Virtualization of servers scores over blades at Growing Opportunity

Growing Opportunity needed technology to aid their growth without much expense. To this end, virtualization of servers proved better than blade servers.

Virtualization of servers  for high and mighty organizations may not be earthshaking anymore, but for the small and medium business (SMB), it is highly beneficial—several server virtualization choices are now available in the market with rich features and reasonable prices. Growing Opportunity Finance (India) Pvt Ltd, a microfinance organization located in South India is such an example. Established in 2006, this organization empowers less privileged entrepreneurs through income-generating loans, business training and social development.

Growing Opportunity’s IT infrastructure is quite small. Prior to virtualization of servers, a single server used to run several applications. This eventually affected server performance, making it sluggish. Also, the required scalability was not being achieved. As Immanuel Jeyaraj, the head of IT at Growing Opportunity, recalls: “When I joined, there was no scalability as per the projected growth. There were two options I could look at: deploying blade servers or virtualization.” Virtualization of servers scored over blade servers due to many reasons.

Blade servers were proprietary in nature as well as not interchangeable—so these were ruled out. In addition, Growing Opportunity did not want any sort of vendor lock-in. And of course, cost was an important reason for their choice of server virtualization.

Why Red Hat got the vote

There were three main candidates, namely Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware and Red Hat that Growing Opportunity looked at for virtualization of servers. Says Jeyaraj: “Microsoft Hyper-V was very primitive in nature. If you want to run a data center, manage virtualized servers, cluster them with a couple of storages, move virtual machines around, it becomes very tedious in Microsoft Hyper-V. These features are available in VMware, but unfortunately it is very expensive. Also VMware is very proprietary in nature. Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization had the features we wanted and suited our budget.”

Growing Opportunity’s data center resides in Chennai. There are close to ten virtual servers right now running on a single host. The team plans to add more virtual machines in the near future. The virtual machines reside on a Dell Poweredge server (on Intel Xeon platform with 48 GB RAM). Servers are connected to Dell EqualLogic iSCSI storage. Database at the backend is Microsoft SQL and MySQL along with a proprietary database. The organization has plans to add old servers to the cluster as well. The virtual machines are managed by an in-built Red Hat virtualization management tool.

There are two other servers on which the team plans to add more hard disks and networking capabilities. This will enable these servers to support sever virtualization and be added to the cluster. At the most, Growing Opportunity will be running three servers to get high availability. Applications like DNS, DHCP, content system, portfolio management system, and infrastructure software are being run on the virtualized set-up.

Straight-on benefits to business

Virtualization of servers has brought in many advantages for Growing Opportunity. Says Jeyaraj: “We are able to explore many features that give direct on benefits to my business.” Features like thin provisioning have accelerated the performance. Snapshot feature enables backups of a virtual machine at any given point of time. It is very cost-effective for the business due to savings on the hardware assets front. 

Jeyeraj feels that there is always scope for improvement, and if given a chance to do it again, it can always be deployed with more care. “Virtualization of servers is fun as long as you are very clear about the concept. Be very thorough about it before you jump into it. Try things out a couple of weeks before putting production servers on it,” says Jeyaraj.

Next year, Growing Opportunity wants to reach 1,50,000 clients and take employee strength to 500. To meet this aim, virtualization of servers has done the trick as far as the organization’s IT infrastructure front is concerned.

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