The perception that virtualisation is a piece of technology for only large companies, is not quite right anymore.
Many vendors and service providers have recognised that small to medium size businesses have a need for this types of technology too.
Analyst firm, Gartner predicts by 2012, about 20 per cent of businesses will not own any IT assets. In many cases, small companies usually don’t have the expertise or knowledge when it comes to deploying the best technology to suit their needs and this is where a services provider can act as their IT support.
Services provider Regal IT, recently helped an accounting firm turn about 90 per cent of its servers into a virtualised environment. The firm has one office and a portion of its 80 employees, work from home on occasions.
Being an accounting firm, Regal IT managing director, Mark Gluckman, said the customer understood the cost value in adopting virtualisation technology. The customer's infrastructure had reached the end of its lifecycle and was looking to refresh its server environment.
“A refresh of their environment was due and it was time for them to move onto bigger and better systems,” Gluckman explained. “It wasn’t a bad environment but it didn’t have any shared storage distributed, in other words, they had a server for every workload.”
Regal responded to the customer’s tender process against other types of virtualisation technologies. The customer wanted a new, stable infrastructure that could take through to the next four to five years.
“Ours was the most cost effective and offered the best support options,” Gluckman said.
Reducing the load
The accounting firm had about seven physical servers, and that has now been brought down to two. The company practically had a server for each workload including their main accounting systems, email, file, print, BlackBerry and security, according to Gluckman.
"What they didn't have before they switched to virtualisation was high availability, disaster recovery and all that type of functionality was something they never had before, and they automatically get that with virtualisation," Gluckman said.
The service provider recommended a design including Hitachi SAN system, Windows Server 2008 R2, which features virtualisation tools, Web resources, management enhancements, Windows 7 integration, updated Web server role, Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.5 and greater support for .NET on Server Core.
The virtual environment in the accounting firm is based on Microsoft Hyper-V and uses Systems Centre virtual machine manager technologies. Regal also updated all of their Microsoft products like Exchange and SQL to the latest version.
“It’s a single technology and depth across the total bandwidth of everything that’s in the environment,” he said. “The virtualisation technology was a no-brainer because it was literally out of the box. They’re getting all the extra functionality from the management tools as well.”
Technically, Gluckman claimed there weren’t that many barriers when deploying the virtualisation technology. He added, the customer wanted to ensure their systems had a really good uptime and they could access what they needed.
“Everything worked seamlessly. It really wasn’t a complicated deployment at all, all the technologies worked seamlessly and there weren’t any problems,” he said. “We did a have a concern with them being new to the technology, but it was a good deployment.”
As for the company taking virtualisation a step further, Gluckman said there was no need for them to begin deploying virtual desktops, but there could be an opportunity to provide remote access.
“A lot of their directors work from home and we can deploy remote access technologies, it’s not a big deal,” he said. “If we do move forward with that, we might use Citrix. The beauty of that is Citrix and Microsoft work closely together, making it much easier when trying to work out what technologies work best together.”
What small business needs
Gluckman explained that many small businesses like this one, don’t have the internal expertise to deploy this type of technology.
“They us as their trusted advisor,” he added. “A lot of enterprise customers speak directly to vendors and attend tradeshows, but SMBs don’t have the time for a lot of that and they don’t have a dedicated IT department. We act as their IT department.”
Top points from the virtualisation rollout:
- The accounting firm had about 80 staff, some worked remotely on occassion
- The system was due for a refresh and customer wanted a technology in place that could see them through the next five years
- The deployment featured Hitachi SAN system, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Systems Centre virtual machine manager technologies
- Deploying virtualisation technology enabled them to reduce the amount of physical servers from seven to two.
- The new technology gave the company access to capabilities they didn't have previously such as high availability and disaster recovery