Thomson Reuters reduces storage sprawl to save money, increase quality

2009 InfoWorld CTO 25 Awards: Christopher Crowhurst

2009 InfoWorld CTO 25 Awards

Christopher Crowhurst
Vice president of architecture and business systems infrastructure

Thomson Reuters

At Thomson Reuters' Professional Division, IT infrastructure growth was outpacing revenue growth by almost two to one, which would require building a new datacenter every 12 months. That was unacceptable, so Christopher Crowhurst initiated two projects to reduce the cost of growth while maintaining a quality customer experience and ensure IT operations complied with the company's green IT objectives.

One project focused on storage optimization, by both doubling utilization from 30 percent to 60 percent and reducing disk costs by transitioning 40 percent of data to lower-cost storage. The other project focused on server virtualization, moving about 4,000 (about 30 percent of the total) physical servers to virtual servers. The server virtualization -- paid for by the storage optimization savings -- did more than consolidate servers. After five months, the two efforts let Thomson Reuters achieve 77 percent utilization across backup systems (and 99.6 percent across 694TB of secondary storage), reclaim 159TB of storage through deduplication, and reduce annual capital and operating expenses by a combined $12 million per year. On the "green IT" front, the expected accumulated power savings over eight years will let the company defer building three new datacenters at the cost of $60 million each and reduce carbon emissions and load on the power grid.

[ Discover how the lessons learned from the 2009 InfoWorld CTO 25 Award winners can help your IT efforts. ]

The biggest challenge that Crowhurst faced was the lack of overt authority. One reason for such waste in storage and servers was that every business unit had its own infrastructure to support its specific needs. So Crowhurst faced what he calls the "chief architect problem," in which he had influence but not authority. The always-falling costs of storage hardware also complicated the argument that greater storage efficiency was necessary. So Crowhurst spent a lot of time with business execs acting as a service consultant, explaining how a more efficient back end would result in better service for them at a cost that kept their margins safe.

But Crowhurst also had to be careful that virtualization's efficiency didn't create a new problem: lax data management and sloppy server usage because of the lower cost per unit of storage or processing. It helped that Thomson Reuters already had a chargeback mechanism in place, so Crowhurst could relate the actual infrastructure and management costs back to the affected businesses. "Our pricing structure and chargeback inherently limits their desire to deploy just because they can," he says.

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