In the Netherlands, Alex Beleggersbank, the on-line investment bank has chosen Bull to renew its IT infrastructure
100,000 investors use the Website of on-line investment bank Alex to execute their transactions. Obviously it is essential that alex.nl is available at all times, especially during trading hours. To improve the availability and to manage capacity more efficiently, the on-line investment bank decided to renew its IT infrastructure. From an initial shortlist of six suppliers, Bull was chosen to manage and deliver the project.
“Our investors expect to be able to consult alex.nl at any time of the day or night, to check their portfolios and to handle transactions. Last year, alex.nl handled no less than 3.2 million orders. With our current systems we reached an availability of 99.9 percent. This means we are not available for almost eight hours per year. This is unacceptable for us,” explained Ed Lanen, IT Manager, Alex Beleggersbank.
Important elements of the renewal of Alex’s IT infrastructure are server consolidation and virtualization, and the replacement of the storage systems. The number of servers, which run its trading applications, will be reduced from 400 to a maximum of 50.
Lanen asked six suppliers to submit proposals. “I explained our IT strategy to them, asking them to complete the picture. How would they build the solution and could they work with us as partners? We also wanted to know how long they thought they would need for the project and, of course, what the cost would be. We felt most confident about Bull’s proposal and approach. The larger parties had trouble with working quickly. The architecture Bull proposed was the one we liked most. Partly because of this we decided to let Bull handle all the project management. We did not choose Bull just for their NovaScale servers and EMC storage systems, but also as a partner for the entire project.”
Lanen plans to implement a ‘twin datacenter concept’ at Alex. “The systems run at the primary and the secondary, disaster recovery, locations. Normally only the servers at the primary location are active continuously. With the twin concept there is already a disaster recovery built into your standard system. This means that the primary location also supplies a disaster recovery facility. The project team is currently testing whether the systems will support this. With the server consolidation and virtualization we can improve the manageability of the infrastructure. In the past we would have added more and more servers; 150 in the past three years alone.”
Alex has defined eight projects to renew its infrastructure. “At the moment we have almost finalized the ‘Back-up and restore’ project. Bull has managed this project for us successfully. This has increased our confidence in the rest of the project.”
Bull, the architect of an Open World
Bull’s account manager Leo Leijenaar feels that the project at Alex Beleggersbank is a perfect example of the Bull 2.0 concept. “All elements, services, e-business, Open Source and architecture are addressed. We proposed a new architecture and the migration to a Linux platform. We also handled a lot of the project management.” Leijenaar thinks that Alex can achieve substantial cost savings by moving to Linux. “By using NovaScale servers with Linux, clustering is now possible. This will make any enlargement of the system a lot easier. With the current systems we would have had to add processors: a major investment.”
With the new architecture concept Alex will be able to achieve an availability of 99.99%. This means that the unplanned downtime will be reduced to a maximum of 52 minutes a year, divided over six separate instances. A huge improvement, says Lanen. “We planned to finalize the project within three years. We are well on our way and the co-operation with Bull is working out very well. We are very confident for the future.”