Simpl has boosted its virtualisation business following its own implementation of the technology.
The systems integrator has just installed Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 and System Centre Virtual Machine Manager 2007. IT manager Jaime Neal says as Simpl grew, it has had to change its focus and consolidate systems.
Previously, the company’s network was built on the foundation that involved looking at each system or requirement individually, rather than having a solid infrastructure framework.
“This meant we had segregation of systems, and it wasn’t easy to consolidate that into one overall view,” he says.
Simpl also had some systems running on Windows NT 4.0 and SQL Server 7, and other older server and network hardware. The company looked at the more traditional approach to enterprise infrastructure of using multiple physical servers for each individual component, but it felt virtualisation would reduce hardware costs.
“We could also leverage the key features of a virtual infrastructure with improvements to availability, performance and extensibility. With centralised management, we reduce the time required to administer and maintain the infrastructure. And we still have the ability to use more traditional methods, like creating web farms and clustering Exchange servers, to further complement the features provided by the virtual infrastructure solution,” says Neal.
Microsoft, VMWare and Citrix/Xensource were the vendors considered.
VMWare was seen as good but expensive. The Citrix/Xensource solution would have introduced a single point of failure to the system. Simpl had also successfully used Microsoft Virtual Server elsewhere.
Coupled with System Central Virtual Machine Manager, this allowed a cost-effective solution like VMWare’s, although downtime is needed for a live migration between virtual hosts.
Dubbed “Project Skynet”, the implementation started in September and went live in November.
Just after Christmas, Simpl faced a motherboard failure on one of its hosts. Under the old environment, the server would have been down a day. But with the new system, migration to running the virtual machines off that host was possible, keeping the system running during two days of repairs.
“Different server systems and roles can behave unexpectedly when placed inside a virtual environment, which needs tuning before you can confidently deploy it in a production environment,” he says.
However, Microsoft Windows server marketing manager Tovia Va’aula warns would-be virtualisers that such projects can create virtual image sprawl as real as server sprawl. Systems management is crucial to assess which workloads/applications can be virtualised.
“Often the best use of virtualisation is when a business has several servers running at a very low utilisation rate, for example 10-12%. These can be consolidated into a single server to achieve greater efficiency in management and cost,” he says.