Bechtel: Virtualization for data center consolidation and SaaS

Dave Link

Bechtel CIO, Geir Ramleth, gave a great keynote presentation at the Network World IT Roadmap show in DC.

Three years ago, Ramleth asked himself:

If you could build your IT systems and operations from scratch today, would you recreate what you have?

This question—and subsequent industry benchmarking exercise — prompted Bechtel to transform its IT department along the lines of Internet front-runners YouTube, Google, and  These companies exploited the latest in network design, server and storage virtualization to reach new levels of efficiency in their IT operations. Ramleth wanted to leverage these approaches as Bechtel turned itself into a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider for its internal and external users.

After researching the Internet’s strongest brands, Bechtel scrapped all of its existing datacenters and built three new facilities that feature the latest in server and storage virtualization.

Bechtel's global network

Bechtel’s global network


Dubbed the Project Services Network (PSN), Bechtel’s new strategy applies the SaaS computing model internally to provide IT services to 30,000 users, including 20,000 employees.

We operate “as a service provider to a set of customers that are our own [construction] projects,” Ramleth said.


Infrastructure Transformation Summary:

Distributed foundation 1998 – Highly customized, distributed

Consolidated Foundation 2003 – This project was finished up in 2005

Virtualized Foundation 2008  – Bechtel used as an example for application consolidation –  “do it as one”  – one data center, one application, one network. All of its application infrastructure operates as one datacenter – 3 locations take care of the global latency.


Application Transformation 

“Google is classical and simple…. Constant innovation for competitive advantage, zero footprint, simple yet powerful branding; simplicity is the key so users don’t need help using the stuff.”


Bechtel’s internally developed document management system GUI looks just like Google’s search page. They finished the project in one week.  In general 80% of the users don’t need to be inside the application where they need intense training.   

Currently, Bechtel is slashing its portfolio of software applications to simplify operations as well as the end user experience.



In 1998, Bechtel had 35,000 sq ft of datacenter in a distributed footprint.  


Incredibly today, less than 1000 sq ft of datacenter is required for this virtual foundation.  In today’s virtual environment, servers are use an average of 70% CPU.


35X = shrinkage of the datacenter and coincidentally the same increase in average of distributed CPU use.


This all started because Bechtel wanted to save $$$.   Current Savings on IT total saved was 25-30%.  “On top of all that it provides a massive simplification for the business!”


In the old model: Development and architecture always built for internal use (behind the firewall)

In the new model: let it be available in the cloud– any to any; secure when needed.   ATASWN Built for Internet use.  Bechtel moved to a policy-based network security model vs. topology based.



This is a story of a passionate IT professional who holds to the core principal of continuous improvement.  He benchmarked the radical changes in IT that provided new start-ups “a clean slate” and aggressively moved to both identify and deploy similar tactics. The complex and hardest part of these transformations is change management.

Ramleth reiterated “ it’s 20% technology problem and 80% change management – people problem.”

As a result of these efforts, Bechtel has enjoyed the benefits of this transformation and provides a significant model for others to follow!   When Bechtel finished development of PSN, this culminated in a large transition for Bechtel’s collective intelligence:  a highly customized, yet simple portal, making it effortless for the users to quickly become intuitive producers.

As I think about the lessons learned, ScienceLogic as well as our customers have much to gain from this blueprint for continuous improvements within Information Technology!

For a complete set of the Bechtel presentation slides, click here.

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