Music provider bets big on virtualisation

There are 600 virtual devices in Arvato mobile's server farm

These days, lots of companies are stretching their hardware and energy dollars by consolidating print, file, DNS, and web servers on virtualisation platforms such as VMware. But not many companies boast of running their entire production infrastructure on virtual machines. An exception is Arvato Mobile, a division of Bertelsmann that builds mobile solutions for network operators, media companies, and internet portals and delivers digital entertainment content to consumers around the globe.

German-based Arvato Mobile handles mobile game management for O2 Germany, fixed-line ring-back tones for Vodafone and general mobile content delivery for a number of telcos, including Connex, Orange, and T-Mobile. The company also provides DRM-protected music to Mobilcom and delivers high-definition movies for JPC, Terra Lycos and Warner through its own peer-to-peer distribution network.

“For music labels such as EMI, we do the central content aggregation, partner distribution and transcoding of their soon-to-be-released albums,” says Lukas Lösche, the company’s director of IT operations. “All of these applications need to have 100% uptime and they are very demanding in terms of system resources, system scalability, and especially system security. Imagine an unreleased music album being stolen from our systems prior to its release — this must never happen.”

Despite these heavy demands, all of these applications run on a virtualised infrastructure. The server virtualisation platform is SWsoft’s Virtuozzo. As opposed to hypervisors such as VMware ESX and Xen, Virtuozzo virtualises the operating system, meaning that all of the guest operating systems must share the same kernel.

The downside is that Linux and Windows VMs — which SWsoft dubs VPSes (Virtual Private Servers) — cannot share the same physical hardware. The upside is very low overheads, allowing many virtual servers to share the same hardware without affecting performance.

Arvato Mobile runs about 600 virtual servers, both Linux and Windows, comprising nearly the entire infrastructure for development and testing, internal apps and critical applications, including content processing, licensing, distribution, royalty management and user support. Even the company’s Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL database clusters and Business Objects reporting servers run on Virtuozzo. Behind the servers, several hundred terabytes of disc and tape storage are virtualised, using grid storage components, into a single file system name-space.

Every VPS has a specific purpose, either as a particular application or specialised service, Lösche says. Five to ten virtual servers are loaded on each physical server, with the exception of databases, each of which is loaded on a single box. All take advantage of the real-time resource management, integrated backup, live migration, and disaster recovery that Virtuozzo provides.

“If we detect a hardware error we are able to move a database server from one hardware node to another, with practically zero downtime,” Lösche says.

Migrating applications from physical to virtual systems has become easier since SWsoft provided a P2V (physical to virtual) wizard late last year.

“Until now, we’ve always had physical servers inside different VLANs and security zones,” Lösche says. “In the future, we’ll loosen this concept so that only the VPSes reside in different VLANs, but the hardware nodes have fixed trunks inside the same VLAN. That way we won’t need spare resources for each security zone but instead can have a pool of spare resources ... and assign them dynamically.”

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Tags managementvirtualisationarvato mobile

More about BertelsmannBusiness ObjectsConnexEMILinuxLycosMicrosoftMobilcomMySQLO2OrangeSWsoftTerra LycosT-MobileT-MobileVMware AustraliaVodafone

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