Published on 05-Dec-2012
"The virtualization program, so successfully delivered by IBM, means that we're ready to do business, and we’ve got the capacity within our infrastructure to meet our growth plans." - Hugh May, IT and change director, Suffolk Life
Suffolk Life was running out of available floor space as well as power and cooling capacity in its data center, limiting growth potential. The business teamed with IBM Global Technology Services - Integrated Technology Services to reengineer and virtualize its server environment.
After years of sustained growth, Suffolk Life was running out of available power, cooling and floor space capacity in its primary data center, limiting overall growth potential for the business.
Suffolk Life joined with IBM® Global Technology Services® – Integrated Technology Services to virtualize its server estate, consolidating 66 physical systems onto six IBM System x® servers.
With IBM, the organization cut its energy costs nearly 40 percent while more than doubling available capacity for IT systems. It also reduced deployment times and simplified compliance efforts.
The scale of investment choice and flexibility offered by high end self-invested personal pension (SIPP) providers combined with ever-changing financial regulation demands secure, controlled yet adaptable administration systems. Suffolk Life seeks to help its customers navigate their SIPP plans with professional, contemporary, focused and experienced plan administration.
“We are a specialist self-invested personal pension provider,” explains Hugh May, IT and change director at Suffolk Life. “We play predominately in the high net worth space, and we were one of the first SIPP providers set up in the UK.”
Bound by success
Since its founding, Suffolk Life has grown considerably, accumulating gross assets of more than GBP4.0 billion by early 2012 and on behalf of more than 16,000 investors. In fact, the organization has seen a steady increase in its overall business over the previous seven years, and along with that growth, increased demands on its IT.
“We’d run out of space in the allotted server room,” recalls Ian Long, head of IT at Suffolk Life. “Power consumption was high, and cooling was as well. Our existing hardware was in a state of aging—it was all coming to the end of its financial and useful life.” Deploying new equipment in this environment was also time-consuming, typically requiring weeks to roll out and configure new hardware and associated software systems.
This inflexible, overburdened architecture, in turn, was driving up costs and hampering the organization’s continued growth efforts. Mr. Long elaborates, stating: “We had a number of significant projects in the business that required new technology and new functionality. Without a new data center, we would have been unable to introduce the systems needed to support that going forward. The restrictions around IT risked stagnating the business.”
Suffolk Life began looking for a new data center solution that would help it update its operations and reengineer the infrastructure enabling profitable growth.
Power in planning
Because its parent company, Legal & General Group plc, had undertaken a similar initiative with IBM, Suffolk Life joined with IBM Global Technology Services – Integrated Technology Services to modernize its IT architecture. The IBM staff initiated the modernization effort by evaluating the company’s existing environment in terms of business risk, system dependencies and application affinities.
Armed with this information and established IBM methodologies, the Integrated Technology Services team drafted a virtualization and migration schedule that consolidated the company’s physical servers from 66 boxes to only six servers. The IBM team also oversaw the migration of 60 business applications to the new environment, the equipment for which was distributed between the company’s primary data center and its recovery location. With the rollout of the new environment completed, the IBM team also assisted with testing efforts to promote operational efficiencies, such as educating the Suffolk Life staff on the process to add new virtual servers with just a few keystrokes.
Saving with simplicity
With such a dramatic reduction in physical systems to maintain, Suffolk Life quickly recognized the benefits of virtualizing its architecture. Adds Mr. May: “I think there is clear evidence already—in the relatively short space of time since we’ve cut over to live—that the investment we made is meeting the objective of supporting significant and sustained growth as both business volumes and business complexity go forward. What we’ve done is take away much of the infrastructure hygiene factor that had become a constraint on underlying business activity.”
The organization can now deploy new, virtual environments in a matter of hours, offering the flexibility to manage critical information and business processes while driving out inefficiencies to strategically meet shifting business needs. At the same time, the smaller physical footprint helps to cut energy costs while freeing up floor space within the server room for future growth. Current estimates indicate that the business cut its power consumption by nearly 40 percent while more than doubling its capacity.
Growth through compliance
Along with the internal values offered by the data center reengineering, Suffolk Life sees additional improvements in its compliance efforts. Within the UK financial sector, many businesses are struggling to meet the transparency and consumer-protection demands established by the Financial Services Authority under its Retail Distribution Review (RDR) program. And the flexibility of the new virtualized architecture helps Suffolk Life to simplify its restructuring efforts by reducing the lead time for new systems.
“A lot of our competitors are heavily involved in RDR compliance programs, while we are substantially advanced in terms of our readiness to do business in the new, regulated environment,” concludes Mr. May. “The virtualization program, so successfully delivered by IBM, means that we’re ready to do business, and we’ve got the capacity within our infrastructure to meet our growth plans. It’s giving us an opportunity to make this business bigger and more successful at a time when competitors are very much focused on ensuring that they are in a baseline position.”
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