MEM opted for a VMware platform running VMware vSphere 4 Enterprise Plus. Besides the desire to address servers nearing their "end of life" state, Sites recognized a need to build a safe, self-contained testing and development environment.
A primary goal for MEM was to accommodate a new software package that could address the strategic business goals while keeping total IT operational expenses to a defined percentage of revenue. "In order to succeed, we needed to build out a mirror image of our production environment and factor in the number of servers," Sites adds.
Server virtualization simplifies IT testing of new applications by allowing systems administrators to test in a secure virtual machine (VM) environment. Once complete, they can roll back to a clean slate via the snapshot feature.
"Virtualization offered an opportunity to flesh out this environment at a much lower cost than if we were using conventional servers and building the computing environment into individual machines," Sites adds. "A self-contained testing and
development environment, relying on virtualization, allows MEM to bring up developments and roll them into production in a much quicker fashion."
In addition, MEM calculated that server virtualization would provide cost savings in terms of both servers and energy costs. Its data center was running out of space and a reduced footprint offered energy savings and other advantages including reduced cabling and the need for fewer uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) systems.
When IT moved into its current data center in November 2005, it seemed like it offered plenty of room. However, "Four years later we realized we had begun to feel the crunch of a lack of space," Sites notes. "The racks were full and we had machines scattered throughout the center."
The upshot? IT wound up tossing in a new server when conditions demanded additional computing power. Although MEM attempted to reduce costs by reusing some older hardware, including workstations, it had begun to hit the wall in terms of space and performance. "We saw the data center becoming more inefficient and it was beginning to take a toll," Sites adds. "We knew we had to make a change."
Today, MEM has 56 VMs running on the four physical hosts. "The server virtualization initiative has allowed us to reduce the number of older, reused, nonserver class machines in our data center while reducing our computing footprint," he explains. In addition, IT can dynamically fire up and add new servers into the mix almost immediately.