Xen virtual server setup streamlines business at IAFL

Indo Asian Fusegear saves on electricity and eliminates physical space constraints by going in for the Xen virtual servers.

Indo Asian Fusegear Ltd (IAFL), a leading manufacturer of electrical switchgear and energy-efficient lighting equipment, was looking for ways to reduce its electricity consumption for cooling. Space constraint was another issue before the company. The solution was server virtualization, and that's how Xen virtual servers found a place in the company.

The process started in April 2010, when IAFL began its evaluation of various server virtualization solutions available in the market. "We evaluated Xen virtualization software, as well as VMware virtualization software. The XenServer virtualization solution offered us good support and connectivity, and included features offered by VMware. However, we went ahead with Xen virtual servers because it was open source," explains Balwant Singh, the head of IT services at IAFL.

Another reason why the company chose Xen virtual servers was because it had previously used XenServer for development purposes. One thing that Singh was clear about was to avoid using Microsoft products. "We didn't want to go in for Microsoft virtualization software, so we didn't evaluate their software. This is because we wanted to stay away from issues such as downtime and instability, after paying huge amounts as license fees."

Meanwhile, space had also become an issue. IAFL had moved its data center from its old office to a new office (both in Noida), and the increase in number of servers created space constraints. This also motivated the company to go ahead with its plans, though moving to the Xen virtual server was a completely IT-driven initiative.  

We went ahead with XenServer virtualization solution because it offered us good support,connectivity and it was open source.
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The Xen virtual server project started in March 2010, at which point of time the company had a total of 40 servers. The project was divided into two phases. "We have completed the first phase, and migrated 20 servers to virtualized platforms. Now these are accommodated in six quad core dual-processor servers, each with 16 GB of RAM. It took three months for the implementation. The next phase of our Xen virtual server implementation is expected to be completed in two month's time. We will look at migration of  the remaining 20 servers as part of that phase," says Singh.

During the migration, IAFL had issues with certain old applications which weren't compatible with the latest systems. Hence it faced issues while running these applications in a virtualized mode.

With the Xen virtual server implementation, each server will run an average of four to five machines. Implementation of the Xen virtual machine was managed in-house. The company used OpenXenCenter, the management tool provided by XenSource.
 
IAFL performed this migration one server at a time, with the maximum downtime being half an hour at night. Once on the Xen virtual server, all the applications were put in testing mode—once everything was fine, the apps were made live. "During testing, all the checks are done and user responses gathered to find glitches. The testing time depends on the application, and varies between 15 days to one month," informs Singh.

With the successful implementation of Xen virtual servers, the company will have fewer servers to manage, more uptime and more stability. "We will now use only one-third of the total physical space in the data center, and save almost 50% on our electricity bills," discloses Singh.

IAFL's entire architecture has been Linux-based for the past six years. IAFL uses Ubuntu for the desktop, and the Xen virtual server on Santos. The company uses an e-mail server, proxy server, ERP server, backup server, network management tool, firewall and SMS server; besides video surveillance equipment.

Apart from using Xen virtual servers, IAFL also uses centralized storage, along with MySQL and Oracle databases. For backup, it uses Linux's incremental backup capabilities. IAFL has allocated a maximum of Rs 1.5 crore toward IT spends in FY 2010-11, and is looking forward to other deployments after phase two of the virtualization project.

Read more on Server virtualisation platforms and management

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