Queenstown chases virtualisation and replatforming

Demand for storage pushes 3TB SAN investment by local council

Queenstown Lakes District Council has begun a major standardisation and virtualisation project, with implementation happening over the coming weeks.

Some 100 internal users and 50 remote users will be affected, as the council installs VMware and standardises its servers to Dell. It is also installing a SAN at the same time.

Network operations manager Robert Oldham says several existing council servers had reached their end-of-life and increasing staff numbers and data load gave a chance to review hardware needs.

The council was already standardising workstations and laptops to Dell, so standardising servers to Dell also made sense.

It means his department can script all installations and now build or rebuild a machine in an hour with all standard organisational software as opposed to it taking all day when trying to do it from disk.

All users have the same equipment and ordering is simpler, no longer wasting time on spec details, ram configurations, and so forth, he says. Ordering larger numbers of the same stock also allows for better pricing.

Implementing the SAN at the same time as VMware also offered better value, he says, as a number of existing servers were reaching capacity, and the need for extra disk space was not slowing down.

Consolidating data with the SAN also helped backup and disaster recovery, with the ability to move virtual servers on to other hardware platforms.

“It provides a very reliable fault-tolerant package, which can be expanded quickly and seamlessly to accommodate future growth. It has added benefits such as less physical hardware, less power consumption [for a reduced carbon footprint], space, etcetera, as well as the very clear benefits that VMware provides for disaster recovery,” Oldham explains.

“The time to provide applications in response to business needs is much reduced too, as you no longer need to source and set up new servers.”

While the project is exciting and involves a steep learning curve for the council, Oldham admits there are others like it out there, providing a lot of support and information for those following.

The project, he says, followed a standard tender process, using a weighting system, with Dell winning on grounds of price, meeting requirements, flexibility for future growth, and providing an engineer to help with the hardware set-up; plus offering extra support for the SAN installation and training.

The council has just started the project, with the equipment on site and just awaiting the Dell engineers to arrive and start the initial set up. Implementation is due in the next two weeks and once the SAN and VMware is up and running, Oldham expects it will be a few weeks more before the production boxes move to the new environment.

One potential pitfall is the sudden increase in file storage space from 100GB to nearly 3TB, which may need extra storage control, Oldham says. Time is also a consideration but the project has no fixed timetable, allowing for training, planning and preparation.

“Moving to a VMware environment is not cheap, nor quick. It is a major undertaking. We are a small shop and it’s still a big shift. I can only imagine what 100-plus server environments would be like to do this, but I think one thing is the same: if you are going to do this, don’t go half-measure.

“It’s a big jump but the rewards are there if [it’s] done properly, but if one tries to cut corners on a project of this scale then, I believe, one will pay for it in the long run,” he says.

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