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Optimizing IT Infrastructure Through Server Consolidation and Virtualization

Information Technology | Technology Deployment, Network Services

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Allegis Group saved $5 million by optimizing its IT infrastructure with an internally-led server consolidation and virtualization modernization effort.

Allegis Group is the largest privately held staffing company in the United States and serves a wide variety of industries in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Puerto Rico, Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim. The company has more than 220 offices, 8,000 internal employees and 90,000 contract employees working with customers around the world.
Microsoft Exchange 2007, Active Directory, SharePoint, Web Servers, Siebel, RWS, Partner Logix, MLA, desktops and virtual machines
With the corporate goals of reducing costs and expanding its services business, Allegis Group conducted an internal audit of its IT infrastructure to ensure that it had the capacity to support the growing needs of the business. It was at this time that Allegis Group’s Information Services unit realized that it was suffering the effects of aging hardware, low server utilization, power limitations and fast approaching physical space constraints. To effectively support future operations it would need to scale to beyond the 600+ physical production servers currently housed.

When evaluating the feasibility of adding more servers, the company also found that if it continued to operate under the current conditions, adding additional servers would take approximately five days each to provision and install – a turnaround time that long exceeded the desired target for growth. These issues caused the company to begin planning a new data center initiative, one that leveraged the combination of a physical and a virtual server environment. Virtualization modernization could be achieved by implementing VMWare™, a COTS software that sits on a single piece of hardware and enables multiple users to simultaneously run various software programs across dual operating systems.

Leveraging a combination of internal resources and contracted consultants specializing in virtualization, Allegis Group was able to build, test, train and support its user community. Over the life of the project upward of 100+ team members contributed to this initiative. Working in teams of typically 10 to 12 people, skill sets employed include database administrators, network engineers, system administrators and applications administrators. A multi-year initiative, notable milestones within this project were as follows:

Year One - Systems teams started experimenting with ESX v.2, two hosts and 10 virtual servers.
Year Three - Began the first physical server consolidation project for 150 physical to virtual conversions.
Year Four - Roll out VMware™ to European operations consisting of project-based virtualization, which targeted newer servers for sales applications, time entry and front office systems spanning 200 servers virtualized in the test lab and 100 virtualized in the data center.
Year Six - Server consolidation continues with 400 servers now virtualized in the test lab and 150 servers in the data center. Standardizing the European virtualization environment marked the global introduction of virtual desktops, definition of operations support roles, and onshore and offshore use.
Year Seven - Virtualization first policy introduced as well as a new Lab Manager facilitating self service for application teams’ virtual environments. Increased virtual desktop use for key projects such as Siebel, RWS, Partner Logix and MLA. Even an enterprise-wide Microsoft Exchange upgrade was designed completely in a virtual  environment.

By moving to a “private cloud,” Allegis Group has saved more than $5 million in total costs including $2.1 million alone from avoided infrastructure costs. Ten virtual servers are equivalent to one physical server, making this option just a tenth of the cost. Aside from avoiding the tremendous expense of new hardware and software purchases, virtualization modernization presented a host of benefits including conservation of physical space and the ability to make more savvy business decisions by evaluating the feasibility of implementing new systems in a virtual vs. a standard environment.

Allegis Group has migrated from the 600 physical servers it had before virtualization to 1,000 virtual servers running on just 75 physical machines within a single centralized location. Since optimizing its IT infrastructure, Allegis Group now has the ability to provide faster and better service to its internal customers, having improved speed to market for development teams and reduced time to implement new software and server configurations. For example, MarketSource, one of its operating companies, identified a need for more capacity and Allegis Group was able to create 23 virtual servers to fill that request in a single day. Lessons learned and best practices derived from this initiative have grown from a single project to a standard process to expand the cloud and offer this service as a new offering to external customers.

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