Dealing with server sprawl is one thing; relying on servers that had been underwater in a flooded building, dried out and put back to use, raises a bank's IT risk to a whole 'nother category. When Peter Horvath was hired as the information technology officer at the $354-million asset The Business Bank in Appleton, WI, the bank's IT infrastructure was an aging hodge-podge of servers running a combination of Novell and Microsoft operating systems, backup tapes stored down the road and seven UPS supporting the creaky setup.

"There were three SQL servers sprawled all over the place, the other servers were getting old, and also had been under water at some point when the building was flooded," Horvath says. The situation presented a number of challenges Horvath needed to solve: consolidate the number of servers; improve business continuity and disaster recover strategies; improve patch management and system monitoring; and retire the Novell software in favor of Microsoft Network.

These days The Business Bank has an elegant virtualized server environment with daily replication of six servers at the bank's Green Bay offices 40 miles away. The bank went from six physical servers down to two, with a SAN and a backup server utilizing VMWare Infrastructure Foundations ESX Server and VI Client, along with Visioncore's Vreplicator and Vranger to handle the backup work. Horvath initially projected the project would cost $125k, but by trimming vendors' proposals to mirror the bank's requirements he was able to whittle the total cost down to $85k. The ROI is impressive. The system now requires only one UPS, saving the cost of battery replacement on the five that were retired. Horvath is now able to conduct his own backup testing - and can bring the duplicate environment up in an hour. This speaks to the regulatory requirements met by the new environment. The bank now has the ability to see in real time changes that take place on its systems, patch its desktops remotely, and has new network monitoring software in place.

Another benefit is in the ease of maintaining the new setup, particularly when it comes to tasks like adding servers. On the virtual machines it takes Horvath 20 minutes to build a new server; in the past it would have taken an entire day - no small improvement at a bank with just one IT staffer. The Business Bank is riding the crest of a wave of corporate server virtualization projects. More than half the servers deployed by companies in 2008 were virtual machines, up from 35 percent in 2007, according to IDC Research. The Business Bank was looking to replace an aging infrastructure, but most virtualization projects are motivated by a desire to lower IT costs and shrink data center footprint and energy consumption.

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