T.O. loan provider outsources IT amid expansion

Expanding the in-house IT infrastructure would have been an expensive proposition for a Toronto-based loan provider that chose to outsource its data centre operations instead.

GMAC Residential Funding of Canada Ltd., an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of real estate finance company Residential Capital LLC, had outgrown its data centre as the business was expanding. The company’s senior vice-president of operations, Tracie Tesser, said GMAC was “looking at acquiring other companies; we were positioning ourselves for the future.”

Being in the financial services business, the primary data centre requirements for GMAC, said Tesser, was infrastructure security. But besides security, scalability and availability of systems were also vital to operations. “Our systems are mission-critical and support more than 800 external brokers and more than 350 internal employees across different time zones,” she said.

To meet those needs, GMAC selected Toronto-based provider of data centre infrastructure services Q9 Networks Inc. for the seven-month-long process that comprised project planning and due diligence to offsite transition of the infrastructure. Tesser credits the combination of a “strong” project plan with a reliable service provider with a transition that turned out to be “very smooth.”

Prior to outsourcing its infrastructure, GMAC’s onsite data centre comprised equipment that was five to six years old and was in dire need of a refresh if it was to sustain future business growth, said Tesser. Although the company eventually outsourced its operations to Q9, it nonetheless underwent a complete onsite hardware refresh to blade technology and currently runs its development infrastructure in-house in close proximity to internal developers. Redundancy for the onsite infrastructure is maintained by Q9 and, in the interim, an unnamed service provider.

Tesser said she is unaware whether GMAC will eventually move the development infrastructure to Q9 as well.

Q9 provides GMAC with secure and redundant physical infrastructure in one of its high-security data centres, as well as managed bandwidth and round-the-clock system monitoring, said Q9’s CEO, Osama Arafat. Q9 data centres are built to manage increased power cooling demands of high-density computing devices often deployed today, he added.

Arafat thinks that companies share similar concerns around their IT infrastructure, regardless of the industry they’re in, and in general, businesses, like GMAC, run mission-critical applications that require reliability, performance and security.

Outsourcing is a much more attractive option for companies today than it was about seven or eight years ago, said Arafat. It used to be that limited outsourcing options forced companies to build their onsite infrastructure, but “now that there are viable alternatives it just does not make economic sense for people to be doing this in-house.”

Absence of economic sense aside, organizations typically don’t own the expertise to maintain the infrastructure themselves, he said. “Building and running power systems and HVAC systems and security systems is generally not a core competency of customers.”

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