The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has completed a six-month virtualisation project to cut overheads and improve its disaster recovery capability.
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By switching 17 core applications to a virtual environment, the ATL was able to consolidate its physical servers by a ratio of five to one. Virtualisation makes this possible by allowing multiple operating systems to run on a single server.
Bernard King, systems architect at the ATL, said the VMware ESX Server 2.5 virtualisation software viewed applications as a pool of resources, independent of hardware. Using VMware's VMotion tool, they can be swapped between servers while running to make the most efficient use of the available hardware resources.
This ability to swap applications between machines also provides business continuity in the event of a server failing.
The virtualised applications include Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 with Active Directory, SQL Server 2000, an Oracle 9i 10g database, Symantec Antivirus Centre and Autonomy's K2 search application.
However, the ATL has delayed virtualising an essential Blackberry management server, said King. "You can only have one licence with [the Blackberry server], and you have to have a connection to the internet to have it working. We also lack the internal skill to migrate it," he said.
ATL has also shelved moving a content management system because of issues with the supplier.
"Licensing is the main stumbling block when virtualising. With our document management system, the supplier is reluctant to support it. They were going to put us on a support contract that would be more costly, so we decided not to virtualise it," said King.
Related article: Virtualisation is making IT more cost effective