Faced with the spiraling cost of running separate storage for each of it's 200-plus clients, WNS Global decided to turn to virtualization. But convincing its clients that virtualized storage was secure would call on all of Sanjay Jain's skills of persuasion.
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Mumbai-based WNS Global Services posted healthy revenues in 2008's fourth quarter and financial year despite the global meltdown that has crippled the BPO industry. Part of the reason for this spectacular performance is the company's Rs 2,700-crore virtualization initiative.
Too Many to Handle
Each client of WNS's diverse 200-odd client base insisted on separate file servers, resulting in plenty of under-utilized servers for WNS. This resulted in huge operational costs and managing scalability became a real storage challenge. The solution lay in centralized storage architecture. WNS's IT team was ready to virtualize customer data, convincing their clients was quite a task. Change management would prove to be the biggest challenge in front of them, says Sanjay Jain, CIO, WNS Global Services. They had to strike a balance between maintaining security standards and ensuring zero visibility between customer environments. Jain hand-picked a team for storage virtualization and the project kick started in January 2008.
The internal corporate systems were moved to a SAN and the file servers were moved to a NAS. The SAN affords not only a cost advantage, but also scalability. The process started with individual file servers of each customer being moved to centralized boxes using a combination of SAN and NAS. It would then appear as a distinct network in specific VLANs within their respective business environments. This solution ensures more manageability and improved efficiency. To meet each client's group security policy each location's directory was configured for replication with other locations. This ensures business continuity even in the event of a disaster. Anti-virus, patch management and other ancillary services were moved to a centralized environment. Each solution was moved to an isolated VAN, and kept in virtual folders which can be accessed only by specified users, whose identities are authenticated by the active directory.
Winning Stakeholders Over
Arwind Sood, CTO, WNS realized that most of the data they had was specific to WNS' processes and this resided on customer-managed servers. "Timing was everything. A lot of these processes we migrated over weekends or in very narrow windows of time," he explains. There was the need to create an adequate level of comfort among users. "We've virtualized storage across various customer networks without sacrificing security. Each customer's data is still segmented and secure." Internal change management centered round ensuring that the customer's security team understood the implementation. To someone on the outside, there was hardly any internal change. "The move occurred at night and when users came in the next morning, they did not even notice the change."
The biggest advantage of the project was the increased ease in manageability and the number of storage boxes that it released. "I had specific ROIs to achieve. My operational expenses last year were lower than the years before, because of the virtualization and despite the growth of the company," says Jain. "Today, we are able to provide really fast response time to business growth," he adds. "And instead of buying new servers every time there's a need, we can grow fairly quickly. Sood agrees that WNS accrued savings, mostly in terms of recurring support and infrastructure management costs. "Future growth can be more effectively planned for since it's cheaper for us to add to this platform than to the earlier ones." WNS has harnessed the power of virtualized storage to retain its 19th position in the Global Outsourcing 100, which will help attract more business - like the 50 customers it added last year.
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