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Biztech Jun 22, 2012

Epitome Travels Gets Future-Ready With Blade Servers

By Shipra Malhotra

For Epitome Travels, a domestic travel company catering to corporate as well as individual customers, being a new kid on the block in the highly competitive and fragmented travel industry wasn’t easy. But, the opportunity to leapfrog legacy and directly move to the latest and upcoming technologies is helping the company rise up to the competition in a cost effective manner. Investing in a virtualisation ready infrastructure, has enabled Epitome Travels ensure cost savings as well as future readiness.

For the back-end infrastructure the company has put its bet entirely on blade servers from IBM that run all its mission critical applications and provide the foundation for virtualisation on VMware.

Intense Competition Leaves No Room For Let Down

Epitome Travels initiated its operations over a year and half back led by a clear business strategy to bridge the gap between the conventional offline and online travel services – sell online and effectively back-up with an offline team that efficiently services. The company has till date established six online portals (SBUs) that cater to the various segments of the travel market with target to reach 10 by end of the year.

It required a robust back-end infrastructure to support such an operation from the start as well support the future expansion. The fact that the travel industry is already a well-established and highly competitive market made it all the more imperative. Further, the customers are based across different time zones, and therefore accessing their services at different points of time, which meant availability was critical at any given point of time.

All this meant that the online portals were required to be up 24x7 with no room for downtime, and the infrastructure had to be aligned to meet these requirements. Intense competition meant that the customers have ample alternate options to rely on if their infrastructure fails to deliver. “Time is of essence in this business. We need to be very prompt. If the customer is not getting the response within a certain timeframe he/she will move on to the next option,” explains Vishwajeet Singh, Chief Information Officer, Epitome Travels.

Another challenge confronting Singh was addressing the fluctuating traffic loads as the traffic loads vary at different points of time through the day, including high peaks.

Availability And Adaptability Hold The Key

Faced by these challenges, the back-end infrastructure had to meet the key criteria of uptime as well as the ability to handle fluctuating loads. There are times when the load is at its peak and the infrastructure had to be reliable enough to handle any sudden spurt in traffic, and at the same time be able to scale down when the loads were lower. “It was important to have control over the resources available, and have the option of managing resources based on the load,” explains Singh. Overall, redundancy, availability and reliability formed the key guiding principles for zeroing in on the right back-end infrastructure.

Being a greenfield set-up, Singh realised the advantage it offered of not being tied to any legacy systems, and leverage that to leapfrog to the latest technology. The company had on its mind consolidation at the very onset and keeping cost under control. With its sight set on virtualisation, Epitome Travels had to ensure infrastructure readiness for the same. “We had decided on virtualising our servers from day one, and had this in mind when deciding on the kind of servers to opt for at the back-end,” he adds. The requirements pointed Singh in the direction of going all blade, as he believes virtualisation becomes easier to manage through a single box kind of environment that blades offer.

Why Blade?

The blade servers also served the purpose from the point of view of manageability, control, uptime, flexibility, adding resources, etc. Besides, the company’s decision to go completely on blades was driven by the fact that it didn’t want to go for multiple boxes and create a huge sprawl, thereby adding to the real estate costs.

However, the decision to adopt blade servers was preceded by a comprehensive assessment by the team covering aspects like number of applications, kind of loads to be catered to, buffer required, redundancy, availability, DR, etc. “When we undertook sizing up of the infrastructure, especially physical servers, we compared each and every cost,” adds Singh.

The team zeroed in on IBM BladeCenters to power its back-end infrastructure based on the factors of support options offered, response time and the control it offered. Selection of IBM as the vendor of choice was also driven by the vendor’s track record and its stability. Singh having worked successfully on the IBM platform over the last 15 years also provided the necessary comfort factor.

Going Blade All The Way

Epitome Travels has deployed four IBM BladeCenters, which currently run all of Epitome Travels’ mission critical applications. Even the company’s core platform where it integrates all its suppliers, also runs on these servers. It has further virtualised over 32 servers on the BladeCenters.

Singh cites that the implementation has not only increased the overall efficiency but has proven economical from an investment point of view. Had the company decided to go for non-blade servers, the number of servers would have been much larger, increasing the cost of real estate, energy, cooling as well as escalated the support and management costs. Considering all these cost savings, Singh believes that the ROI is already in-line.

Besides maintaining a good uptime, from the scalability stand point there is enough capacity available to scale it up to meet future requirements. The company has also benefited in terms of speed, enabling data to travel up to 10x speeds, resulting in enhanced online transactions. Ease of maintenance and lower cost of managing the servers are some of the other benefits that the company has accrued from its decision to deploy blade servers.

With blade servers providing a stable and robust platform to effectively leverage virtualisation that makes provisioning a breeze, Epitome Travels is geared to take competition head on with worry-free future expansion.

by Shipra Malhotra

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