Leveraging Virtualization's Business Value

By Tony Kontzer Print this article Print

Virtualization technology has morphed from a mere enabler of efficiency into a fast-emerging bottom-line contributor.

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The Backup Challenge

For Chris Pinckney, CIO of Los Angeles-based civil engineering firm Psomas, the main challenge was the absence of a modern backup system. As recently as 2010, Psomas—which already had established a highly virtualized and largely cloud-based IT environment—was relying on tape for its only data backup.

Not only was tape expensive to access when Psomas needed to get at older data, but because the company relied on tapes as its de facto disaster recovery system, Pinckney was concerned that he would find himself at the mercy of his tape backup provider.

“If there were a natural disaster, [the service provider] could get hundreds of recall requests,” he says. “We never knew where we fit on that priority list.”

Psomas had long used Riverbed Technology’s Steelhead WAN product to eliminate the unnecessary duplication of unchanged data when employees collaborated on huge CAD files in the firm’s cloud-based applications. So, when Pinckney learned that this deduplication capability was  available in Riverbed’s White-water cloud storage gateway, he immediately started testing it as a replacement for tape.

The product complemented the company’s virtualized server environment, which was running five applications on a single virtualized server in each of Psomas’ 10 field offices. Pinckney estimates that by transmitting only changed data, Whitewater transmits just 30 percent of whatever data is marked for backup to Psomas’ Amazon S3 cloud storage environment, thus reducing the company’s monthly pay-as-you-go storage bill.

By installing a single White-water appliance at the firm’s most data-intensive office and virtual instances in the remaining locations, Pinckney can  now deliver a cloud-based data backup and disaster recovery environment that’s given him control.

Not only has the storage setup delivered anecdotal business impact—“restores are wicked fast compared to tape,” says Pinckney—but Psomas expects to achieve full return on its investment in Whitewater within 18 months from its deployment in March 2011.

It’s clear from the experiences of organizations such as Mazda, the California Department of Water Resources and Psomas that today’s virtualization deployments are about much more than efficiency. They’re about providing the kind of agility and availability that business demands in the 21st century.

These deployments are about getting IT away from the business of managing hardware and software and instead delivering bottom-line business value. Most importantly, they’re about letting companies do things they’ve never done before.

This article was originally published on 2012-01-17
Tony Kontzer is a freelance writer for Baseline magazine.
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