CIO

Suncorp leads green IT revolution

Savings in infrastructure and operating expenses

Banking and insurance giant Suncorp is leveraging a unique opportunity to overhaul its IT infrastructure to bring it in line with the company's environment friendly philosophy.

Suncorp's executive general manager for business technology infrastructure, Paul Cameron, said since the acquisition of insurance group Promina the IT organization roughly doubled in size but the move provided an opportunity for more consolidation.

Cameron's first target was the fleet of Wintel servers, which now consists of some 800 virtual machines bringing the average physical server utilization from about 10 percent to 70 percent.

"We can fit 30 servers on a 4-way system and can now provision projects much faster," Cameron said. "It's now about services, not servers."

Speaking at a VMware user conference in Sydney, Cameron said Suncorp's virtualization journey is far from complete with another 1000 servers waiting to go virtual.

Virtualization is also being leveraged in the midrange environment.

"We also put 30 large midrange systems onto one box and with the merger we will do about 90," Cameron said.

Consolidation of the midrange platforms with virtualization will result in the systems taking up half the space but double the processing capacity.

Data centres will also be consolidated - from four to two - which Cameron described as "an enormous amount of work to do".

One data centre is a brand new, purpose built facility in Brisbane that is "very energy efficient and will save money just keeping it running".

LCD monitors and wake on LAN deployed to some 10,500 PCs to send them to sleep and reduce power consumption is also helping to cut operating costs.

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With $73 billion in assets and a $20 billion market capitalization, Suncorp is Australia's sixth largest bank and third largest insurer.

With 16,000 staff in Australia and New Zealand, Cameron's own IT group is 700 strong. All employees are encouraged to spend one day a year working on a community or environmental project.

"Our environmental initiatives come from the company's values," Cameron said. "We just built a new building in Brisbane with an ESD rating of five stars, including smart lighting, water recycling, and rainwater harvesting."

Suncorp is also investing in clean coal power and wind farms and recycles 485 tonnes, about 60 percent, of waste a year.

"We're also replacing our storage environment and throwing everything not attached to the mainframe and replacing it with NetApp so we can boot off the SAN," Cameron said. "It's not often you get the chance to do this type of project."

Cameron said once virtualization is done properly it scales well and three our four people can manage 800 virtual servers.

"Suncorp has done this so if anyone is considering embarking on this journey, it is good value," he said.

"In summary we will have saved 130,000 trees, or the equivalent of, by 2009 and we like to share this result to the market."