Service Corporation International - Akorri Customer Profile

Kevin Brown of Service Corporation International speaks about Akorri BalancePoint

In the post "Examining datacenter operations with Akorri BalancePoint", I had a chance to examine Akorri's BalancePoint and asked the company to provide a customer reference. Shortly thereafter, I had a chance to communicate with Kevin Brown,  Infrastructure Manager with Service Corporation International. Here are his comments.

Please introduce your organization and your role there.

Kevin Brown,  Infrastructure Manager with Service Corporation International (NYSE: SCI).  SCI is headquartered in Houston, Texas and is North America's leading provider of funeral, cremation and cemetery products and services. The company owns and operates more than 1,300 funeral homes and 350 cemeteries (of which over 200 are combination locations) in 43 states, eight Canadian provinces, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

What were you doing that needed this technology?

I inherited VMware through consolidation and was initially skeptical. But once I realized the benefits we started virtualizing everything. We realized some significant hardware and maintenance savings to the tune of $1.5 million and used Akorri BalancePoint to prove and justify the cost savings and technology needs along the road to virtualization.

As we continue to virtualize applications and consolidate more servers, we look to BalancePoint to monitor and analyze both production and test versions of virtual machines, storage and other technology such as databases to learn how they impact each other and how we can optimize their capacity and utilization.

BalancePoint has been invaluable in providing visibility into the back end of VMware and its impact on storage performance, helping us determine how to allocate drive usage to avoid overload. And BalancePoint’s easy to read topology maps and charts have made managing our data center much less difficult and time consuming, helping us to significantly reduce data center administration resources.

What products did you consider?

No single product was compared which was a driver in selecting BalancePoint.  We had several tools already, Microsoft MOM, VEEAM Report and other tools, Hardware Vendor tools and MS SQL tools.

IT was taking a full arsenal of tools and a team of people to try and get to a common conclusion on what was happening within the system.  BalancePoint was picked because it was a common tool for diverse teams to use and get a collective answer.

The fingers could then point to the problem instead of each other.

Why did you select this product?

BalancePoint was the only product that provided visibility into virtualized and non-virtualized systems like our databases.

What tangible benefits has your organization gotten through the use of this product?

  • Faster Troubleshooting/Problem Resolution - Allowed SCI to view what was going on behind the scenes, helping to determine how to allocate and balance drive systems and learn where there were overloads
  • Gave SCI visibility into the back end of VMware and its impact on storage performance, providing insight on how storage solutions would respond to a load used for the first time
  • Provided insight into non-virtualized systems such as databases to learn that what they thought was a slow database drive was actually a problem of running four processors on one drive, and a slow backup was caused by doing indexing at the same time.
  • Improved Justification of New Technology Requirements/Purchases
  • Enabled SCI to deploy new systems quickly – moving from providing a new operating system for use in 3 weeks to 3 days - without impacting the availability or performance of the existing systems.
  • Eliminated unnecessary technology purchases due to guessing at how to solve problems or needing to purchase new technology on short notice.
  • Reduced Data Center Administration Needs
  • Enabled SCI to use less administrative staff at a lower cost since junior desktop IT management personnel was now able to perform advanced server management tasks without more skill or knowledge.
  • Reduced administration costs by $400 thousand, and cut resources in half by moving from a 50-to-1 to a 300-to-1 servers-to-administrators ratio

What advice could you offer other facing similar issues?

Consider BalancePoint to give you a holistic, cross-domain view of both virtual and physical server and storage infrastructure to help you maximize the move to a virtualized environment.