Revlon’s network makeover creates ‘Mini Me’ data centres

In February 2008, David Giambruno, vice-president of global services delivery for Revlon, initiated a global restructuring project that took advantage of the company’s regular-capacity refresh cycle to engineer a technology leap.

His goal was to replace Revlon’s disparate, global storage architecture with an integrated one that consolidated and virtualized server resources for faster service response, improved disaster recovery capability, and increased operational efficiency.

Server virtualization was also the strategy used by Netkeepers Inc. an Ontario-based IT hosting company, to cut data centre expansion cost and survive the economic recession.

Rather than have parallel data centres and SANs in various countries, Giambruno’s plan put high-capacity storage at five sites across the world, consolidating data and applications at its U.S. data centre. Using the same shipping system as for its cosmetics manufacturing, Revlon sent out five pre-loaded “Mini Me” data centre containers to its four other IT centers, creating a global disaster recovery network of identical systems that assured resources would work when moved.

These Mini Me data centres have the SAN, storage, and severs for both local operations and can support external fail-over from other locations if needed. In Revlon’s corporate data centre, high-availability storage provides storage resources to key applications and to an EMC/VMware infrastructure consisting of 400 virtual machines running on 32 ESX hosts. Mirroring software enables high-speed replication to the disaster-recovery site.

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The virtualized, networked approach reduced overall data centre power consumption by 72 per cent, disaster recovery costs by half, and backup time for 6.5TB of data each week by 90 per cent, as well as slashed the need for administrators.

The networked environment means that apps can be moved from one data centre to another as needed. It also helps keep countries up and running if their data centre loses power or connectivity: Staff can instead work at home and access Revlon apps and data over VPNs from the fail-over data centre.

In putting this approach together, Giambruno faced two challenges, both staff-related. One challenge was merging the IT silos — such as server teams, network teams, and database teams — as they now all ran on a common, virtualized, interconnected technology infrastructure. This required that IT staff have deep understanding of the entire technology infrastructure, not just their piece of it — especially around networking. To achieve this, Giambruno trained existing staff and recruited new staff to fill in gaps.

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The other challenge was figuring out what to do with all the admins who were no longer needed. A big proponent of continuous improvement, Giambruno redeployed staff to the company’s support desk, where their hands-on expertise with the systems meant they could more effectively and quickly solve employees’ needs.

As a result, Revlon’s support desk resolves 85 per cent of issues on the first call and gets high marks from employees. Giambruno also kept the support and operational staff together, so natural cross-training occurs.

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