Agilisys revolutionizes the way it delivers services to customers

Offering rapid provisioning and near-limitless scalability with IBM PureFlex System

Published on 29-Jan-2013

"The PureFlex System gives us a single platform that can support practically anything a mid-scale enterprise needs to do." - Dougie Reid, Service Director, Managed Services, Agilisys

Customer:
Agilisys

Industry:
Computer Services

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Solution:
Flex System Manager, PureFlex, PureFlex Standard, PureFlex System running hypervisor - VMware, PureSystems, Business Integration, Cloud Computing, Cloud & Service Management, Server Consolidation, Storage Consolidation

Overview

Agilisys is one of the UK’s most innovative IT and business process service providers. It serves both the public and private sectors, and has earned a strong reputation for deep domain expertise within local and central government, healthcare, and financial services. With a network of offices and centres of excellence throughout the UK, Agilisys employs over 1,900 staff, and prides itself on providing a flexible, customer-focused approach to service provision.

Business need:
To deliver better service levels for its clients and reduce overhead, Agilisys wanted to find a flexible, scalable, easy-to-manage platform that would be capable of supporting multiple types of IT applications.

Solution:
Agilisys implemented an IBM® PureFlex™ System to act as both a consolidation platform for clients’ existing systems, and a private cloud environment for new requirements.

Benefits:
Enhances scalability, helping to support clients’ requirements seamlessly. Accelerates provisioning of new systems by 98 percent. Simplifies management of multiple platforms via a single console.

Case Study

Agilisys is one of the UK’s most innovative IT and business process service providers. It serves both the public and private sectors, and has earned a strong reputation for deep domain expertise within local and central government, healthcare, and financial services. With a network of offices and centres of excellence throughout the UK, Agilisys employs over 1,900 staff, and prides itself on providing a flexible, customer-focused approach to service provision.

Many of the company’s clients are UK local government organizations that choose to outsource their IT services and related business processes to Agilisys for relatively long periods – in some cases, up to ten years. On winning such a contract, Agilisys will typically take on the client’s in-house IT team, and will also take ownership of the entire legacy IT infrastructure.

Dougie Reid, Service Director within the Managed Services division at Agilisys, explains: “We tend to inherit a mix of different servers and storage platforms from different vendors, running different operating systems and supporting different software. From an operational management point of view, this can be a real challenge: we need to maintain a very high level of expertise in our own IT team to manage the complexity. Managing all the hardware maintenance contracts and software licenses is also a significant concern, as they mostly need to be renewed at some point during the course of our contract.”

Searching for an expert integrated system

Agilisys realized that if it could find a single platform capable of hosting and managing all these different systems, it would not only be able to reduce its own operational costs – and therefore offer even better value to its clients – but also improve the levels of service it could provide.

“We wanted an integrated system that could support all kinds of different environments and architectures and provide a single point of control for managing them,” comments Dougie Reid. “Most of the large IT vendors are starting to offer integrated systems, but in our view, IBM was the only credible option.”

Everything a mid-scale enterprise needs

Agilisys decided to purchase the IBM PureFlex System – an expert integrated system that includes servers, storage, networking, centralized management and private cloud capabilities in a single modular design. PureFlex compute nodes can support either x86 or IBM POWER® processor architectures, enabling them to run virtualized environments on a wide range of hypervisors, including VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, KVM and IBM PowerVM®. This means the company can easily support clients’ applications, regardless of whether they run on Microsoft Windows, Linux, IBM AIX® or other UNIX variants.

“The PureFlex System gives us a single platform that can support practically anything a mid-scale enterprise needs to do,” states Dougie Reid. “Unlike most of the alternatives we looked at, PureFlex provides everything we need in a single box, and the integration between the components is very well-designed. Moreover, all the main features come as standard even on the entry-level model, and there are no complex licensing models to worry about. We can start small and scale up without making a huge initial investment.”

Migrating legacy systems and optimizing licensing costs

The company is already preparing to install new services on the new platform: a pair of UNIT4 Agresso ERP systems owned by two local authorities. These will run in Windows and VMware environments on Intel processor-based PureFlex compute nodes.

“We’re starting out with VMware, but the fact that PureFlex is hypervisor-agnostic is a major advantage,” comments Dougie Reid. “The competition between virtualization providers is really beginning to heat up, and although we don’t know which of them are going to win, PureFlex puts us in a position to choose whichever offers the best features and greatest cost-efficiency. And whatever the outcome, we’ll have a future-proof platform.”

On a broader point about licensing, the PureFlex solution will enable Agilisys to run its clients’ systems on whichever combination of platforms is most cost-efficient – which, in the case of Oracle database licensing, for example, can make a significant difference to the total cost of operations. This allows Agilisys to continue to help its clients meet critical savings targets and, in the case of public sector clients, contribute to the protection of front-line services.

Multiple environments, one point of control

In the longer term, Agilisys is also likely to add some IBM POWER compute nodes to replace a number of aging UNIX servers. The ability to manage both x86 and POWER compute nodes via a single management console – IBM Flex System Manager – was a key selling-point for the company.

“The prospect of managing many systems of many different types via a single, intuitive management console is very appealing,” says Dougie Reid. “Flex System Manager will allow us to handle day-to-day maintenance without needing such a high level of knowledge about each of the individual systems – so it will free up our senior technical staff to focus on more challenging projects.

“Flex System Manager will also be a huge help with tasks such as firmware updates – we can just update all the PureFlex nodes once, instead of keeping track of different firmware versions on different machines and installing new versions individually. Best of all, we can do these updates non-disruptively, without interrupting our clients’ users.”

Cloud computing capabilities

Agilisys sees the new solution as more than just a consolidation platform for legacy systems: it will also play a key strategic role in meeting clients’ future requirements.

“When we win a new client, or one of our existing clients requests a new IT environment, we will be able to respond more quickly and seamlessly,” says Dougie Reid. “IBM SmartCloud Entry is built into the PureFlex architecture, and provides sophisticated scripting capabilities that will allow us to create and provision new environments much more rapidly than ever before. We will go from a four-day lead time for new environments to just a couple of hours, which is about a 98 percent improvement.”

New worlds of opportunity

Dougie Reid adds: “PureFlex opens up a whole new world of opportunity for us as a managed service provider. For example, if one of our clients wants to commission a new system from us, we could set up the basic environment before they have even signed the contract – so we’re ready to deliver before the ink is dry! There is no longer any risk involved – if they change their minds, we can just delete the environment and use the resources for something else.”

The result will be that IT is no longer seen as a bottleneck or an obstacle to innovation. The ability to deliver computing resources almost instantly, and scale them up or down as the business requires, will help Agilisys enhance the level of service that it offers to its clients even further.

“Our biggest concern is that the business side may not be able to keep up!” jokes Dougie Reid. “But the best thing is that they don’t necessarily have to. With a cloud-enabled delivery model, we can offer per-user, per-month pricing models. They won’t have to pay for a whole new server and justify it with a ‘big bang’-style go-live: they can start with a small rollout to a few users, and scale it up from there.”

When Agilisys begins to run out of headroom on its current PureFlex configuration, there is no need for clients to suffer: as soon as the system nears its capacity limits, the Agilisys team can simply plug in an additional Flex System compute node or storage node. This seamless extensibility will allow the company’s IT capabilities to remain one step ahead of even its most demanding clients.

Dougie Reid concludes: “The IBM PureFlex System gives us a strategy that will revolutionize the way we deliver services to our customers. We can manage more systems, more effectively, with less effort than ever before – which gives us more time to focus on improving service levels and helping our clients achieve their goals.”

Products and services used

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

Hardware:
Flex System Manager, PureFlex Standard, PureFlex System running hypervisor - VMware

Software:
IBM SmartCloud Entry for Flex system

Operating system:
AIX, Linux

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013 IBM United Kingdom Limited PO Box 41 North Harbour Portsmouth Hampshire PO6 3AU United Kingdom Produced in the United Kingdom January 2013 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, AIX, IBM Flex System, IBM Flex System Manager, IBM SmartCloud, POWER, PowerVM, and PureFlex 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: www.ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. Intel, Intel logo, Intel Inside, Intel Inside logo, Intel Centrino, Intel Centrino logo, Celeron, Intel Xeon, Intel SpeedStep, Itanium, and Pentium are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries, or both. Microsoft, Windows, Windows NT, and the Windows logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. UNIX is a registered trademark of The Open Group in the United States and other countries. 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.