i-Layer deploys a secure, high-performance, cost-effective cloud

Using IBM BladeCenter, IBM System x and KVM virtualization technology

Published on 17-Dec-2012

"IBM equipment works fantastically. It works long term. When it comes to our cloud solution, there is no one else we would have considered." - Gareth Chillingworth, technical director, i-Layer


Computer Services

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

IGF, Cloud Computing, Virtualization, Virtualization - Server

IBM Business Partner:


Based in London, i-Layer has provided IT solutions, support and services to small and midsize businesses since 1995. Working with a variety of customers, many of which are in the financial industry, i-Layer is an IBM Business Partner and IBM reseller that provides hardware, software and 24/7 services.

Business need:
i-Layer wanted to expand its IBM hardware and software resale business to meet growing customer needs for secure, high-performance, cost-effective cloud solutions and hosted cloud services.

i-Layer deployed IBM® BladeCenter® HS23, IBM System x® 3550 M4 and 3650 M4 servers with intelligent Intel® Xeon® processors, IBM System Storage® DS3000 and SUSE Linux with KVM virtualization technology.

Using KVM, i-Layer lowered its software licensing costs by 70 percent. The IBM and KVM cloud platform also helped the company reduce its server-provisioning time from two weeks to just 15 minutes

Case Study

Based in London, i-Layer has provided IT solutions, support and services to small and midsize businesses since 1995. Working with a variety of customers, many of which are in the financial industry, i-Layer is an IBM Business Partner and IBM reseller that provides hardware, software and 24/7 services.

IT evolution—moving toward the cloud

Over the past several years, i-Layer has evolved its IT infrastructure to meet the company’s changing internal business needs. i-Layer began by virtualizing its servers to support its business functions, then decided to take the next step: transitioning to a cloud platform that would be accessible by its London and South Africa offices and by remote workers. Following this successful implementation came a similar move aimed at i-Layer’s clients. The company began offering hosted cloud services to customers, as well as setting up private clouds for customers to run at their own sites. Describing this business shift, Gareth Chillingworth, technical director at i-Layer, says, “One by one, our clients in London began to realize that the private cloud was the best place to run their production systems, especially as their workforces have become more and more distributed.”

Before i-Layer began to roll out these cloud services to customers, the company focused on its own cloud requirements for security, performance and cost. Providing adequate security in a multi-tenant cloud environment hosting numerous customers was a top priority, so i-Layer built security into its infrastructure. Ensuring fast and dependable cloud performance—and having the ability to quickly provision resources—was another main goal. Also critical was controlling costs when deploying new hardware and virtualization software—i-Layer needed to contain its own operational expenses while offering competitive services to customers.

An infrastructure to meet exacting requirements

Working with long-time business partner, IBM, i-Layer deployed a cloud infrastructure capable of meeting these specific requirements. The i-Layer hosted cloud, running in an offsite data center, is powered by virtualized IBM BladeCenter HS21 and HS23 servers with Intel Xeon processors running SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11.2 with KVM technology. For cloud storage, i-Layer uses IBM System Storage DS3000 systems connected to IBM System x 3550 M4 and x3650 M4 servers with Intel Xeon processors functioning as Network File System (NFS) nodes. They use IBM Systems Director for server management and IBM Tivoli® Storage Manager to run regular data backups.

By using SUSE Linux with KVM technology, i-Layer was able to easily meet the technical requirements it had defined for its cloud. The kernel same-page merging feature of KVM provides memory page-sharing capabilities that enable i-Layer to get the most out of its hardware when supporting clients with multiple virtual machines in the cloud.

The use of BladeCenter servers enables i-Layer to segment its cloud into separate, controllable nodes while enabling centralized management. This helps i-Layer significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to provision new virtual machines. The compactness of the BladeCenter deployment also enables i-Layer to make very efficient use of data-center space and reduce power consumption.

The System x servers deliver another important benefit, providing the caching capabilities that enable the company to boost the write performance of its DS3000 system. These servers have also proven to be “fantastic” in their interoperation with SUSE Linux, according to Chillingworth.

A cloud platform with multiple benefits

The i-Layer cloud based on IBM hardware and software and SUSE Linux with KVM technology has enabled the company to easily meet the security requirements it set for its cloud infrastructure. KVM provides security capabilities that provide isolation between multiple tenants in the cloud, which is increasingly important as the number of i-Layer cloud customers grows.

KVM has also enabled i-Layer to realize significant cost savings, lowering software-licensing costs 70 percent below competitive virtualization software. The use of BladeCenter servers has also helped i-Layer lower costs by reducing data-center space requirements and power consumption. “The savings are phenomenal on power. BladeCenter offers such an efficient package,” says Patrick Fitzgerald, Managing Director at i-Layer.

As for performance, i-Layer can now provision server instances in the cloud in about 15 minutes, compared to previous methods of deploying physical servers that could take two weeks or more to complete.

Not only has the i-Layer solution enabled the company to meet specific goals, but the new cloud has helped the company to transform its business by providing new managed cloud service offerings to customers. According to Riki Roe, account manager at i-Layer, “We have found that it is much more lucrative for us to provide this kind of resource than to just be a traditional solution reseller. Now we have ongoing revenues from the same customers.” Chillingworth believes the i-Layer cloud offerings help make the company more competitive, saying, “Customers are realizing that now is the time to move to cloud. Having the ability to provide this service really is our ace card.”

Onward and upward into the cloud, with IBM

Looking forward, i-Layer plans to expand the capabilities of its cloud offerings by implementing OpenStack software, helping i-Layer to provide automated billing and simplified, self-service automatic provisioning so that customers can create their own virtual environments. i-Layer is also interested in deploying IBM PureFlex™ System to provide a highly scalable server platform to power its virtualized infrastructure.

Having worked with IBM for almost 15 years, Chillingworth plans to continue building upon this strong partnership, saying, “IBM equipment works fantastically. It works long term. When it comes to our cloud solution, there is no one else we would have considered.”

For more information

Please contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit us at: ibm.com/systems/x/index.html

For more information about i-Layer, visit: i-layer.com

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

BladeCenter HS23, System x: System x3550 M4, System x: System x3650 M4

Operating system:

IBM Global Services

Legal Information

IBM Corporation Systems and Technology Group Route 100 Somers, New York 10589 Produced in the United States of America December 2012 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, BladeCenter, System x, System Storage, PureFlex, and Tivoli are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml Intel, the Intel logo, Xeon and Xeon Inside are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries or both. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided.