Feature: New datacentres demand new servers

Consolidation benefits flow straight to the bottom line for NZ users

The University of Auckland has overhauled its enterprise architecture, focusing on its datacentre, server and storage management and disaster recovery and reducing hundreds of physical servers down to 26.

It has also slashed costs and improved service through the project.

Partnering with IBM, the university relocated its datacentre and created a virtual server farm, one of the country’s largest. A variety of disparate systems had been installed over the years, but the university believed the system was too complex and was at risk of failure.

The university decided to build a new datacentre and virtualise, using VMware ESX to virtualise 117 existing servers and 83 new ones onto 15 large servers in a virtualised storage area network.

Some 400 virtual servers now run on 26 IBM System x3850s and IBM System x3755 servers and energy costs have reportedly halved, along with the physical space associated with storage.

Project manager Dave Summers says servers can now be added within minutes, instead of several hours, and applications moved between physical servers easily.

“This led to better utilisation of resources, simplified management, time savings, reduced operating costs, less downtime and better service ability for students and staff,” he says.

Server utilisation is now 60%, with the ability to add more servers when needed. Consequently, the server farm now has over 400 virtual servers.

Under the previous architecture, the University estimated that its servers would consume 320kwh of energy, but in the new architecture, energy use is 120kwh. Overall, the total cost of ownership of its systems has now halved.

Hosting company Revera recently bought 100 HP C class blades and M-series Dells as part of what IT manager Jason Porter says is a push to deliver “a virtualised infrastructure in a high-density eco-friendly environment”.

HP and Dell offered good density, power and cooling as well as improved cabling through standardisation, he says. The use of two server vendors also gave Revera’s customers a choice.

Porter says Revera could have used standard pizza box servers but the company’s new Type R3 high density datacentres required the best use of power and cooling in a small area. Revera planned for the use of such dense installations by creating what it calls “eco pod technology”.

Porter says it is essential computer rooms can cope with the power and cooling issues for such systems. Staff also need to be skilled to handle blades and virtualisation, so users will need to rely on the experience of the vendor.

“The capital outlay makes sense to do it all at once, but you need to plan for the capital investment,” he says.

Porter says businesses should not underestimate the time and cost savings created by standardisation on a capable enterprise server platform. Centralised monitoring and cable reduction is also a major benefit that leads to much lower provisioning lead times, he adds.

Maxnet recently bought a variety of Dell servers for its own virtualisation project. The country’s largest internet datacentre has several thousand servers.

IT manager Derek Gaeth says Maxnet sought to virtualise its infrastructure, taking five racks of servers and consolidated them into half a rack.

“Our power bill is huge. We have a one megawatt power supply. It’s about saving space and saving power,” he explains.

He says the company looked at blades but found its SAN could not offer redundancy using blades. But blade servers will be used in later projects.

“If you have high processing needs, blades are best as you can fit the density in there,” he says. “We talk about being green. This is the way to go. It’s a far better value proposition.”

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Comedy Trust, which operates the NZ International Comedy Festival in Auckland and Wellington, benefited from the use of Apple Servers.

Associate director Kylie Aitchison says grants enabled the non-profit to buy four iMacs and a Mac Pro-server from Maclean Computing.

The trust looked at Macintosh and PC options, but since two of the four festival staff were already using Mac laptops, it looked at setting up its festival office with Macs.

Working with Maclean Computing, the festival realised Macs offered plug-and-play ability through its in-built applications, an important issue as it had no in-house IT person. The festival also has many local and international comedians that use the office space to work out of.

“We deal with a high volume of artwork, video and audio files, so the processing power of the iMacs was another advantage,” Aitchison says.

Aitchison says the upgrade had to happen fast, as it happened in the middle of programming the festival. But Maclean ensured the system was set up prior to bringing the computers on site. Then, it was just a matter of transferring the files to the server.

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Tags Maxnetserversuniversity of aucklandIBMdatacentresSpecial IDRevera

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