ABA Banking Journal - February 2009 - (Page 36)
Tech topics Getting real with going virtual Simulating physical IT assets gives banks efficiency U nless they are laying out expenses for do-or-die topline growth, bank technologists this year will be hunting for the ways and means of efficiency—and paying for additional IT paraphernalia only to save. With these mandates, banks will “go virtual” with the various infrastructure components that buttress their operations. While other efficiency projects may get the nod (say, adopting a software management application in order to monitor any “hiccups” in processing), the long emerging virtual tech segment is this year’s hot item under the spending-to-save category. As one indicator of this, the number of virtualized PCs will grow from less than 5 million in 2007 to 660 million by 2011, says Philip Dawson, a Gartner vice-president and analyst. Generally “virtualization” refers to methods that decouple— that is, separate functional logic from hardware to better utilize hardware capacity, among other positive by-products. Alan Murphy technical marketing manager with Seattle-based shared product platform provider, F5 Networks, wrote in a white paper: “today’s use of the term [virtualization] generally refers to any type of process [simplification] where the process is somehow removed from its physical operating environment, and there are many different ways to do this.” First, as a quick aside, the technique isn’t exactly new, harkening back to the ’70s, albeit with different hardware and techniques, one bank IT veteran notes. To get your head around the concept, think of a well-virtualBy Lauren Bielski, senior editor ized server environment as one where a warren of many different types of software can co-exist on a single hardware platform without crashing, burning, or ticking off business users with application interference. It’s all about efficient IT provisioning (setup of the IT environment) that is secure and easy to handle, via being centralized—and yet keeps the front office in production. Ken Kucera, senior vice-president and CEO of $20 billion assets First National Bank of Omaha, is an early adopter of virtualization, which has helped him cut costs and upgrade bank applications, including bill payment. First National’s data center has undergone an overhaul: “We cleaned it up by using virtualization to consolidate our servers,” he says. “We’ve also done network and storage virtualization to have the capacity we need in a simpler environment,” he adds. “Going forward, we’ll use this approach whatever we can,” he asserts. When Kucera took over as CIO back in October 2003 he noticed that First National’s habit of loading a single application on a single physical server had left the bank with some 600 “boxes,” as servers are often called, from a slew of manufacturers. “There was too much complexity,” says Kucera. “I realized we had to provision the data center differently.” These days, instead of taking weeks to order, receive, and set up a physical server, the bank can “put up virtual images” of an application quickly. “We’ve gone from 600 to 80 servers using Linux Virtual Servers running on IBM System z boxes,” Kucera says. “I’ve been able to reduce staff and operational cost.” Cont’d on p. 39 36 FEBRUARY 2009/ABA BANKING JOURNAL Subscribe at www.ababj.com
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