For Insurer Admiral, installing more physical servers would have made its datacentre unmanageable, and the cooling systems would have been unable to cope. So the company turned a local integrator who persuaded it to run with a VMware virtual infrastructure.

The group consists of some of well-known insurance brands, including Admiral, elephant.co.uk, Diamond, and Bell. It employs over 2,000 people in its offices in Cardiff and Swansea, and currently insures around 1.3 million motorists.

Admiral’s datacentres, based in Cardiff and Swansea, required a major overhaul. Hosting both internal applications as well as customer-facing systems, it was coming under increasing pressure to meet the demands of the business and the customers that it supports. The nature and growth of Admiral’s business demanded frequent additions to the Intel server infrastructure, and the rate at which the server estate was growing was becoming unmanageable.

In addition, the existing air conditioning system was no longer able to cope with the power and cooling requirements that these new servers would have.

According to network manager Paul Connah, the main issue was one of server sprawl - the main datacentre in Cardiff was bursting at the seams.

“In order to support the business, new applications were being deployed on individual servers, but this was causing a problem in terms of power - the building that we were in could not supply any more electricity to us,” said Connah. “The other problem was time: commissioning a new server would take about three weeks in total, from provisioning to final deployment, which was far too long a process to deliver the requested service.”

If things were to change, Connah needed to sell any changes internally before doing anything. He approached it researching the market and evaluating alternative approaches to hosting applications.

“As a solution to our problems, virtualisation was a no-brainer. By consolidating our servers, we could reduce the amount of power and space that our IT infrastructure would take up. The speed of rolling out new virtual machines was a massive plus as well - we could have a new server up and running from a template in minutes.

“As for selling the project internally, it would have been more problematic if we had not undertaken this project. The rate at which our business is growing and the IT requirements to support this growth meant that we required a new infrastructure strategy. We looked at the costs of implementation, and these were easy to justify over a three year timescale."