Marines roll out major virtualisation project

12,000 servers in upgrade

The US Marine Corps is set to take server virtualisation software into war — literally — as part of an effort to improve the way it deploys IT on the battlefield.

"The Marine Corps has always packed stuff up and taken it to the field — that is not new," says Major Carl Brodhun, the USMC's project officer for enterprise virtualisation. "The ability to cram 35 applications into five or six physical hosts is relatively new."

Marines in the field can't count on having stable, high-capacity network connections, Brodhun says, adding that "being able to compress a high number of applications into a constrained footprint" would reduce their connectivity needs.

The USMC, which has about 12,000 x86-based servers, is adopting an enterprise-wide approach to virtualisation via a deal with VMware. The project includes a plan to reduce the USMC's current total of about 300 datacentres to 30 facilities plus 100 "mobile platforms".

A major goal of the virtualisation strategy is increasing system availability and operational continuity, Brodhun says. For instance, when IT workers want to take a server offline for maintenance now, they have to do the work at night and issue half-a-dozen or so warning notices, starting 30 days in advance.

With virtualisation, they can simply move guest systems and their applications to another server, Brodhun says.

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