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Bank scores with server virtualization

Gunjan Trivedi | Dec. 17, 2008
ICICI Bank's IT team, led by Vohra, has used virtualization to arrest an electronic infrastructure spill-over at its datacenters.

Now, with automatic provisioning and over-commitment in place, running applications can failover seamlessly and automatically. Features such as V-Motion have been employed to transfer applications to higher configuration slice. Such innovative online fallback mechanisms have led to zero downtime.

Virtual machine slices with requisite operating system configurations have been created on virtualized disk space. Cloning feature of such VM slices help in the rapid provisioning of resources when they are required. Downtime has been minimized by provisioning alternate servers with the V-Motion feature for auto failover of the entire system to another base server or for individual virtual machine failover.

Though the business is exposed to all 650 applications, not all the applications have been virtualized, says Vohra. There are a few applications (running on 900 servers) that are too critical and too monolithic to be put on a virtualized environment. Applications such as the core banking system and credit card applications demonstrate no advantage even if they were virtualized as they need power-packed servers to run in any case. "You don't do it for religion. You do it only if it makes business sense. Anything that doesn't require super-sized servers has been virtualized. All the new applications also are being virtualized. Only about 20-odd applications are running on very old servers. We will either retire them and have them virtualized eventually. They are part of the last mile of the journey," he says.

Such technological advancements have made an impact on the resources and learning skill sets in ICICI Bank's shared services team. They need to stay abreast with new technologies. It, however, doesn't affect the application development team. As long as they see a server name, an IP address, they have local admin rights to the server; they don't know whether that server translates into a pizza box or waferware, Vohra says.

Vohra maintains that given the amount of money a CIO needs to sink in a project like this, it had better make sense and a CIO better believe in what he or she is doing. At ICICI Bank, once the proof-of-concepts were successfully executed, there was no doubt over what would work and what would not.

But Vohra warns of peripheral things a CIO can never test, unless they get their feet wet. "We took a considered view. If some of these don't run, we were comfortable that we had the ability to work with our partners to get upgrades or patches to make them run. When you are a pioneer, you are bound to trip up. But if your relationships are strong, then your partner will also work with you and solve your problems," says Vohra. ICICI Bank had quarterly targets of how many net servers were de-inducted. Payback was how many physical servers were sold for scrap or sent for recycling.


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