Over the past couple of years, virtualisation has become increasingly mainstream among IT shops. And now some experts in the trenches have moved beyond traditional hardware consolidation and cost savings to achieve more ambitious goals.
These companies have embarked on efforts to revamp existing IT infrastructure, improve business processes, introduce virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and even move down the road toward private cloud and hybrid cloud computing. For these companies, the question is no longer whether to virtualise but how they can use technologies for strategic advantage in business priorities.
"There are no longer any long discussions about whether virtualisation should be done," noted virtualisation expert Gabrie van Zanten. "It's more like, 'How much can we do?' More and more companies are learning about the strategic advantage they get with virtualisation instead of just making sure that more servers run on that hardware."
SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.UK launched its Best of VMworld Europe 2010 User Awards program to recognise these efforts. A judging panel reviewed more than 80 entries of EU-based companies' uses of virtualisation in these categories:
- Best virtualisation and server consolidation project
- Best virtualisation for disaster recovery project
- Best remote-office/home-office virtualisation project
- Best private cloud computing project
- Best desktop virtualisation project
- Best of show
And the winners are...
Best virtualisation and server consolidation project
Bankadati-Credito Valtellinese Group moved well beyond traditional virtualisation and consolidation of physical servers. Its consolidation project also improved application performance, simplified management and introduced business process efficiencies.
There are no longer any long discussions about whether virtualisation should be done.
Gabrie van Zanten,
a virtualisation expert
Bankadati's Compellent Storage Center SAN uses automated tiered storage, enabling the company to dynamically move infrequently accessed data to lower-cost and less power-hungry serial-attached SATA disks. With the company's previous technology, these tasks had to be performed manually -- and with ample trial and error.
More than 6,000 Microsoft Exchange mailboxes also perform better following the consolidation and a move of 70% of email to SATA disk. And with less demand for high-performance storage, there is more room for applications and data that really needs the performance.
Best virtualisation for disaster recovery project
The University Hospital of Leipzig implemented a cost-effective disaster recovery (DR) strategy. Dubbed "Red.IT" (or "Redundant IT Infrastructure"), the project enables the hospital to perform failover and failback tests twice a year. With VMware Site Recovery Manager, the hospital has also improved the availability of its most critical application, SAP, as well as that of medium-priority applications (95% of which are virtualised).
After introducing a high degree of automation, the hospital can also maintain two data centre locations with the same number of staff that previously manned one. And the project has also provided a proof of concept for a private cloud architecture.
On his award, the project's manager, Daniel Pfuhl, said that two years of hard work went into the project, so it's incredible to win. "It was great to hear from the doctors and nurses that they didn't even know when we did the failover, as they didn't experience any disruptions."
Best remote-office/home-office virtualisation project
Simon Gallagher needed a place to test his knowledge as he prepped for his VMware certification exams. So he created a home lab that he dubbed vTARDIS (or Transportable Awfully Revolutionary Data Centre of Invisible Servers).
Gallagher's lab features low storage latency as well as solid performance and pushed beyond the "official" use of VMware technology with the use of solid-state drives to reduce disk I/O and the imaginative use of "nested VMware ESX" instances, which gives the appearance of owning many ESX hosts when the entire infrastructure sits on just one physical box. His configuration runs eight virtual ESX hosts and nearly 60 virtual machines (VMs) on just one physical server rather than on multiple PCs and storage appliances.
The vTARDIS project also demonstrates forward thinking in using third-party tools such as Openfiler for the storage layer and Vyatta Core for the firewall. As companies move toward more sophisticated implementations, using third parties to enhance their virtual infrastructure has become the name of the game.
"I sometimes go to complete extremes at home," Gallagher noted, "building out too many boxes than I should, so it's nice to get some recognition for it."
Gallagher said he probably used up more electricity in his house than he should for a lifetime, but the award makes some of that worth it.
Best private cloud computing project
Dublin Bay Power, an Ireland-based utility, needed more server capacity for its 24/7 systems. But expanding through its consultancy, DNM Technology, wasn't an option. DNM had run out of data center space and encountered a power problem.
It was great to hear from the doctors and nurses that they didn't even know when we did the failover.
University Hospital of Leipzig
Instead, the utility began to consider a cloud infrastructure. DNM encouraged the utility to move to a hybrid cloud architecture to improve its service-level agreement (SLA) requirements and service delivery. Using VMware vCloud Director, DNM worked with Dublin Bay Power to enable rapid application deployment, infrastructure self-service, automatic failover of key applications in the event of disaster and, finally, the creation of future cloud infrastructure. This is the first step, Dublin Bay Power notes, in a move to a hybrid cloud environment and the integration of public cloud services.
"We felt these awards were a unique opportunity to get some visibility for our project," said project manager Richard Nunan. "Cloud is still new, so it's been great sharing what we did and why it went so well."
Best desktop virtualisation project
In its rehabilitation efforts with prisoners, the Justice Department of Belgium wanted to provide inmates with desktops but also retain some control. This implementation won out based on the rich variety of technologies used to deliver the virtual desktop stack in the core layers of OS, applications, user virtualisation and an array of device access types, including PCs, dumb terminals, PDAs and smartphones. The department's build is likely to be unique to organisations throughout Europe.
"With prisons, it is not always possible for inmates to get the IT resources they need," said Benny Goedbloed, the general manager of IT infrastructure EPI at the department. "We are pleased to be the first in Europe to offer something like this."
The submission was so compelling that the judges moved this submission from the private cloud computing category to the virtual desktop category.
This is the kind of bonkers-crazy stuff that has made the virtualisation community the bedrock of innovation.
A VMworld Europe 2010 User Awards judge,
Warwickshire College received an honourable mention in the category based on its use of VDI to jump-start a migration to Windows 7 with Res Software and VMware View 4.5. The college demonstrated that VDI is more than just installing a client OS and fitting a broker/provisioning server to virtual infrastructure and embraced a multivendor approach. The project is also part of the college's green IT strategy.
Best of show
Simon Gallagher's vTARDIS project won for best of show. An enthused Gallagher said that an Apple iPad win made all the hard work worth it.
"This is the kind of bonkers-crazy stuff that has made the virtualisation community the bedrock of innovation," noted a judge. "The only limitation is people's imagination, and Gallagher's vTARDIS demonstrates imagination in spades."
Check out all of our VMworld Europe 2010 conference coverage here.