Wealth manager streamlines with virtualisation

St. James's Place is rolling out workload streaming on top of a virtual application delivery infrastructure from Citrix.

The firm, which manages 17 billion in investments, is looking to improve development lifecycles and governance and provide key application-based efficiencies and time to market.

Matt Brown, head of service operations at St. James's Place, spoke exclusively to IT PRO about the work to streamline the management of key components of its Citrix-based application delivery and development environment.

"St. James's Place provides wealth management services to high net worth clients through a network of business partners," he said. "Partners log on to SWIFT on our intranet via a SSL VPN [secure sockets layer virtual private network] like a centralised portal for information and applications."

SWIFT is a complex, customised electronic business submission application used by its partners for entering and processing customer transactions hosted on 30 Citrix Presentations Servers for delivery to 550 to 650 concurrent external users.

"We've been a Citrix user for about five years now," said Brown. "We outsource our two data centres, but are constantly adding new capacity to handle the company's growth. Only a couple of months ago capacity peaked again and we added four more [Presentation Servers]."

He explained that IT management issues related to the ongoing development of St. James's SWIFT application recently came to a head when the IT team wanted to upgrade its application estate from running on SQL 2000 to SQL 2005 databases.

The firm was also experiencing server-build consistency problems with each SWIFT update rollout, resulting in application downtime and leaving partners without access to a critically important application for hours at a time.

Working with Citrix UK partners IQ-Sys and Point to Point, the firm has now implemented Citrix Provisioning Server for data centres to track SWIFT application changes more effectively from development through to testing and final production rollout, as well as tracking versions of the application on its increasingly virtualised server estate.

"We are involved in a constant [SWIFT] upgrade process," added Brown. "But before using the Provisioning Server we would have to use intensive amounts of IT resource to write and deliver new scripts and then test them on every box individually."

Nick Holden, St. James's Place head of IT operations division added: "With Provisioning Server, we know we can deliver a new version of the software to all 30 servers in six minutes. We're no longer spending days rebuilding."

Brown also said: "We're able to turn corporate or regulatory changes around now in a more timely fashion," adding that they are now looking to move its SWIFT infrastructure onto its existing VMware ESX-based virtual server environment as part of an ongoing server upgrade and consolidation project to introduce further IT and operational efficiencies and improvements.

The UK-based wealth management service provider has than 400,000 clients with over 17.6 billion of their assets under management and is 60 per cent owned by financial services giant, HBOS.

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.