Dublin Airport Authority uses virtualisation to overhaul IT

Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) has launched an IT overhaul project with HP converged infrastructure and VMware vSphere platform

As workloads expanded at Dublin Airport Authority, it launched a major IT infrastructure overhaul earlier this year with HP’s converged infrastructure and VMware vSphere platform. In under a year, the virtualisation project has given the IT team cost savings, standardised IT, highly-available infrastructure and a centrally managed environment.

The virtualisation project at Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) is a five-year IT plan worth about €2m and will drive IT efficiency across its airports and bring cost savings.

It all started when the IT team started developing a virtualisation test environment in 2010 on Microsoft Hyper-V platform.

“We used Hyper-V for testing and found out that virtualisation brought a lot of IT efficiency, improved our speed to delivery and helped us save costs,” said Martin Clohessy, the server and storage manager at DAA.

But for the actual production environment, it chose VMware’s vSphere platform for a more stable and high-performance infrastructure.

While the IT team found the Hyper-V platform-based test environment efficient and cost-effective, when systems failed, it took too long to failover the system to another server, said David McCabe, technology solutions manager at DAA.

“Microsoft was cheaper than VMware, but what’s the point of having something that wouldn’t do what you want it to?” said Clohessy.

"When we invited tender from service providers, for an end-to-end virtualisation and management infrastructure, most environments were VMware-based," Clohessy added.

DAA’s IT team awarded the five-year contract to HP after assessing the tenders, including those from IBM and Dell.

“We selected HP to handle our expanding workload and to meet our growing IT requirements for the next five years,” said Gerry Luttrell, DAA’s head of IT.

IT challenges at DAA

Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) owns and operates Ireland’s three largest airports in Dublin, Cork and Shannon.

As well as day-to-day management of the airports, it is responsible for major commercial activities including the operation of airport retail shops and airport car parks. It is also responsible for any technical activities, including the planning, design and construction of airport infrastructure and facilities.

In 2011 alone, it handled almost 23 million passengers across all its Irish airports. As it looks for cost savings and business expansion, the IT team embarked on a virtualisation project.

“As the IT landscape became more complex, DAA needed to consolidate and virtualise its IT systems,” said Peter Ryan, managing director for EMEA at HP.

But DAA’s IT team did not just want a virtualisation platform, but a complete virtualised infrastructure with servers, storage, back-up, disaster recovery features as well as centralised management support.

Among the IT team’s many requirements from the new solution included server consolidation, high-availability, a scalable and flexible infrastructure, thin-provisioning features, high performance and datacentre cost savings.

As part of the project, DAA aims to virtualise and consolidate its 360-plus physical servers. In the first year alone, it has already moved 150 servers to the new HP virtual infrastructure.

Today DAA’s datacentre comprises a highly-virtualised environment with HP 3PAR storage systems; Cisco’s networking products; VMware vSphere; Netbackup tool for data back-up; VRanger tool for disaster recovery; and Veeam’s monitoring tool.

“We already used the monitoring tool -- System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) and selected Veeam as it integrated well with our existing tool,” said Clohessy.

As end-to-end support was critical, the team also selected HP Critical Advantage services for the next five years.

For datacentre cooling, DAA uses air-conditioning units and UPSs

The team has started seeing benefits of its project in the third quarter of 2012.  

The virtualised HP server and storage infrastructure now deliver agility and efficiency well beyond the capability of the previous IT environment, said Luttrell.

Robust and future-ready IT for DAA with central management

For high-availability, the team selected HP ProLiant BladeSystem c7000. It allows DAA to ensure that data is constantly available to DAA’s business-critical applications, according to the DAA team.

Meanwhile, thin-provisioning features have enabled DAA to purchase disk capacity as they require it. “We don’t have to pre-invest in huge amounts of storage hardware anticipating data growth,” Clohessy said.

Automated provisioning and management has relieved the IT team of tedious manual administration, minimising disruption and saving the operating costs of unused disk-capacity, Clohessy added.

The centrally managed storage environment is flexible and scalable, giving the IT team the ability to change and expand its data storage provisioning without pre-planning or downtime, he said.

“We now have a platform fit to support business solutions for our airlines and passengers in a critical 24/7 airport environment,” said Luttrell.

But the team was strategic in its virtualisation strategy. It did not virtualise its Oracle enterprise applications. “We have heard that Oracle doesn’t work well on VMware and didn’t want to risk it,” said McCabe. It runs its Oracle apps on physical IBM machines.

DAA’s IT team is hoping to recover the costs of the virtualisation project in five years’ time with cost savings and IT efficiency.

One proof of the new infrastructure’s future readiness is that the IT team is launching an ambitious next-generation CCTV storage virtualisation project to overcome CCTV data storage challenges.

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