Citibank has reduced its total data center footprint by more than half. In the course of reducing its 70 data centers to 20, the finance giant also virtualized more than 40,000 servers. Some system administrators are doubtlessly suffering from lack of sleep.
The project is the culmination of five years of work, which followed the realization that the company’s existing infrastructure was still too inefficient for the company’s business. Jagdish Rao, head of enterprise operations and technology at Citigroup, told Wall Street and Technology that the company took a hard look at its data centers, both the ones it built itself and those inherited through acquisitions, in the context of its future needs.
Citi has practiced what many vendors and analysts preach: cut out old and inefficient servers and replace them with hardware that can support a virtualized environment. Rao reported that Citi had virtualized 40,000 of its servers, and now runs at about 40 percent to 50 percent capacity utilization—up from about 5 to 10 percent a few years ago. (At that point, the overriding fear centered on being overwhelmed by a peak load, and it was considered acceptable to run at far less than full CPU utilization during “normal” operations.) Citi has also increased its storage utilization to 60 percent, up from 10 percent a few years ago. Rao said that it has 72 petabytes in its facility.
Citi also built eight new data centers around the world, optimized for efficiency, including a LEED-qualified site in Frankfurt, Germany.
“The whole data center infrastructure cost has come down drastically,” Rao told the publication. “In fact, the reduction in costs has been so substantial, the entire consolidation program was self funded” through operational savings.
Tulane University chief technology officer Charlie McMahon said very much the same thing during the recent Dell World conference.
“As a concrete example, we had a data center that was almost completely full, no floor space left, consuming about 90 percent of the available power,” McMahon said. “We had about four different SAN infrastructures, we were supporting for different faculty on our campus. So in the vein of doing more, we started consolidating, virtualizing servers, we collapsed from four SANs to two. If you look at our floor space today, we have about half of our floor space freed up, we are running at less than 50 percent of the available power… we have literally extended the life of our data center by a decade.”
But financial institutions such as Citi operate under some additional constraints, including financial regulations. Those regulations sometimes require added infrastructure, such as data centers for shifting around heavy workloads as needed. Rao told Wall Street and Technology that Citi uses its own infrastructure to operate a massive private cloud, as opposed to relying on public ones: “Today, the cloud solutions do not give us the flexibility or the cost savings.”