Amanda Lennon has found happiness and new levels of security in a virtual world symbolized by an empty computer rack. Lennon is information systems manager at Delaware Federal Credit Union (, where virtualization technology has been used to maximize the use of multiple computers by replicating multiple operating systems and the software they run onto single computers. In addition to making the most of its investment in its existing servers, the $213 million credit union is enjoying new backup capabilities at its backup site and is now in the process of extending that to its home office. Dover-based Del-One is using VMware tools on the product side and the consulting services of Interphase Systems of Plymouth Meeting, Pa., to deploy the technology. Lew Smith, practice manager for virtualization solutions at Interphase, said the technology allows users to "get the horsepower you bought with your computer, rather than the 5% to 15% you typically get in the world we live in now, where the best practice has always been to pin one major piece of software or application to one server or rack of severs." "Virtualization at its very basic level is a decoupling of your operating system from the hardware. For all intents and purposes your virtual machine that is running in your virtual environment is data, so you can back up that data just the same as you can back up a machine," Smith said. "The result is incredible portability." For instance, a financial institution can install the software, along with its hypervisor (or virtual machine monitor) interface, at its main and backup sites and then move critical operations between the sites without hardware or software conflicts, he said. At Del-One, the virtual system is used with the credit union's Branch Suite application, which routes data to the Fiserv Summit core processing system, along with other processes, such as check and receipt imaging. The computer operating systems also are virtualized. "Basically, we're running everything but our core transactions through there," Lennon said. "We did not virtualize our HP9000 or our main Summit core. That's not something anyone would suggest. We have a separate backup for that," she said. Smith at Interphase concurred. "Replication is a fantastic tool, but backup tapes are not something we would ever recommend you get rid of in this case," he said. Del-One went live with the virtualization in December and is now entering the fourth phase of the process that began more than a year ago. After integrating a storage area network, "the first three phases were focused around first, devising proper architecture for this environment and building that foundation from a virtual perspective," Smith said. "The second phase was all about the conversion of physical systems to virtual systems and really building out all the virtual machines that would be needed. Phase three, which was simultaneous really, was more along the lines of getting the disaster recovery site ready so that that redundancy was in place, and now we're working on on-site recovery," he said. The result will be a system where a complete operating fail-over to the off-site recovery center can take less than an hour, instead of possibly more than a week, Smith said. Lennon at Del-One said the new system also is making possible new efficiencies, such as the ability to do incremental backups all day, instead of doing bandwidth-hogging full backups at night. She said the virtual system also has created the ability to quickly create test environments, something that otherwise would have been cost-prohibitive for a credit union that size. And while the main selling point to her board was the disaster recovery piece, she said the ability to scale well beyond the 9% utilization that Del-One was getting from each of its 27 servers means it could jettison some as well as cancel plans to buy six more. It's also relieved the overcrowding in the main data center, Lennon said. While virtualization has become a bit of a buzzword, it isn't always deployed in its purest form, leading to less than ideal results, the Del-One IS manager said. "I have found that many credit unions are talking about the virtualization they've done and how it's not working as well as they had hoped, but when I asked questions, I've found they haven't truly virtualized or weren't truly harnessing the benefits of virtualization," she said. "They had only virtualized one machine or they had used Microsoft's old virtual product, which defeat the whole purpose of virtualizing," the Del-One IS manager said. "We are very happy that we did it the right away, which was to completely virtualize our data center and backup site, except for our HP9000, and to utilize the expertise of an outside company that had the experience and knowledge to set it up the right way the first time." –[email protected]

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