Server and Desktop Virtualization Have Produced Cloud and Mobile Computing Benefits for Israeli Insurance Giant Clal
Server and Desktop Virtualization Have Produced Cloud andMobile Computing Benefits for Israeli Insurance Giant ClalTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on the multiplier effects gained from virtualization in theenterprise.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: VMwareDana Gardner: Hi this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you’relistening to BrieﬁngsDirect.Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on how a large Israeli insurance and ﬁnancial services group rapidly modernized its IT infrastructure. We’ll hear the story of how Clal Insurance Enterprises Holdings, based in Tel Aviv, both satisﬁed current requirements and built a better long-term technology architecture. The rapid adoption of server virtualization that enabled desktop virtualization that has spawned cloud and mobile computing beneﬁts at Clal clearly illustrate the multiplier effect of value and capabilities from such IT transformation efforts.[Disclosure: VMware is a sponsor of BrieﬁngsDirect podcasts.]We’ll learn how Clal’s internal IT organization, Clalbit Systems, translated that IT innovationand productivity into signiﬁcant and measurable business beneﬁts for its thousands of users andcustomers.Here to ﬁll us in on Clal’s impressive IT infrastructure transformation journey, is Haim Inger, theChief Technology Ofﬁcer and Head of Infrastructure Operations and Technologies at ClalbitSystems. Welcome, Haim.Haim Inger: Nice to meet you.Gardner: One of the things that’s interesting to me is the speed and depth of how yourorganization has embraced virtualization. You went to nearly 100 percent server virtualizationacross mission-critical applications in just a few short years. Why did you need to break the oldway of doing things and why did you move so quickly to virtualization?Inger: The answer is quite simple. When I got the job at Clal Insurance four years ago,everything was physical. We had about 700 servers, and to deploy a new server took us abouttwo months. The old way of doing things couldnt hold on for much longer.Regulations in the new businesses that we needed to implement required us to do such things asdeploy servers as quickly as possible and simplify the entire process for demanding a new server-- to deploying it and giving it the full disaster recovery (DR) solution that the regulationsrequire.
The physical way of doing things just couldn’t supply the answer for those requirements, so we started to look for other solutions. We tested the well-known virtualization solutions that were available, Microsoft and VMware, and after a very short proof of concept (POC), we decided to go with VMware in a very speciﬁc way. We didn’t want to go only on the development side, the laboratory side, and so on. We saw VMware as a solution for our co-applications and for a long-term solution, not just for islands of simple virtual servers, where we decided from day one to start using VMware on SQL servers, the Oracle servers, and SAP servers.Full speed aheadIf they held on there very well, then we could, of course, also virtualize the simpler servers. It took us about four months to virtualize those initial servers, and those were very simple. We just pushed the project ahead full speed and virtualized our entire data center. Gardner: It seems as if you were concerned about DR ﬁrst andforemost, but that led you on a path to wider virtualization of the servers. Is that correct?Inger: Yes, that’s correct.Gardner: As you’ve gone about this journey, why does it seem to be paying off both on the shortterm and setting you up for longer term beneﬁts?Inger: That’s very simple to answer. Today, to provision a new server for my customer takesabout 20 minutes. As I said, in the past, in the physical world, it took about two months.DR was the main reason for going into this project. During a DR test in the old days, we had toshut down our production site, start up all servers on the DR site, and hope that everythingworked ﬁne. Whatever didn’t work ﬁne, we tested one year after that initial DR was done.Using VMware with Site Recovery Manager (SRM), I can do an entire DR test without anydisruption to the organization, and I do it every three months. Watching our current DR status, ifanything needs to be ﬁxed, it’s ﬁxed immediately. I don’t have to wait an entire year to doanother test.So those simple things are enabling us to give our organization the servers that they need, whenthey need them, and to do the regression in a much simpler way than we did in the past.Gardner: Tell us a bit more about Clal. Id like to learn about the size of your organization andthe types of responsibilities you have. You’re supporting several different companies within theClal Group, isn’t that right?
Inger: Clal is a group that contains a very big insurance company and another company that isdoing trading on the Israeli international stock market. We have a pension company andinsurance for cars, boats, apartments and so on. We even have two facilities running in UnitedStates and one in the UK.Were about 5,000 employees, and 7,000 insurance brokers, so that’s about 12,000 people usingour datacenter. We have about 200 different applications serving those people, those customersof ours, running on about 1,300 servers.Large undertakingGardner: Thats obviously a very large undertaking. How do you manage that? Is there acertain way that you’ve moved from physical to virtual, but have been able to manage it withoutwhat some people refer to as server sprawl.Inger: I know exactly what you mean about over populating the environment with more serversthan needed, because it’s very easy to provide a server today, as I said, within one hour.The way we manage that is by using VMware Chargeback. Weve implemented this module andwe have full visibility of the usage of a server. If someone who requested a server is not using itover a period of three months, we’ll know about it. We’ll contact them, and if they don’t requirethat server, we’ll just take it back, and the resources of that server will be available once againfor us.That way, were not providing servers as easy as could be. Were taking back servers that are notused or can even be consolidated into one single server. For example, if someone requested ﬁveweb servers based on Microsoft IAS and we’re sure that it can be consolidated into just oneserver because CPU utilization is very low, we’ll take it back.If an application guy requires that the server have eight virtual CPUs, and we judge its use onpeak time is only two, we’ll take six virtual CPUs back. So the process is managed very closelyin order not to give away servers, or even power, to existing servers that are not really needed.Gardner: Tell me how you’ve been able to develop what sounds like a private cloud, but a sortof dynamic workload capability. Do you consider what you’ve done a private cloud, or is thatsomething you’re looking to put in?Inger: We do consider what weve done a private cloud. Were actually looking into ways ofgoing into a hybrid cloud and pushing some of our systems to the public cloud in order to controlthe hybrid one. But, as I said, we do consider the work weve been doing in the past three yearsas fully partnering a private cloud.
Gardner: Have there been any hardware beneﬁts when moving to a private cloud, perhaps usingx86 hardware and blades? How has that impacted your costs, and have you moved entirely tostandardized hardware?Inger: Of course. When we saw that those 20 servers that we initially did in late 2008 andeverything worked okay, we decided to do standards. In one of the standards that was decidedupon was if it doesn’t work on VMware it won’t get on our data center. So a lot of applicationsthat run on Itanium microprocessors were migrated into Linux and on top of VMware running onx86,Saving moneyWe managed to save a lot of money, both in supporting those legacy systems and developing inthose legacy systems. They’re all grown. Everything that we have is virtual, 100 percent of thedata center. Everything is run on x86 blades, running Windows 2008 or in Linux.All these systems we have used to run on a mainframe. It’s Micro Focus COBOL running on topof Red Hat Linux latest version, on top of VMware, and x86 blade.Gardner: Let’s take the discussion more towards the desktop, the virtualization experienceyou’ve had with servers and supporting such workloads as SQL Server, Oracle, and SAP. Thishas given you a set of skills and conﬁdence in virtualization that you’ve now taken out, usingVMware View, to the desktop. Perhaps you could tell us how far you’ve gone in the virtualdesktop infrastructure (VDI) direction?Inger: After ﬁnishing the private cloud in our two data centers, the next step within that cloudwas desktop. We looked at was how to minimize the amount of trouble we get from using ourdesktops -- back then it was with Windows XP Desktop -- and how to enable mobility of users,giving them the full desktop experience, whether they’re connecting from their own desktop inthe workplace or if they’re using an iPad device, connecting from home, or visiting an insurancebroker outside of our ofﬁces.We looked at the couple of technologies that would ﬁt in VMware View. Again, after a shortPOC, we decided to go ahead with the VMware View. We started the project in January 2012 andright now wre running 600 users. All of them are using VMware View 4.6 which is beingupgraded, as we speak, to version of 5.1.It enables us to give those users an immediate upgrade to a Windows 7 experience, by justinstalling VMware View, instead of having to upgrade each station of those viewers, and withoutgoing to those 600 users who are on Windows 7 right now.And were delivering it on every device that theyre working on. If they’re at work, at home,outside of their ofﬁce, their devices, iPad as we said earlier, are getting the same experience. Theplan is that by the end of next year, all of our employees could be working on VMware View.
Gardner: With those 600 or more users, have you been able to measure any business beneﬁts --maybe a cost savings or the agility of being able to work remotely. Have you been able to ﬁnd areturn on investment (ROI) in business terms?Inger: It’s quite hard to calculate down to the last dollar our ROI data sheet on VDI, because theinitial cost is very high. But in the past, in a building where I have 300 people working, I had tohave two technicians full time working and giving assurance to those end users.After going to full VDI in that building I don’t have any technician there at all. When a user hasa problem on the physical workstation, we usually remote control the station and try to ﬁx it.Sometimes, you have to format the entire station. When the user has a problem in the VDIstation, he can just log out, log in, and within less than a minute, get a completely new workstation. A technician doesn’t even have to remote control that problem in order to ﬁx it.Same experienceThe ability to give the user the same experience on each device that he works on is sometimespriceless. When I ﬂy from Israel to the United States and have a wi-ﬁ connection in the plane, Ican use an iPad and then work on my ofﬁce application as if I were in the ofﬁce. Otherwise, ifit’s a 12 hour ﬂight, Id be 12 hours out of work.If you take into account the entire ecosystem that you’ve built surrounding VMware View, it’sactually priceless, but it’s very hard to quote exactly how many dollars it save us on a daily basis.Gardner: Has the experience with the initial 600 now prompted you to move to VDI acrossmore of your thousands of workers? How aggressive do you intend to be with your use of View?Inger: By end of the year 2012, our plan and budget was for 1,000 users. So were on the way tomeet our goal in December this year. For next year, 2013, our goal is to add 2,000. So it willcover almost the entire organization. It leaves something like 500 power users. I’m not sure thatVMware View is the best solution for them yet. That will be tested in 2014.Gardner: It certainly sounds as if you’re able to move rapidly to a mobile tier capability usingView and also your cloud capacities. Thats something that many other companies are seeing thattheir users are interested in. Do you have sense that VDI is a stepping stone to supporting thismobile capability as well?Inger: Of course VDI as a stepping stone is an essential element in implementing a bring yourown device (BYOD) policy. That’s something were doing. Were in the initial steps of this policymainly with iPad devices, which a lot of employees are bringing to work and would like to bringwhen theyre on site, offsite, or at home. Without VDI, it would be impossible to give them asolution. We have tons of iPads today that are connecting to the ofﬁce via VDI with a fullWindow Server experience.
Gardner: Id like to get your thinking around virtuous adoption. As we started talking about DR,your full virtualization of your server workloads, your being able to go to standardized operatingsystems and hardware, moving to VDI, then moving to hybrid cloud and also now mobile, ittruly sound as if there is a clear relationship between what you’ve done over the years withvirtualization and this larger architectural payoff. Maybe you could help me better understandwhy the whole is perhaps greater than the sum of the parts.Inger: The whole is greater than sum of the parts, because when I chose VMware as a partnercombined with EMC on the storage side and their professional services, I had actually done a lotof the work together with my people.Life gets easierLife gets easier managing IT as an infrastructure, when you choose all those parts together. Anapplication guy could come to you and say, "I didn’t calculate the workload correctly on theapplication thats going to be launched tomorrow, and instead of 2 front-end servers I need 15."Some other person could come to me and say, "I have now ﬁve people working offshore, outsideof the Israel and I need them to help me with a development task that is urgent. I need to givethem access to our development site. What can you do to help me?"I tell him, "Let’s put in our VDI environment, and they can start working ﬁve minutes fromnow." When you put all of those things together, you actually build an ecosystem that is easier tomanage, easier to deploy, and everything is managed from a central view.I know how many servers I have. I know the power consumption of those servers. I know aboutCPU’s memory, disk I/O and so on. And it even affects the decision-making process of howmuch more power Ill need on the server side, how many disks Ill need to buy for the upcomingproject that I have. It’s much easier decision making process. Back in the physical day, wheneach server had its own memory, its own CPU, and its own disk, there was much more guessingthan deciding upon facts.Gardner: Very good. I’m afraid we’ll have to leave it there. We’ve been talking about how ClalInsurance Enterprises Holdings, has both satisﬁed current requirements and built a better long-term technology architecture, all based on virtualization. And we’ve seen how such IT innovationand productivity have translated into signiﬁcant business beneﬁts for Clal’s users and customers.Id like to thank our guest, Haim Inger, the Chief Technology Ofﬁcer and Head of InfrastructureOperations and Technologies and Clalbit systems. Thank you so much Haim.Inger: Thank you very much.Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks to you, ouraudience, for listening, and come back next time.
Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Sponsor: VMwareTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast on the multiplier effects gained from virtualization in theenterprise. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2012. All rights reserved.You may also be interested in: • VMware CTO Steve Herrod on How the Software-Deﬁned Datacenter Beneﬁts Enterprises • Case Study: Strategic Approach to Disaster Recovery and Data Lifecycle Management Pays Off for Australias SAI Global • Case Study: Strategic Approach to Disaster Recovery and Data Lifecycle Management Pays Off for Australias SAI Global • Virtualization Simpliﬁes Disaster Recovery for Insurance Broker Myron Steves While Delivering Efﬁciency and Agility Gains Too • SAP Runs VMware to Provision Virtual Machines to Support Complex Training Courses • Case Study: How SEGA Europe Uses VMware to Standardize Cloud Environment for Globally Distributed Game Development