Walz Group - a Cisco UCS customer profile

Walz suggests that companies should transition their IT technology to a service model. This approach can help organizations grow their business without experience cost over runs or additional problems.
Written by Dan Kusnetzky, Contributor

Bart Falzarano, of Walz Group , was kind enough to take the time to explain why his company selected systems from Cisco. Cisco wanted me to speak with people who are actually using Unified Computing Systems (UCS) to learn more about why they selected Cisco systems rather than systems from another supplier.

Please introduce yourself and your organization

I’m Bart Falzarano, Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) of Walz Group. Here's a little bit about Walz:

Companies across multiple industries – financial services, mortgage servicing, government agencies, legal and foreclosure firms, court systems, insurance companies, healthcare and pharmaceutical firms — are required to send “critical” documents to their customers, borrowers, constituents, partners, policy holders, clients, or other key stakeholders.

Over 2,500 companies — including 34 of the Fortune 100 — utilize Walz solutions to manage their critical documents.

In 2010 Walz recieved an award from the U.S. Postal Service for accounting for almost 10% of the the nations certified mail. That's not counting first class and other types of mail Walz sends.

What are you doing that needed this type of technology?

Walz has been in business over 25 years. We're in our 27th year of operations. About 2006, Walz started to see a spike in borrower communications and foreclosures. It was an unprecedented spike.

We were using older types of server, switch and storage technology and it was not able to handle the load. We were using different classes of servers for each function in a workload. They were using many different types of storage.

We were using HP servers and storage. It became very hard to manage this configuration as the work load increased. We were only able to achieve about a 4 to 1 ratio of virtual machines to hosts. We also experienced a high rate of failure across these systems.

Furthermore, it was very difficult to move applications to different servers and to scale out to improve overall performance and reliability.

This started to inhibit our growth. So, we started to look at other sources of technology. Our selection was also guided by a number of information security guidelines and regulations.

What products did you consider before making a selection?

We considered offerings coming from IBM, HP, Cisco, EMC and NetApp.

Why did you select this product?

During our evaluation there were key things that caught our interest. Things such as workload mobility, stateless compute, and the ability to un-associate the workload.

Cisco made it possible to re-associate a workload with different blades simply and easily. This reduced recovery from 14 hours to a number of minutes.

We did have concerns about Cisco offering new technology and asked Cisco and NetApp to help us understand how they would support us. This was back in 2009 when the technology was very new.

There was one other aspect. We learned that Cisco was making it possible to move the switching into the virtual environment. This made it possible for us to create a very secure environment.

What tangible benefits have you gotten through the use of this product?

We instantly realized a port density reduction of about 8 to 1. This reduced the number of cables dramatically. We also began to realize an increased virtual to physical system ratio from the former 4 to 1 to 15 to 1. This allowed us to reduce the rack density greater than 50%

System management was quite a bit simpler. In the past an IT manager could manage 15 systems. Now they can manage 50 systems.

The mean time before failure decreased from one or two failures every 30 days to less than one failure per year.

Workload mobility was quite impressive.  It took less than 400 milliseconds to move a virtual server from one region to another. Users of virtual desktops wouldn't experience a change when their work was moved.

This was very impressive to us.

What advice would you offer others?

Transition their IT technology to a service model. This approach can help the organization grow its business without experiencing cost over runs. We have been able to take on additional workloads without IT becoming an inhibitor. We continued to meet all of their governance and security requirements as the business grows and the requirements changing.

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