still-to-be-determined costs by reducing data center space
by 40 percent, consolidating 220 servers into a dozen.
Alcatel-Lucent is anticipating similar success. Through
virtualization and consolidation and the phasing out of legacy
applications, the company will cut its server count from
10,000 to 7,000. There have been challenges: Some employees
in various departments aren’t accustomed to having their designated servers outside their building—much less possibly in
another country—and culturally, there’s always the resistance
to change. Despite these issues, the effort is proving worthwhile. For starters, the company expects server-utilization efficiency to increase to between 60 percent and 70 percent, up
from between 10 percent and 30 percent.
“We want to push virtualization as wide and deep as we
can,” says Cliff Tozier, vice president of infrastructure for
Alcatel-Lucent, based in Paris. “We can no longer afford for
every application to have its own environment. Virtualization
has allowed us to dynamically increase capacity in days or
hours. In the past, it would have been weeks or months.
“We also are seeking to be more flexible in meeting business demands because of the tremendous growth we’re seeing
in video and messaging across the enterprise, and virtualization has allowed us to do this. We can [provide] services
on-demand so developers can get quicker access to computing
power for projects.”
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
Despite the many benefits of virtualization and consolidation, there are inherent challenges, including additional costs
for training and consulting. For certain, there is a learning
curve in adopting these tools.
“You need trained staff that understands the technologies and can manage the transition from today’s data center
to the virtualized one,” says Justin Perreault, general partner
with Commonwealth Capital Ventures, a Waltham, Mass.,
consulting firm. “These skills are still in scarce supply. It’s
the old problem of trying to replace the engine while you’re
driving down the road at 60 miles an hour.”
Richmond, Va.-based Genworth Financial, a Fortune 500
global financial planning company, recently decided to make
the transition now. It was running out of data center space
because of server sprawl, and the cost of power and cooling in
that space was too costly.
Working with virtualization/consolidation tools from
companies such as VMware, HP and Dell, Genworth is now
seeing a dramatic increase in productivity: It has reduced its
average under writing cycle time—from when a client application is received to when a policy is issued—from 45 days to
10 days. An added benefit is that the switch hasn’t negatively
affected network operations or security, and, in some ways, it
has benefited those areas.
“With respect to security, the patching, hardening, password and anti-virus procedures are the same for virtual servers
as they are for physical servers,” says Michael McGarry,
Genworth CTO. “Virtualization allows us to build out the
environment quicker and enables us to put more servers in
smaller spaces than we ever thought possible. It eliminates
tape backups for disaster recovery, and individual backups are
provided in a much smaller footprint.”
AT COVENANT HOUSE TORONTO, ABOUT 4,000 YOUNG
people a year can stay for weeks or months at a time.
Many of them have left their homes—or moved to
Canada from other countries—without a means of support. Here, they can get meals, medical attention, counseling and even vocational training.
Like any organization with 200 employees, Covenant
House has concerns about keeping its data protected
and accessible 24/7. For example, fundraising accounts
for 80 percent of its budget, and data related to that
effort is maintained on the network. That’s why it
recently completed a major storage virtualization project
using DataCore Software’s SANmelody as implemented
by DataCore partner Interware Systems.
As a result, Covenant House has more than doubled
its available storage capacity, while reducing the number
of physical servers from 10 to three using VMware. At
the same time, the organization has increased its ability
to safeguard its data from disruptions and disasters, and
it has reduced the amount of power needed to keep
enterprise operations running.
“This assures that we reach our goal of 99.99 percent
availability for our users 24/7,” says Wendy Craig, who
oversees information systems. “It allows us to manage
our infrastructure much more easily, too. Before, it could
be difficult to oversee a bunch of physical servers with
storage spread all around, especially when the servers
break down. Now, because our server and storage management is centralized in one location, we can deal with
all problems from the IT manager’s desk, without needing
to take down the entire system.”
After deciding on a virtualization solution, Covenant
House centralized data at a downtown Toronto location, replicated a copy of that data and stored it at a
co-location facility a few kilometers away. Data related
to everything from the latest fundraising figures to day-to-day e-mail exchanges is replicated every night at the
co-location facility. Moreover, DataCore optimized the
organization’s existing storage assets by addressing
the problem of having some application servers over-allocated with storage, while others were underserved.
Next up: a desktop virtualization project using virtualized server technology that will allow traditional desktops to be replaced with thin-client hardware, saving a
projected 97 percent in energy bills.
“It’s all part of our green computing perspective,”
Craig says. “We can be just as productive and save a lot
of money with this technology.” —D.M.
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