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Executive Editor

Four executives offer tips

Feb 20, 20065 mins
Data Center

As these IT executives relate, new technologies need new best practices.

Four IT executives offer tips about steps toward moving to the New Data Center.

Cliff Dutton

CTO and executive vice president, Ibis Consulting

Thinking outside the box

Before rolling out Acopia Networks’ storage virtualization switches, Ibis Consulting stored the millions of files related to each client matter in a single physical location. The electronic data-discovery company had no choice, since spreading them out among multiple storage devices would have created a mapping nightmare for the applications that query the content.

But keeping them together meant living with performance limitations. “Because we’re processing a significant amount of data, with a very large number of servers, if we pointed a significant number of those servers at one shelf, it’s possible that at the spindle level – the individual disk level – we could have faced I/O bottlenecks,” Dutton says.

The Acopia switches now let Ibis distribute file loads across its 200-TB storage environment, improving throughput, Dutton says. The technology also lets the firm automatically reallocate shares as projects grow, instead of having to manually reallocate shares. “With virtualization, the switch takes care of the physical mapping of where the files are. There’s one logical pathname, so the application only needs to know about one path name.”

Tony Plasil

Principal and head of investment technology, STW Fixed Income Management

No more vendor lock-in

STW Fixed Income Management has found some unexpected new uses for the rules engine it deployed to keep its trading system on top of rapidly changing customer guidelines.

After successfully linking Corticon’s rules engine to its trading capture system, STW decided to use the software to tackle features that its standard portfolio accounting application couldn’t do, such as amortization and taxing, Plasil says. It later wound up scrapping the commercial accounting system entirely and building its own with the Corticon engine.

As rules change and new security instruments emerge, STW can add routines for dealing with them, instead of manually bolting functionality onto a commercial application, Plasil says. “If a standard accounting system doesn’t handle derivatives, for example, then you have to handle swaps outside of the system,” he says. “Then you have a problem of how to integrate that spreadsheet – or whatever you did it in – with all the other parts of the portfolio that are sitting in the accounting system. It just becomes a manual mess.”

While some of his peers thought Plasil was nuts for building his own accounting application from scratch, the project is incredibly successful, he says. “I don’t like to have mission-critical systems in the hands of a vendor.”

Doug Baer

Systems engineer, Desert Schools Federal Credit Union

Free weekends

One thing Baer doesn’t miss is scheduling server downtime during non-business hours to install an operating system patch or upgrade firmware. With VMware’s VMotion, the IT team at Desert Schools Federal Credit Union can move virtual machines to another server while performing maintenance or upgrades, so there’s no downtime.

VMware’s server virtualization technology also has helped the credit union achieve faster, easier server deployments, Baer says.

Purchasing a new server used to take two weeks, then four or five hours to get the server racked, do the cabling, and configure the operating system for a new application. In addition, Desert Schools’ baseline server had dual processors and 2GB of memory, he says.

“If you have some little application that only two people are going to use, you’re throwing $5,000 worth of equipment at this one little application,” Baer says. “In addition to having multiple pieces of equipment in the data center, taking up space and heating the place, it was a waste of dollars.”

Now staff can set up a new virtual machine in 30 minutes, and Desert Schools is at a 10-to-1 server-consolidation ratio, Baer says.

Joe Bai

CIO and vice president, WorldWinner

Spreading the knowledge

Depending on one key person who seems to know everything about server settings and application parameters is a precarious situation. What happens when that person goes on vacation or leaves the company for a new job?

After being burned too many times by incomplete or inaccurate software-development data, WorldWinner rolled out mValent’s automated software to manage application configuration. At the same time, the competitive-game provider initiated some sweeping process changes.

Now that WorldWinner has a central place for storing configuration parameters and mapping interdependencies, “more people can be as knowledgeable as my best person,” Bai says.

“I’m a lot more comfortable knowing what I know. It’s all in one place. I know where all my changes are, I know where all my configuration data is, I know where all my code bases are,” he says. “The gaps of my knowledge are much easier to spot.”

In addition to slashing the number of application failures, the new tools and processes gave WorldWinner an added bonus – simplifying the pain of annual IT audits. “The fun thing is, when auditors ask us what they think are the hard questions, we can just respond with, ‘It’s already here, in this report. We don’t even have to print it for you, just go to this Web page,'” Bai says.

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