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I-BN targets global growth with a virtualization solution from Citrix and Dell

Based in Marietta, Georgia, I-Business Network (I-BN) is an application service provider (ASP) specializing in the provisioning of financial, ecommerce and business process systems to small and medium-sized companies. I-BN delivers software solutions as a hosted service for a fixed monthly fee so companies can focus on their core business instead of on IT issues. Through partnerships with leading independent software vendors (ISVs) including Sage, SAP and Microsoft, a professionally run data center and highly qualified staff, I-BN helps companies seeking to enhance their business processes without a large up-front capital investment in software, IT infrastructure and personnel.

 

Date: 6 Jan 2011

The challenge: managing the cost of rapid expansion
I-BN’s reputation for excellence as a financial services hosting provider has grown steadily, as has its customer roster. In addition to the business it cultivated directly through its own sales team, I-BN benefited from deepening relationships with its ISV partners, which now refer customers located as far away as Central and South America, Europe and Asia. Its strength among companies in the manufacturing and distribution sectors makes I-BN’s prospects especially bright for continued overseas expansion, where low input costs and other competitive advantages are fueling growth in these sectors.

With an expectation of continued geographic expansion, I-BN recognized rapid scalability as a key differentiator in the crowded and complex business process hosting marketplace. In addition, its small to medium-sized business customers look to I-BN to support their growth into larger enterprises.

To accommodate rapid growth and build in scalability, I-BN faced the prospect of more than doubling the current count of servers at its data center, with the associated major increases in real estate, power, air conditioning and staffing.

“We had clients who asked us to purchase servers with 600 to 800 GB of space for their data,” recalled Jaime Schmidtke, I-BN’s IT systems manager, “but they were only using five percent of that capacity.” The problem, moreover, transcended over-provisioning. “We could have incorporated these costs in our pricing model, but it just didn’t make good business sense.”

Implementing a virtualization solution from Citrix and Dell
To improve scalability, optimize server hardware and simplify operations, I-BN turned to a virtualization infrastructure based upon the integration of the Citrix® XenServer™, Enterprise Edition server virtualization solution and the Dell EqualLogic PS5000E iSCSI storage area network (SAN) solution. The company saw virtualization as an opportunity to decouple clients from their hosted applications, services and storage. After testing several virtualization platforms, I-BN selected Citrix XenServer on the basis of both price and performance, particularly in conjunction with Citrix XenApp™, Enterprise Edition, the application virtualization solution already in use at the company. I-BN then turned to the Dell EqualLogic PS Series to virtualize its storage and to realize the full benefit of its virtualization program.

The Citrix XenServer Adapter for Dell EqualLogic, a core component of Citrix XenServer, Dell Edition, provides access to EqualLogic provisioning and fast cloning functionality through the Citrix XenCenter Management Client.

Improved flexibility and control
By combining Citrix XenServer and Citrix XenApp with Dell EqualLogic, I-BN has gained the flexibility and scalability required to meet the needs of current and future customers. Citrix XenServer, based on the Xen® hypervisor, enables a single physical server to run one or more virtual servers, effectively decoupling the operating system and its applications from the underlying hardware. Citrix XenApp, running with Microsoft® Windows Server® 2003 on XenServer virtual servers, delivers applications over the network to customers anywhere using virtualization technology.

The EqualLogic iSCSI SAN also supports scalability by allowing I-BN to add arrays “just in time” as a background process, without any disruption of the service provider’s 24-7 operations.

Schmidtke said, “Bringing on new customers at I-BN no longer means adding more hardware to the virtual environment. With virtualization technology and thoughtful planning, the space is already there on our existing servers. And the dynamic provisioning functionality of XenServer makes it fast and easy to create new virtual servers.”

Reduced costs and accelerated service delivery
Virtualizing its hosting and service delivery infrastructure has allowed I-BN to achieve significant cost reductions, as well as accelerate order-to-delivery times. Running Citrix XenApp on XenServer and virtualizing storage using the EqualLogic SAN reduced I-BN’s datacenter footprint by 40 percent and cut power consumption by 30 percent.

Plus, the integrated solution shortens set-up time for a new customer to hours, compared to one or two days previously. Before virtualization, the company had to complete server procurement, receive the equipment and get it installed, and deploy and configure the applications. Now, the team simply creates an image of the server workload — including operating platform, XenApp and applications – and provisions it to an existing box.

Simplified management provides competitive advantage
The virtualization solution provided by the integrated Dell and Citrix platforms helps I-BN compete by driving costs down, simplifying operations and scaling rapidly. By removing the need to buy physical servers for each individual client, the service provider achieves significant savings in hardware, real estate and staffing, all critical factors for an ASP competing for business in a globalized hosting market.

Schmidtke said, “We have already achieved a 4:1 ratio of virtual servers to physical servers, and expect even greater consolidation as we continue to benchmark resource utilization.”

He continued, “We’re no longer buying physical servers for each customer. Our shared, virtual infrastructure from Citrix and Dell lets us instantaneously ramp up when we need to, which drives our costs down and makes us more competitive.”

Equally critical for I-BN are the centralized management capabilities of the solution. “We have streamlined the process by having everything we need in a central location via XenCenter. Also, we’ve created templates with base OS images for faster and more efficient provisioning. Expedited administration gives the IT team members additional time to conduct higher-level business operations, such as long-term planning and strategy development.

I-BN also appreciates the simplicity of Dell’s bundled approach to EqualLogic software licensing, which gives the service provider access to the full set of features developed for the SANs, instead of requiring individual licenses for specific features or different levels of functionality. And although I-BN’s customers use a variety of desktop and notebook computers, virtualized delivery with XenApp enables these users to access the latest applications with high performance. This makes the I-BN offering even more appealing.

World-class virtualization for global success
I-BN is leveraging its virtualized environment to achieve a 75-percent reduction in server hardware by hosting four virtual servers on each physical server. By reaching this goal, with its associated overhead cost savings, I-BN expects to drive per-user costs down even further. With its business model transformed, I-BN plans to accelerate the pace of global expansion by delivering high-value, high-quality services from an infrastructure that offers flexibility, scalability and operational simplicity.

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