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Virtual Success

To enable worldwide growth, Beazley Group overhauls its IT infrastructure and maximizes resources by implementing virtualization technologies.

Establishing a U.S. subsidiary in Farmington, Conn., in 2004 opened new markets for London-based Beazley Group (US$1.6 billion in premium income), but it also triggered an IT overhaul. "Our infrastructure was insufficient for expected growth, regulatory and business continuity requirements," explains James Wright, the carrier's IT infrastructure manager. After a needs analysis, Beazley turned to systems integrator MTI Technology Corp. (Irvine, Calif.) in early 2005 for help with the resulting shopping list. "We chose MTI for its ability to match best-of-breed products from different suppliers to engineer an end-to-end solution," says Wright.

First, Beazley selected Cisco (San Jose, Calif.) core network and telephony technology, and HP (Palo Alto, Calif.) network servers running Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) Windows 2003. The insurer then decided to centralize resources via a storage area network (SAN) in its London data center and, for disaster recovery, to replicate to a second SAN housed outside of London. But "we wanted to plug in anyone's hardware, including equipment already installed at companies that we might acquire," notes Dave Boswell, Beazley's head of IT operations and governance.

MTI suggested virtualization technologies to enable pooling of heterogeneous SAN resources, according to Boswell. "We considered HP and IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) SANs with virtualization capabilities," he says. "We compared them with LSI's StoreAge SVM [Storage Virtualization Manager] solution, which MTI was bundling with EMC [Hopkinton, Mass.] Clariion SANs. SVM's features were compelling because they included on-the-fly capacity expansion and replicating via relatively inexpensive Internet Protocol."

In mid-2005, MTI assembled and virtualized two 4-terabyte (TB) Clariion SANs -- one in the London data center and the other at the disaster-recovery site. "We built the rest of our core services around the virtualized SANs," explains Wright. "Using SVM's replication capabilities, we completed a two-month migration without any user downtime. This included all of our e-mail, our main [Microsoft] SQL databases and our file/print-sharing."

The insurer conducted full disaster recovery trials in late 2005. "Recovery time was around an hour," Wright says. "For the first time, Beazley had a realistic continuity process."

In 2006, each SAN was scaled out to 10TB. "Again, using SVM, we migrated our Oracle- [Redwood Shores, Calif.] based HR system, more SQL clusters, e-mail archives and even an IBM AIX legacy system into the environment," notes Wright.

According to Wright, the initiative has been a success. "In addition to enterprise-class [business continuity planning], ... because resource utilization is maximized ... we're projecting our main data center will use 30 percent less power," he says. "On the regulatory side, our exposure is reduced because data is readily available -- not lying in a vault on backup tapes."

Beazley also saved about $15,000 on training. "SVM simplifies SAN administration, so only two IT staff members required the 10-day formal certification training," explains Wright. "We'll achieve similar savings by training new team members internally."

Boswell credits virtualization with freeing his 80-person IT staff to serve 700 business users worldwide. "With no one dedicated to pure storage management we can focus on implementing new IT technologies and supporting product development" he says.

Anne Rawland Gabriel is a technology writer and marketing communications consultant based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. Among other projects, she's a regular contributor to UBM Tech's Bank Systems & Technology, Insurance & Technology and Wall Street & Technology ... View Full Bio

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