ING DIRECT Australia is an online bank that competes against much larger banks. To spend more on innovation, it has to continually trim operating costs. To help its IT operation deliver savings to the business, ING DIRECT is upgrading to the
Windows Server 2012 operating system and Microsoft System Center 2012. By taking advantage of the increased virtualization density and IT management efficiencies that this software makes possible, ING DIRECT will improve IT efficiency by 20 percent in the
near term and double or triple server consolidation levels and savings in the future. It can also extend high availability to more workloads by using replication and live-migration features built into Windows Server 2012. ING DIRECT can better secure its data
centers with Windows Server 2012 and give its IT staff a rewarding job environment by letting them work with the latest technology.
ING DIRECT Australia is a direct bank that offers savings, home loan, transactional banking, and superannuation products. It interacts with its customers through online channels, telephones, and mobile devices, as well as through third parties. ING DIRECT
is the fifth largest home lender in Australia and employs around 950 people in its Sydney head office and its contact center in Tuggerah.
The success of ING DIRECT is mirrored around the globe, where more than 21 million customers in Spain, France, Italy, UK, Germany, and Austria have made ING DIRECT one of the world's largest direct banks. ING DIRECT is part of ING Group, one of the world’s
largest financial institutions, operating in more than 40 countries.
||By standardizing on Windows Server 2012, … [we can] reinvest our valuable time and resources into finding unique opportunities to create exceptional service for our customers.
| Wesley Naidoo
Enterprise Technical Architect, ING DIRECT Australia
ING DIRECT is what Wesley Naidoo, Enterprise Technical Architect for ING DIRECT Australia, calls a challenger bank. “We’re not a very big organization, and we’re not the biggest bank in Australia,” Naidoo says. “Our company focus is on providing exceptional
customer service and attracting and retaining customers. To do that, we have to constantly innovate—offer new and better services than the competition. What this means for IT is that we have to make our environment as efficient as possible so we focus our
time and resources on business innovation.”
As of June 2012, ING DIRECT had more servers than employees—about 1,100 across two data centers. The good news was that 90 percent of those servers were virtualized—half using VMware software and half using the Hyper-V virtualization technology included
in the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. Still, the company’s data center servers were vastly underutilized. “We have a very traditional infrastructure, which is to say all of our hardware is overprovisioned,” Naidoo says. “Even though we were virtualized,
all of our production, test, and development servers were dedicated to a single purpose and workload, and if they weren’t being used at the moment, the servers were idle.” The company’s second data center served as a disaster recovery location, and it was
full of servers that also sat idle most of the time.
Availability Problems, High Costs
Only core services and applications were duplicated at the disaster recovery site, because it was costly to provide redundancy for every single application. “We think of availability in human terms,” Naidoo says. “For example, our customer is at a supermarket,
their arms are full while shopping with the kids. They want to make a payment, but at that moment the transaction fails. What does that mean to them? Ideally we want to make sure all our customers’ ‘moments of truth’ are covered 100 percent of time. Where
we don’t need extreme availability—99.999 percent—such as for an employee time-sheet system, we have been willing to incur downtime. However, it would be nice to provide continuous uptime for all of our services.”
ING DIRECT also wanted to simplify its software licensing. “We wanted to simplify our virtualization environment, and we wanted to use our Microsoft Enterprise Agreement license more fully,” Naidoo says. “We’re trying to reduce complexity, reduce operating
costs as much as possible, and free up our resources to focus on our business for change and improvement.”
In 2011, ING DIRECT worked closely with its local IT partner, Dimension Data Australia, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold competencies, to build a private cloud environment using Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 R2. This environment was
used to provide the bank’s development and test environment, called Bank in a Box. By June 2012, this environment had 500 virtual machines running at any one time on 30 blade servers, with capacity for 1,800 virtual machines.
||Our company focus is on providing exceptional customer service ... what this means for IT is that we have to make our environment as efficient as possible so we focus our time and resources on business innovation.
| Wesley Naidoo
Enterprise Technical Architect, ING DIRECT Australia
“We were very impressed with Hyper-V in our development and test environment,” Naidoo says. “When Dimension Data and a Microsoft representative talked to us about participating in the Rapid Deployment Program [RDP] for Windows Server 2012, we were very excited.
We wanted to evaluate Hyper-V Replica for multisite replication and use the RDP as a springboard for broader modernization efforts.”
Test Operating System on Production Hardware
ING DIRECT set up a proof-of-concept environment using two Cisco UCS B230 blade servers running Windows Server 2012 Datacenter and created a number of Hyper-V virtual machines. For its production environment, ING DIRECT used Cisco UCS B200 blade servers
and added an HP ProLiant DL380 server in its disaster recovery location.
“Cisco and Microsoft have a strong alliance going way back,” says Sam Ghali, Senior Systems Engineer at ING DIRECT Australia. “When we had issues with hardware drivers, we were able to get them resolved quickly.“
Adds Naidoo, “The UCS product line is part of our platform going forward. It is built for virtualization and has a very flexible architecture. It allows us to make the most of Windows Server 2012 by supporting high-density workloads and providing lots of
CPUs and memory. We want to be able to repurpose our environment as our business demands, and UCS gives us that flexibility.”
ING DIRECT engaged Dimension Data to help with the RDP proof of concept. Dimension Data helped ING DIRECT set up the test servers and deploy Windows Server 2012 and provided advice on the best test approach. “Dimension Data has been invaluable,” Ghali says.
“We’d already experienced great help from Dimension Data experts with our development and test environment. We really enjoyed working with them to learn and understand all the new features of Windows Server 2012.”
Evaluate High-Availability and Other Features
A feature that greatly impressed ING DIRECT was Hyper-V Replica, which provides asynchronous replication of virtual machines across different storage subsystems and across sites to provide business continuity. “We haven’t seen a capability like this
included in any other product,” Naidoo says. “Hyper-V Replica does not require special licensing, specialized hardware, or other costs. We have many workloads that need a disaster recovery capability, and Hyper-V Replica is the perfect way to cost-effectively
protect low-tier to middle-tier workloads.”
During the RDP, ING DIRECT used Hyper-V Replica to create a replica of a production workload in the disaster recovery site—and then forgot about it. Later, there was a problem with a production cluster that ran this particular workload, and the IT team was
able to fail over the workload to the replica location. “We had forgotten that we had set up the replica and were thrilled that we were able to protect this workload,” Ghali says. “The employee using the service didn’t even realize that his workload was running
in the other location.”
ING DIRECT also evaluated and will be using the following Windows Server 2012 features:
Add Management Tool, Move into Production
Hyper-V live migration, which supports simultaneous virtual machine migrations with no downtime, in and outside a cluster. “We were able to do Hyper-V live migration without shared storage to a different site, which was pretty impressive,”
Transparent failover. With the transparent file server failover capability in Windows Server 2012, a workload running on an active/active cluster remains available even when the particular node that it is running on fails unexpectedly. Transparent
failover delivers higher server utilization and thus lower server costs, because ING DIRECT has the ability to share capacity across all nodes in a cluster and needs fewer backup servers.
Storage Spaces. Windows Server 2012 includes a feature set called Storage Spaces that enables ING DIRECT to use industry-standard storage to build highly scalable, continuously available storage solutions. This delivers a substantial reduction
in costs associated with purchasing and operating enterprise-grade storage solutions such as storage area networks.
Network Interface Card (NIC) Teaming. NIC Teaming provides network fault tolerance on physical servers and virtual machines by using at least two network adapters by any vendor, without the need for a third-party teaming solution. With NIC
Teaming built into the operating system, ING DIRECT has a solution that is easier to deploy and manage and is fully supported by Microsoft.
Server Core installation option. Server Core is a scaled-back installation that presents a smaller malware attack surface. By using Server Core, ING DIRECT can easily convert between Server Core installation and Full installation, more easily
manage its environment, and improve security.
ING DIRECT is working with Dimension Data to deploy Microsoft System Center 2012, which provides comprehensive data center management capabilities. “We’ve already used System Center 2012 Configuration Manager to migrate from the Windows XP to the Windows
7 operating system, and we are ecstatic about it,” says Tom Hsu, Wintel Systems Engineer at ING DIRECT. “We will be soon using the Virtual Machine Manager component. We have a road map that will eventually have us taking advantage of all the capabilities of
System Center 2012.”
ING DIRECT is currently running several production workloads on Windows Server 2012 and is in the process of upgrading all its servers to the latest operating system. “We’re waiting for a chance to look at how System Center 2012 and Windows Server 2012 work
together, but we’re quite confident of the ability to switch our entire virtualized environment to Hyper-V,” Naidoo says.
By upgrading its data centers to Windows Server 2012 and pairing it with System Center 2012, ING DIRECT Australia will be able to trim data center costs significantly and put these savings to work advancing innovation. It will also be able to extend
high availability to more workloads and reduce disaster recovery time from hours to minutes. With more flexible deployment options, ING DIRECT can minimize malware attacks. And by letting its IT staff work with the latest software, the company increases job
Improve IT Efficiency and Support Business Innovation
By taking advantage of the capabilities built into Windows Server 2012 and the management efficiencies provided by System Center 2012, ING DIRECT expects to improve IT service efficiencies by 20 percent in the near term. “We can automate and orchestrate
everything that we need to do with this platform,” Naidoo says. “It frees our people to work on core projects that benefit the business. Deploying virtual machines is about 60 percent faster with Windows Server 2012; building a cluster has gone from three
or four days to one day. Combining these efficiencies with the server consolidation benefits provided by Cisco UCS blade servers and Hyper-V, we could double or triple our data center consolidation and savings down the road.”
||We have many workloads that need a disaster recovery capability, and Hyper-V Replica is the perfect way to cost-effectively protect low-tier to middle-tier workloads.
| Wesley Naidoo
Enterprise Technical Architect, ING DIRECT Australia
The company will also realize licensing savings. “These savings can be significant for our business,” Naidoo adds. “The more we can remove costs from operations and put the savings into value-generating work, the more successful the business will be. By standardizing
on Windows Server 2012, we will derive more value from our Microsoft Enterprise Agreement and simplify our technology portfolio. This provides the ability to reinvest our valuable time and resources into finding unique opportunities to create exceptional service
for our customers.”
Extend High Availability, Improve Recovery Time from Hours to Minutes
By using Hyper-V Replica, transparent failover, and live migration, ING DIRECT can increase the availability of virtualized workloads and extend high availability to all workloads at no additional cost. “We want to invest in platforms that increase our
availability and help us insulate our customers—internal and external—from data center problems,” Naidoo says.
The customer at the supermarket? He or she will still enjoy highly available banking services. But so will the employee trying to file a time sheet or expense report.
Additionally, thanks to the new availability features, ING DIRECT has much faster recovery times when moving workloads from primary to secondary locations. “With Windows Server 2012, we can improve from hours to minutes in a disaster recovery scenario,”
Naidoo says. “We expect to completely eliminate the current eight hours of planned system downtime experienced each year due to virtual machine and virtual hard drive migration activities.”
By deploying Windows Server 2012 using the Server Core installation option, ING DIRECT can keep its operating system “footprint” as small and secure as possible. “The larger the software surface area, the greater the exposure to attacks,” Naidoo says.
“With Server Core, we can keep it very lean. When it comes time to apply security updates, there’s less to update. Our management tools can be much lighter and leaner, and we’re not wasting valuable CPU time scanning unneeded operating system services.”
Improve Job Satisfaction
Perhaps of the most significant benefits to ING DIRECT management is the human factor of keeping the company’s technology on the cutting edge. “We’re techies at heart,” says Naidoo. “We get a lot of satisfaction working with cool technology, and our
staff has a real appreciation for fine craft. By upgrading to Windows Server 2012, our staff will be working with some first-rate technology and be able to do some very innovative things. It’s a key reason why people stay with us. We want to make sure we’re
investing in our people, and they reciprocate by giving us great work.”
Windows Server 2012
Windows Server drives many of the world’s largest data centers, empowers small businesses around the world, and delivers value to organizations of all sizes in between. Building on this legacy, Windows Server 2012 redefines the category, delivering hundreds
of new features and enhancements that span virtualization, networking, storage, user experience, cloud computing, automation, and more. Simply put, Windows Server 2012 helps you transform your IT operations to reduce costs and deliver a whole new level of
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