There's plenty of interest in virtualization as an important foundation of cloud computing, but for an insurance wholesaler supporting properties in the world's premier hurricane zone, it is essential to the continuity of the business.

In a recent BriefingsDirect podcast, Dana Gardner spoke with Tim Moudry, associate director of IT, and William Chambers, IT operations manager at Myron Steves, a Houston-based insurance wholesaler supporting 3,000 independent insurance agencies in the Gulf Coast region.

As Moudry explained, the company's journey to virtualization began with Hurricane Ike—which ripped through the Gulf Coast in 2008. “When Hurricane Ike came, we were using another DR support company, and they gave us facilities to recover our data,” he says. “They were also doing our backups. We went to that site to recover systems, and we had a hard time recovering anything. We were testing it, and it was really cumbersome. We tried to get servers up and running. We stayed there to recover one whole day and never got even a data center recovered.”

Moudry and Chambers recognized that to survive a similar event—in which clients will be expecting service almost immediately thereafter—there had to be a better way. The Myron Steves team decided their systems needed to be 100 percent virtualized, so they could run anywhere, anytime, at any facility.

The company employed virtualization software from VMware. Not only are they able to free their systems from a physical location, but also consolidate their server farms. “We are not buying equipment like we used to,” said Moudry. “We had 70 servers and four racks. It compressed down to one rack.” Server maintenance costs are now about 10 percent of what they were before virtualization, Chambers added.

It's also easy to create new servers, Chambers continued. “Making new servers is nothing. I copy a template and rename it. The deployment of new servers takes 20 minutes.”

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

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