Growing use of Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise virtualization and Novell ZenWorks 7 management products has saved VIST Financial Corp. hundreds of thousands of dollars and cut IT travel by as much as 90%, according to Jack McLaine, VIST's vice president of IT services.
Known as Leesport Financial Corp. until last March, the Wyomissing, Pa.-based financial services company, which has $1.5 billion in assets, is currently more than halfway through a yearlong virtualization project, with a goal of consolidating 80 servers into 30 while preserving existing service levels, McLaine said. To date, 18 servers have been virtualized, he said.
Before choosing SUSE Linux Enterprise with built-in Xen virtualization, VIST also considered VMware Inc.'s and Citrix Systems Inc.'s offerings but decided on Novell as the best virtualization fit for VIST's environment, McLaine said. VMware was "substantially more expensive" and would have required more hardware and additional labor to operate, he said. While Citrix was comparable to Novell in functionality, it didn't have Novell support and integration, he said.
"SUSE offers virtualization at substantial cost savings, so the switch is a no-brainer," he said. "It makes my job that much easier."
The virtualization project has overlapped with VIST's rebranding effort and, last March, the concurrent construction of a new website. The latter included the replacement of two Web servers running Red Hat Enterprise Linux on old Compaq ProLiants with virtualized servers on SUSE Linux Enterprise. By converting to SUSE's Xen virtualization, VIST avoided replacing old servers and didn't have to renew its Red Hat licenses so its software support tab and heating and cooling costs declined, he said. Virtualizing Web servers on Red Hat was not considered because VIST has committed to standardizing on SUSE, he said.
The virtualization project has saved $7,000 per legacy server that was virtualized rather than replaced and has lowered heating and cooling costs, he said.
Muscling up management
A few years ago, VIST also improved efficiency of IT operations by upgrading to Novell's proprietary cross-platform ZenWorks 7 management package to centralize control of servers and desktops for its 22 offices. With branches up to two-hour drive, the four-person IT staff can fix machines, see user actions, conduct training and track inventory, all remotely, McLaine said.
"This has been a wonderful tool," McLaine said. "This is a huge time and money saver."
In addition, VIST recently tightened its control of desktops and servers even further with policy management, which gives IT a central image of each machine and all its functions on a single management console. Previously, IT had no way of knowing when users installed additional software, which added to help desk headaches when trying to resolve user problems. Now, however, IT knows exactly what's installed and what's configured on each machine. This, in turn, has not only saved troubleshooting time but also helped VIST stay in compliance with regulatory requirements and keep track of licenses, he said.
VIST also added Novell's Identity Manager, which automates the addition or revocation of access privileges and enable users to log on to multiple systems with a single password.In the near term, other IT projects include an internal conversion for Check 21 real-time bank processing and the addition of ZenWorks EndPoint Security Management. VIST has many mobile lending agents with confidential financial data on laptops and Endpoint Security will encrypt data on USB and hard drives, halting all data access after a laptop theft or loss and preventing identity theft, he said.
During his decade of tenure at VIST, McLaine has expanded the Novell footprint significantly and remains a big Novell proponent.
"My confidence and loyalty lies with Novell because the security, stability and product support are superior," McLaine said. "Not every product [is the best], but in a side-to-side comparison, a majority of Novell's products are superior, especially with security and stability."