I remember the first time I met Rick King, Thomson Reuters Professional Division CTO. He and his team were visiting NetApp to talk about server virtualization. He had given the team a goal of deploying 1000 VMs, and we were discussing the best strategy. Should they virtualize new servers, virtualize existing servers, or some combination? We argued about the pros and cons of various approaches.
Mostly Rick just watched, but at one point he felt we were getting off-track, and he explained, "Let me make sure you understand the big picture here. You know that new data center we are scheduled to start building? I don't want to build it. Never mind a thousand VMs: no new data center is the real goal."
There are lots of different ways to save money with virtualization, but it is hard to top eliminating a data center. Rick estimates the savings at $65 million. But more important, even with this constraint, his team retooled their Westlaw product to make it much more powerful.
Let me share an email interview with Rick. And if you want to learn more about what the Thomson Reuters team accomplished and how they did it, check this out.
Q. How much data are you managing on NetApp?
A. Thomson Reuters has around 16 petabytes of information stored worldwide (think billions of file cabinets filled of documents). For example, we’ve got between 25,000 and 30,000 x86 servers in our data centers, most with 2- or 4-CPU configurations and backed by NetApp® storage.
Q. While that's an impressive amount of data, what's really interesting is understanding what you do with all that data – can you talk about the "knowledge effect"?
A. Sure – in our industry, understanding that the right information in the right hands leads to amazing things is key. We deliver critical information to more than 20 million professionals around the world who rely on what we provide to help spark ideas, ignite action and fuel lasting change. That is the knowledge effect.
Take our newest legal research product, WestlawNext, for example. Five minutes after a court decision is filed – anywhere in the U.S. –our attorney editors are already starting to review, edit, annotate and load the case onto WestlawNext – allowing the opinion to be available to our customers almost immediately. Five minutes!
Q. As CTO, what business issues are most critical to your success? Put it another way, when thinking about innovation, what keeps you up at night?
A. Aside from my barking dogs (chuckle)? Look, our world is technology driven and having immediate access to huge amounts information, research databases, breaking financial news, etc, isn’t a nice to have; it’s a need to have. Delivering what our customers rely upon is of the utmost importance – if you don’t serve your customers, what are you doing in business?
When we’re dealing with that much information, security becomes top of mind. Data security is an important concern for Thomson Reuters and has definitely kept me awake at night a time or two. But we’ve been proactive and we’re prepared.
Q. In working with NetApp, what kind of business change did we deliver?
A. Much like other companies we need to enhance and improve our products to stay competitive. The case was clear with our legal research product Westlaw. We needed a big change. Our customers are some of the most brilliant minds in the world and Westlaw is important to their success. But their time is important and we needed to provide them better information faster. And from that we developed WestlawNext.
Building a technology foundation that could support WestlawNext yet remain economically feasible was key – and many thought it was impossible. They were wrong.
NetApp technology could do what we needed it to, cost effectively. It changed the game, and we’ve been able to save roughly $65 million by eliminating the need to build another data center.
The efficiency, flexibility and scalability of the company's NetApp shared IT infrastructure was critical to transforming the vision into reality and the outcome has been nothing less than a game-changer in the industry
Q. What's next? When you look to the future, how will WestlawNext evolve and how will NetApp help drive that innovation?
A. Great question. Evolution is constant, right? We’re always looking for ways to deliver more and we do this by looking at our customers’ needs and using that information as the driving force behind our product development and enhancements.
Just based on the success of WestlawNext and the great innovations we’ve been able to create with partners like NetApp, I feel safe in saying that for us, the sky’s the limit.