Meritrust Credit Union was founded 75 years ago to offer Stearman Aircraft Company employees and their family members an option to participate in a financial cooperative. Today the organization provides personal and business banking services to thousands of members across Kansas. Headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, Meritrust has 14 branches and a staff of 220 employees, plus more than 4,000 shared branches nationwide.
Building more flexibility into its IT infrastructure
As a credit union, Meritrust offers its members benefits that include competitive interest rates on deposits, lower interest rates on loans, and a broad array of member services. To deliver superior banking services that meet consumer and business consumer needs and foster member loyalty, the organization depends on an advanced IT infrastructure. Having experienced significant growth in recent years, Meritrust demands a highly flexible IT environment that offers superior performance to deliver its applications to internal and external clients, adapt to changing market demands, and expand its services to remain competitive.
“Meeting the changing needs of our client is paramount to maintaining the level of member service that Meritrust is known for and [to] succeeding in a volatile industry,” says Cliff Shoff, director of Information Technology at Meritrust Credit Union. “We’ve listened to what our members want and are investing resources in areas such as extending our online banking and mobile banking services and Web-based offerings overall.”
In addition to providing the infrastructure to support expanded services, the IT department is focused on driving new efficiencies through an aggressive virtualization strategy. To continue on its growth path and keep delivering exceptional services to its members, Meritrust decided it was time to update an aging IT infrastructure. The previous infrastructure featured 30 standalone servers and a complex server-attached storage environment that was cumbersome to manage and costly to expand when needed to accommodate growth. Additional challenges included inconsistent performance in the storage systems supporting its business-critical Oracle Database 10g environment.
“Overall, FlexPod allows us to focus our efforts on the user experience rather than worrying about the back end, now that we have validated, integrated technologies.”
Cliff Shoff Director of Information Technology, Meritrust Credit Union
Meritrust engaged ISG Technology, an IT solutions provider and participant in the NetApp Partner Program for Resellers, to assist with identifying a best-in-class solution that would meet all of the company’s IT and business objectives. To accommodate growth, support its virtualization initiative, and enhance storage performance, Meritrust selected FlexPod from NetApp and Cisco with VMware technology. “The FlexPod data center solution made perfect sense for Meritrust,” says Randall Aronis, account manager at ISG Technology. “The components work together seamlessly by design, which simplifies management and offers a highly scalable growth path for Meritrust.”
Supporting 14 branches from a single, integrated solution Meritrust worked with ISG Technology to deploy a NetApp® FAS3240HA storage system in its primary data center. NetApp storage is a component of the company’s FlexPod data center solution, a predesigned configuration comprised of a Cisco® Unified Computing System™ (UCS™) B200 M2 Blade Server, Cisco UCS Manager 1.4(1j), Cisco Nexus® 5000 switches, and NetApp FAS storage. The integrated FlexPod solution, with the addition of VMware vSphere and vCenter™ technologies, supports the credit union’s 14 Kansas banking locations and its account, investment, insurance, and other services.
Meritrust delivers its Oracle Database 10g environment—which is core to business operations—on the FlexPod solution. The IT team leverages NetApp multiprotocol support, particularly NFS connectivity, to maintain tight integration with the Oracle environment. The NetApp Data ONTAP® 8.0 system operating in 7-Mode is at the core of the flexible unified architecture that addresses Meritrust’s multiprotocol needs in a common platform. Meritrust IT uses data management software including OnCommand™ System Manager, Operations Manager, Protection Manager, and Provisioning Manager to control, automate, and analyze the storage infrastructure.
The company optimizes performance of its storage using the NetApp Virtual Storage Tier with intelligent caching from NetApp Flash Cache, which prioritizes critical workloads for fast response. “Performance in our Oracle environment was a key driver in selecting the FlexPod solution,” says Shoff. “Whether supporting Meritrust employees or our businesses and consumer clients around Kansas, FlexPod and the NetApp Virtual Storage Tier deliver the superior 24/7 system performance we need.”
The FlexPod data center solution supports the company’s Microsoft Windows® 2003 and 2008 servers, Linux® servers, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, and Microsoft Windows MultiPoint server, which provides the interface between its debit card processor and Oracle Database 10g. FlexPod also supports the organization’s Citrix XenApp on-demand application delivery system. The FlexPod solution delivers the company’s virtualized infrastructure, running simultaneous mission-critical virtualized workloads including Microsoft SharePoint® and Microsoft SQL Server®.
Business Benefits Reaching 80% Virtualization
The FlexPod data center solution is helping Meritrust reach its ultimate goal of a 100% virtualized data center. To date, the IT team has virtualized approximately 80% of the company’s application environments, with 70 virtual servers deployed so far. The team has already eliminated 27 physical servers, with more to come. Virtualization and consolidation are reducing the data center footprint while decreasing related costs. “Prior to deploying the FlexPod solution, we eliminated 4 of 10 storage racks by the time we reached 50% virtualization,” says Shoff. “With virtualization from FlexPod, we’ve eliminated another 5 racks, which reduces storage costs by 40% and our power and cooling costs by 25%.”
ISG Technology notes the importance of technology innovation to Meritrust. “Meritrust was an early adopter of the FlexPod data center solution,” says Aronis. “As a preconfigured, integrated virtualization solution, FlexPod enabled Meritrust to see immediate returns in storage efficiency and performance, as well as management simplicity. And with the inherent flexibility in the solution, Meritrust can better provide the robust services that every consumer and prospect is looking to the credit union to deliver. The FlexPod data center solution from NetApp and Cisco with VMware technology allows Meritrust to deliver the right data to the right person at the right time in the right way. That’s the ultimate in flexibility.”
Improved performance, enhanced user experience
The NetApp Virtual Storage Tier with Flash Cache on the company’s FAS3240HA storage systems offers significant performance improvements over the previous storage infrastructure, particularly in the Oracle Database environment. The IT team runs Oracle Database batch processes nightly, which used to take 16 hours to complete. After deploying the FlexPod data center solution, the processing window decreased to 12 hours. Once the team installed Flash Cache, Oracle Database batch processing time dropped to 9 hours, eliminating the impact on weekday operations.
Other performance improvements include application delivery in the Citrix XenApp environment. “We deliver applications as a service to users across our company using Citrix XenApp,” says Shoff. “With the performance gains offered by NetApp, Citrix XenApp login activities that used to take up to 45 seconds now take less than 20 seconds. When you take into account 220 credit union employees accessing applications all day long, those saved seconds translate pretty quickly into improved productivity, not to mention an enhanced user experience.”
A simplified, transformed data center
Within the IT department, moving from infrastructure silos to the preconfigured, unified infrastructure provided by the FlexPod solution has improved the IT management experience for staff members. In the former server-attached storage environment, the IT team managed the complex storage environment from as many as five consoles. Today the team centrally manages computing, networking, storage, and infrastructure software. In addition, the open design management framework integrates with Meritrust’s existing third-party infrastructure management solutions for investment protection and management ease.
The team depends on NetApp OnCommand management software to provision, monitor, manage, and optimize the storage environment. The staff leverages NetApp Data ONTAP 8.0 to configure storage to deliver maximum efficiency and performance while saving on administration time. Featuring 64-bit aggregates, Meritrust IT can store entire databases on a single aggregate while simplifying database management. “NetApp Data ONTAP 8.0 7-Mode makes it much easier for us to resize and move volumes within aggregates, which previously required extensive IT time and resulted in wasted storage space,” says Shoff.
The team achieves additional storage efficiencies using NetApp deduplication, which has reduced storage requirements by 40%. Whether performing deduplication or other storage management activities, the team is benefiting from a noticeably more streamlined approach to storage management with NetApp storage and the FlexPod data center solution. Data center efficiencies result in more budget and staff resources for innovative projects that help Meritrust compete in a complex industry.
“The FlexPod solution is much easier to manage, and infrastructure changes take far less time.”
Cliff Shoff Director of Information Technology, Meritrust Credit Union
“Scaling up is also a breeze compared with our former storage environment, where we had to power down the system and work through a lengthy deployment process. With FlexPod, we simply add a shelf, plug in a few cables, create an aggregate, load it with volumes, and we’re good to go.” Easy provisioning enables the IT team to more readily respond to the needs of the business units it serves.
Adds Shoff, “We can deploy servers in minutes versus hours and quickly allocate storage space whenever needed to accommodate growing pools of data and deliver new applications and services. Overall, FlexPod allows us to focus our efforts on the user experience rather than worrying about the back end, now that we have validated, integrated technologies from NetApp, VMware, and Cisco providing the foundation for our credit union operations.”
“The FlexPod data center solution from NetApp and Cisco with VMware technology
allows Meritrust to deliver the right data to the right person at the right time in the right
way. That’s the ultimate in flexibility.” – Randall Aronis, Account Manager, ISG Technology, Inc.