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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.

"In the end, we saw clear business payback. Business may or may not see it because for them it is just an event. They will see results only when an application goes down. In the life of a business manager, it will happen only three times. If it is 4AM, he is not bothered. But if it is at 10AM, and if it is a trading application, he would kill you for even 10 minutes of downtime. When an incident happens, a 3-hour or a 30-minute outage hurts business equally. Applications ran reasonably smoothly earlier but now they don't see any outage at all," he points out.

Pocket Power

Although users are not consciously aware that the applications they use everyday have been virtualized but there are still measurable, demonstrable business benefits. The consolidation of 230 servers to five has resulted in an annual opex savings of Rs 1.15 crore on account of power, cooling and space, says Vohra. The break-even period, considering capex, has been about six months, with projected savings for five years of about Rs 5.7 crore. ICICI Bank's IT team buys servers today based on their power consumption. It is not that one company is worse than another, or that one model is better than another, says Vohra. "You should never generate more heat and consume more power than you can avoid. Would I buy a car, which is cheaper but consumes more gas? It is the same thing. At the end, you want to pay a little premium to buy a car that consumes less fuel. There are models of servers that are of similar compute capacity but consume almost two times the power of another," he says.

Today, Vohra is in a position to point this out because he knows. "The electricity bill at my datacenter alone has come down by Rs 70 lakh," he says.

The procurement and indenting process has witnessed a dramatic change, too, after the virtualization revolution at the bank. All the business units in the ICICI Group have been instructed to not indent or procure physical servers. The only unit they are allowed to procure their indent is in cores. Instead of asking for physical servers, they are supposed to ask for a certain number of cores because for every application, the unit of measurement is no longer a computer or a CPU but the lowest measurement unit in commercial terms.

"Fundamentally, the DNA of the enterprise has changed. Budgeting is now based on cores. Soon, going forward, we will move over to threads as the unit to indent and budget. The only people allowed to count servers are those from the shared services group who manage our datacenters," says Vohra.


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