility, and are monitored 24/7. As a result, the risk of their security being compromised is minimised, which helps Reliance meet its legal and regulatory compliance targets for information security.
“In addition to the security benefits, moving onto the System x platform at the co-location centre means that we can retire many of our older servers and re-purpose our existing server rooms – making more efficient use of our office space,” says O’Donahue. “Equally, the IBM remote management tools make it easy for us to manage the infrastructure with a relatively small IT team, and enable us to be much more proactive in terms of server monitoring, which helps us maintain high availability.”
High availability and performance
Keeping critical systems like Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint and SQL Server available is vital for the company’s productivity, and helps the Reliance IT team to maintain a high level of user satisfaction.
“With the System x solution, our users feel more confident that the IT department can deliver the level of service they expect – not only in terms of availability, but also performance,” comments O’Donahue. “On average, we’re seeing a minimum performance increase of around 185 percent in the Microsoft environment, although certain systems increases are far higher.”
He concludes: “Great Benefit has helped us select and implement a solution that meets the needs of our business while delivering very significant cost advantages. We expect to make important savings in terms of office space, electricity and air-conditioning, hardware licensing and maintenance, and above all, IT support. As a result, our total cost of ownership should be reduced by 33 percent, and we expect to see a full return on investment within 18 months.”
Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
System x: System x3650 M2
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