Four reasons why server modernisation is the way to go

Timothy Ngui, CIO, Ghim Li (Global) Pte Ltd, on how the bet he made to modernise has paid off

Timothy Ngui, CIO, Ghim Li (Global) Pte Ltd
Timothy Ngui, CIO, Ghim Li (Global) Pte Ltd

It was a purely, logical decision. That is how I would describe the choice we made at Ghim Li (Global) Pte Ltd to modernise our IT infrastructure. Our server operating software was more than a decade old. We were in the midst of migrating our datacentre from its old facility to a new location closer to the city centre.

It was a huge undertaking that would have required us to duplicate nearly all the IT assets we had. This would not have been the best solution, seeing that much of our infrastructure was fairly aged.

So rather than procure duplicate hardware to support ageing technology, we made the decision to adopt new technology. This would augment our old technology through virtualisation. And we would do this through the use of a modern server operating system, in this case Windows Server 2012.

Let’s just say that we haven’t looked back since.

Originally, the company was running instances of Windows Server 2003 and 2008 R2. Modernising our software has opened doors to a great many opportunities that were previously out of reach. The experience has also provided us with quite a few discoveries.

Augmented virtualisation
Among them is the big draw that comes with upgrading a server operating system – augmented virtualisation capabilities.

Through modernisation we have seen our virtual server densities increase significantly. This has allowed us to make better use of the physical space within our datacentre. On an older operating system such as Windows Server 2003, we would have had to use a third more servers to achieve the same performance. In effect, we were able to expand our operations without adding more physical servers – simply by virtualising.

A virtualised environment also made switching out our older hardware easier. Maintaining ageing hardware is a nightmare all CIOs are well acquainted with. As virtualisation requires fewer servers, we found we could afford to discontinue some of our older hardware maintenance contracts. This is a great savings as maintenance gets exponentially more expensive once the hardware is no longer sold or generally supported.

No more blue screen blues
Here’s another great discovery – automated patching.

We have about 37 servers and we used to have seven employees constantly monitoring and tweaking the servers and networks to keep them up and running. As a global company, we depend on our servers working round the clock to ensure we deliver to the highest standards.

With automated patching as well as the increased stability of modern server operating systems, we now need only two staff on hand to keep an eye on our servers. That is more than 70% of manpower freed up to add value to the company in other more efficient ways. Ever since we migrated to Windows Server 2012, there have been virtually no blue screen errors. Even when a virtual machine goes down, it can be recovered very quickly. Plus, automated patching cuts away the hours required to manually patch servers one at a time.

Futureproofing the business
What I’d like to share is that not modernising is tantamount to closing the doors on positive disruptive technologies such as mobility, the Internet of Things (IoT), big data and social. These were classified as the top four disruptors to organisations, according to a Microsoft Asia Pacific Survey of 291 IT decision-makers across Asia Pacific.

An outdated IT ecosystem severely limited Ghim Li’s ability to innovate and implement newer game-changing solutions such as IoT and mobility. As a global textile and apparel business, there is a lot of gatekeeping that occurs between a textile going into a factory and actual garments coming out. Line leaders, supervisors and factory managers all conduct checks and a lot goes on behind the scene to ensure that the final garment we ship out meets our customers’ exacting standards. There is much effort that occurs to meet targets, and pieces that fall short of our own internal quality standards need to be corrected before they can be sold.

By deploying a mobility solution along with a few devices down the production line, we can vastly improve transparency by collecting data upfront on the production floor and utilise the cloud to analyse that data. This will alert us when something does go wrong the moment a pattern emerges, essentially saving us time and money on correcting mistakes or in replacing defective raw materials. This scenario could have taken place sooner if we upgraded earlier to a modern server operating system.

Migration is simpler than you think
So what’s the takeaway? Well, if there is one thing that holds people back from modernising, it is inertia. There’s a common misconception that migration is a long, tedious and frustrating endeavour. For me and my team, that was not the case. It took us just 60 days to migrate our 37 servers. The biggest challenge the team faced was pushing our software vendors to ensure that their software was patched for use with Windows Server 2012. It took some prodding to get the support we needed, but this was far from a sticking point.

With the modernisation process as painless as it was for my team, I greatly recommend my peers to rethink their stance on refreshing their old, outdated systems. The host of benefits this brings can never be discounted.

About Ghim Li Group
Founded in Singapore in 1977, Ghim Li is an international textile and apparel company that makes fashionable and casual lifestyle knitwear for large retailers, including US-based Macy’s, Walmart, Target, Aeropostale and other Fortune 500 retailers. The firm has a total network workforce in excess of 10,000 across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, China, Sri Lanka, USA and Australia.

Timothy Ngui, is the Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice President of Corporate Services at Ghim Li Global Pte Ltd. In addition to overseeing the organisation’s IT infrastructure, he also has oversight of the Group’s Human resource Management, Legal, Administrative and Corporate Services.

This story was first published on CIO Asia on July 15, 2015.

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