Sevier County Bank (SCB) was founded in 1909 when a group of 52 investors came together to start a bank dedicated to helping local businesses as well as building communities in Sevier County. SCB has grown alongside the thriving tourism industry in Sevier County, expanding its presence throughout the county with 75 employees in 6 locations – including a Gatlinburg location opened during its centennial year.
SCB has developed into one of the premier banks in Sevier County, earning customer loyalty from its strong involvement in the local community. At the heart of SCB’s success is their ability to adapt in an environment of constant change while maintaining an unwavering focus on their customers. This commitment to a positive customer experience through every banking channel and at every contact point creates valuable and enduring relationships that extend well beyond individual transactions.
With an overarching brand promise of providing the products and services customers value in a way that is convenient, SCB’s IT department staff of two is tasked with keeping the critical applications (including three Jack Henry Banking applications) up and available for end users. “If our check imaging system [4|sightTM Item Imaging – Jack Henry Banking] went down, it would dramatically impact our daily operations,” said Josh Carr, Assistant Vice President, IT Manager and Systems Administrator at SCB. With mainly physical servers nearing the end of their useful life, SCB looked to accomplish the following:
- Infrastructure with local High Availability: Address the current lack of hardware abstraction in the environment where a physical server failure meant downtime for end users.
- Business Continuity Plan: Implement a data protection strategy that would provide some form of protection against a site level disaster as required by industry regulation.
- Upgrade from Windows 2003 to Windows 2012/2012R2: The team of two were tasked with the migration to newer operating systems, so simplicity in the setup and ongoing maintenance of the virtualization solution was paramount.
The SCB datacenter was primarily based on aging servers running Windows Server 2003, which was facing an impending end of life. In a physical environment such as this, the failure of the underlying hardware means downtime for the operating systems in their critical applications. The cost of replacing the physical servers in a one-to-one manner (which still provided no protection against hardware failure) when combined with licensing newer operating systems was enough to drive SCB down the path of virtualization.
SCB required a solution that could:
- Scalability – Scale with flexibility in terms of adding compute or storage resources without having to predict that growth at the time of initial purchase.
- Simple – Easily be implemented and managed by a staff of two who are responsible for the infrastructure in addition to supporting the entire company of IT users. As the IT Manager put it, “if it plugs into a wall, we’re responsible for it.”
- Available – Provide both local and remote high availability. This requirement protects against any local hardware failure as well as site-level failures, a regulatory requirement for SCB.
SCB evaluated a traditional virtualization solution using VMware running on host servers connected into a shared storage environment in addition to Scale Computing’s HC3 product, a hyperconverged solution combining servers, storage, virtualization and management into a single, easy-to-use system. According to Carr, “We presented the VMware option to management which would have been $180,000 just for the hardware at a single location…They had a mild stroke when they saw that number. We had to keep looking.”
TCO Comparison: “When we came across Scale, our total cost was around $60,000 with licensing included,” said Carr. At 1/3 the cost, Scale’s HC3 was an easy sale through the organization. “That was the major thing. The ease of use, scalability and the replication to the Disaster Recovery site was just an added bonus,” Carr continued.
With no virtualization software to license and no external storage to buy, Scale’s HC3 lowers out-of-pocket costs and radically simplifies the infrastructure needed to keep applications running. HC3 products make the deployment and management of a highly available and scalable infrastructure as easy to manage as a single server.
Ease of Management: “We love that it [HC3] is so simple to use. We love the interface, ” remarked Carr. The setup of HC3 requires no prior training or certification, which would have taken time away from the day-to-day operations for the team of two. “The scale nodes were a piece of cake….once we got the switches in place, it was up and running that day.”
As part of their transition from Windows 2003 to the newer Windows 2012 and 2012 R2 operating systems, SCB even made use of the cloning feature to quickly spin up new VMs based on templates. With HC3, new clones can be created in seconds with no dependency issues on the original VM. These thin clones are based on HyperCore’s (HC3’s operating system) efficient snapshot technology that performs an allocate-on-write style point in time snapshot.
High Availability and Business Continuity: SCB implemented an HC2000 cluster at their primary site, which alone would provide high availability for any VMs created on the system. This protects against downtime as HC3 intelligently restarts VMs in the event of a node failure without manual intervention on the part of the administrator.
In addition, SCB also purchased an HC1000 cluster that has been installed at the bank’s designated disaster recovery site, taking advantage of the innate replication functionality that is included in HC3’s HyperCore Operating System. This DR strategy is critical to maintaining compliance in the highly regulated banking industry.
Even with different hardware configurations at the two locations, SCB was able to implement a DR plan for its most critical applications. “If the Main Office experiences a disaster, we could take the replicated VMs at our DR location and clone those to spin them up with little to no downtime. We’re estimating that only about five minutes worth of recent data changes would potentially be lost,” said Carr. The process for replicating and cloning VMs is easy enough that SCB can now test their DR plan with ease.