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Transforming Your Enterprise Magazine

Fall 2008
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Large Enterprise Business

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The perfect virtual fit

The right size for a growth-oriented company is usually larger: but scalable, flexible and efficient infrastructure can actually have a smaller footprint than what you’re using now.

The perfect virtual fit

‘Rightsizing’ is an oft-used term, and its meaning is sometimes less than precise. But sometimes it fits. Take the case of Fair Isaac, the leading provider of analytics and decision management technology. The company specializes in building analytic products, like the industry-standard FICO score, as well as market-leading tools and applications for business rules management, fraud detection, optimization and other critical business functions for customers in the financial services, insurance, retail and health care sectors.

Fair Isaac has achieved its market leadership, in part, through strategic acquisitions. But over the years, along with intellectual assets, the company has also acquired computer infrastructures. Ultimately, Fair Isaac found itself running a number of different data centers and more than 5,000 servers distributed globally.

As Christopher Rence (pictured), Fair Isaac’s Chief Information Officer, explains, growth meant headaches. “Fair Isaac has been growing organically and by acquisition for about 12 years,” Rence explains. “That process meant that we had server rooms, data centers, network closets… a lot of different technologies spread around the world. That’s expensive but also hard to manage.” 

With many of the data centers at or near capacity—and many of the servers at or near end­ of-life—Rence knew his team needed to refresh, standardize and consolidate infrastructure. Improving system manageability and operational efficiency (i.e., cost savings) were also considerations. And finally, as a 52-year-old pioneering company with its eyes on the future, Fair Isaac is focused increasingly on reducing its carbon footprint. 

The task required the rationalization of 16 separate data centers that were at or near capacity and the replacement of an oversized fleet of servers, many near end-of-life, with more efficient systems that could deliver better performance in a smaller footprint.

After evaluating a number of vendors, Fair Isaac concluded the HP BladeSystem was the best fit for its consolidation plans. One big factor was manageability. Fair Isaac had already implemented the HP Systems Insight Manager framework, and the ability to use known, trusted tools played a big role in the decision to standardize on HP blades.

Another advantage was space utilization. Using blades enabled Rence and his colleagues to fit more servers into a new 4,000-square-foot facility than in one of their old 10,000 square-foot data centers.

When Fair Isaac decided to virtualize in order to optimize space savings further while gaining greater efficiency and flexibility, the company turned to HP Services for help. HP’s architectural consultants worked with Fair Isaac engineers to perform an infrastructure assessment and prepare an architectural design. For hardware, the team began with HP ProLiant BL45p G2 blade servers with 32 gigabytes of RAM. VMware was chosen for virtualization.

An HP Software specialist helped Fair Isaac configure management software, including HP Systems Insight Manager, HP ProLiant Essentials Management Software, HP ProLiant Rapid Essentials Deployment Pack, and HP Instant Support Enterprise Edition.

Next, the team tested the migration by transferring the contents of 40 older development servers to the new HP BladeSystem. After a “wildly successful” 30­day pilot test, which was interruption-free for customers and had only minimal impact on internal users, Rence and his team settled down to the process of server conversion—and the shuttering of now-unneeded data centers.

The payoff

“We’ve gone from 5,000 devices to about 2,600,” Rence says. “We’ve leveraged the HP c-Class blade chassis to collapse the physical environment down to a virtualized one.” In one case, Fair Isaac was able to configure 800 virtual machines onto 45 physical servers.

Virtualization has also enhanced flexibility. “When we need to shut something down or bring something up, we can do that through virtualization,” Rence says. “For example, when a development group finishes we can back up the environment and shut it down and then reuse that resource for something else. It means we don’t have a lot of idle environments sitting around waiting for something.”


The savings in facilities maintenance costs, power and cooling expenses and server maintenance costs will cover the costs of Fair Isaac’s new BladeSystem infrastructure over a three-year period.

The savings in facilities maintenance costs, power and cooling expenses and server maintenance costs will cover the costs of Fair Isaac’s new BladeSystem infrastructure over a three-year period. The reduction in server count also streamlines system management, freeing IT staff to focus on strategic tasks, such as developing the company’s ability to get to market faster with new analytics and decision management tools and applications.

Rence believes that HP’s partnership approach has been critical to his team’s success. “Talking to other companies, I know that HP will tell customers when something won’t work for them,” Rence says. “They’re there to partner with us, but they also raise their hand. They’re not there just to sell you a solution.”


Related links

»  HP Virtualization Solutions
»  HP BladeSystem
»

Table of contents

Introduction

» Virtual for all the right reasons

Strategies

» The green standard
» Common Ground: Turning distress into ‘de-stress’

Feature

» Rethinking virtualization
» From IT tool to business enabler
» Virtualization beyond IT
» Built for virtualization
» IT leasing makes sense in tough times

Experiences

» The perfect virtual fit
» Selective outsourcing
» HP fuels The Indy Racing Experience
» Stepping up to service delivery
» The power of partnership
» Dressed for success

Solutions

» Pick-and-choose-support
» Getting the most out of outsourcing
» Teaching the data center to think green
» Storage briefs
» Data deduplication eases storage headaches

Technologies

» Mission-critical blades now available
» Taming the wild petabyte
» PDM moves up
» New 8P server addresses capacity, growth needs
» Storage for all sizes
» A SAN for all reasons
» Security without walls
» Putting petabytes to work for your company

Supplement

» The great leap forward
» Puzzled by power?
» The partner portfolio
» Server management simplified
» Two worlds as one
» The better road to open source
» Two blade servers in one
» Feedback
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