Reducing the load

Server consolidation and a dose of virtualisation were key to giving one SMB the ability to better manage and scale its IT infrastructure.

Organisations are seeking ways to consolidate their infrastructure in an effort to get a grip on increasing storage demands and reach their green goals.

But with servers spread here, there and everywhere, these days, it seems almost impossible to manage machines that have reached their maximum capacity, while others remain half full.

Consolidating an organisation's infrastructure will not only help their servers run more efficiently but could also lead to a reduction in total cost of ownership, datacentre capacity and power and cooling costs.

Most organisations don't stay one size for the rest of their business life, so having an infrastructure that's scalable and can grow as the business develops is also vital.

A virtual approach

Systems integrator, Oriel Technologies, has been in the local market for more than 10 years and recently implemented a virtualised server environment for one of its SMB customers. The client runs a manufacturing organisation and has about 40 sites across Australia with up to 400 users.

There were over 20 servers within the organisation, which were taking up a lot of datacentre space. Oriel managing director, Jake Wynne, said implementing a virtualised server solution reduced the customer's server count to six.

Oriel first assessed the utilisation of all the client's servers to be virtualised to ensure the solution was designed with the right capacity for existing infrastructure as well as future growth and to avoid any disruption to the client's business during the implementation process.

"As the organisation grows they can also grow more sustainably within that virtualised environment," Wynne said. "There was quite a substantial cost saving involved for the customer."

Most of the client's equipment was located in a datacentre but there were some machines scattered around to users as well, Wynne said. On top of that, the client had ageing infrastructure, which was causing issues with outages and downtime for maintenance. Some servers regularly maxed out their resource utilisation, which was slowing down performance to users, while other machines barely peaked above 10 per cent utilisation.

The cost of maintaining individual server hardware and managing data backup was another pain point for the customer.

"They had disparate storage deposits around the place and weren't able to share it among other machines, so consolidating and centralising it has given them shared access to all servers now," Wynne said. "With storage being very isolated previously, it created a lot of manageability and utilisation problems and through consolidating it all we're eliminating that."

Some of the key objectives for the client involved reducing the amount of rack space in its co-location facility, implementing a consolidated IT infrastructure that was easier to manage and delivering higher availability to the business, Wynne said.

Having shared server resources now means the client can obtain a much higher utilisation of infrastructure. They also have the ability to scale it and provision quickly when more capability is required. As an example, a new virtual server can be done in minutes and at a fraction of the cost of buying a physical machine, Wynne claimed.

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Balancing the load

The total implementation process took Oriel less than a couple of months and cost $180,000 including the SAN solution and blades. The integrator developed a project plan in consultation with the client to ensure minimum disruption to their business.

"By that time we did a capacity estimate and worked out what they needed," Wynne said.

Oriel deployed a HP StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) 4000, which is specifically designed for midsized users and combines server and storage management. It features capacity expansion, replication and storage administration capabilities. The virtualisation piece offers the client automatic load balancing, capacity pooling, configuration and simplified management.

A 10U high HP BladeSystem c7000 enclosure was also put in place, which can hold up to 16 server or storage blades as well as optional redundant network and storage interconnect modules. VMware VI3 virtualisation technologies were also used during the implementation process.

"They've been able to reduce their footprint in the datacentre as well as power and cooling costs," Wynne said. Along with many other SMBs in the market, the client was running out of storage space and needed room for future expansion.

"We probably tripled their storage capacity," Wynne said. "The actual process of virtualising their environment and using HP blades provided them with a lot more availability."

Looking ahead

Oriel is providing the client with ongoing monitoring and consulting solutions.

"We've learnt a lot about their infrastructure," Wynne said. "Since you're consulting on one aspect, you end up being involved in a lot of other areas of their IT infrastructure."

Down the pipeline the client is considering using server-based computing, according to Wynne.

"It means they can consolidate even further, leverage the infrastructure they have in place and get more bang for their buck out of their service," he said.