"We didn't need to buy as much hardware as we expected," said Michael Heffernan, infrastructure services manager at Flight Centre. "The IBM servers and virtualisation software have saved us between 50 and 60 per cent of our capital expenditure and allowed us put in new systems within the same budget. In fact, I got a call from global HQ asking why we hadn't spent all the money we were allocated."
Working with IBM partner Fujitsu, Flight Centre began standardising and consolidating its server infrastructure to IBM servers in 2003. The company now has approximately 215 IBM servers in its Brisbane datacentre and another 50 between its Melbourne and Sydney offices. These are a mix of IBM eServer xSeries 335 rack-mounted servers and IBM eServer BladeCenter chassis with HS20 blade servers.
"We have cut down management time significantly thanks to the intelligence built into (IBM) Director," said Heffernan. "We can manage considerably more servers with the same number of people in the infrastructure services team."
Flight Centre used VMware ESX Server virtualisation software to consolidate workloads from multiple older servers onto the blade server systems. It now has approximately 60 applications running in a virtual environment on a cluster of seven blade servers.
Flight Centre had planned a migration process of up to three years, implementing the new servers in parallel to the existing ones and switching over after ironing out the bugs. However, the entire migration was completed in half the time.
"IBM eServer xSeries and IBM eServer BladeCenter Intel processor-based blade servers are designed to deliver exceptional availability, simplified manageability and outstanding performance and scalability. Such technology helps build a cost-effective, flexible IT infrastructure," said Angela Fox, Business Unit Executive, xSeries, IBM Australia and New Zealand.
IBM also provided recommendations on appropriate software, including the VMware virtualisation package. IBM and Fujitsu helped Flight Centre integrate these servers with networking equipment from Cisco, a storage area network from Hitachi Data Systems and a tape backup library from CommVault.
"Traditionally companies buy another server or tape drive to fill a business application requirement but we broke that cycle because we invested in robust, scalable infrastructure that is modular and we can buy as we need," said Heffernan. "Once you have done that, you make considerable savings when you have to grow your environment."