The switch to a virtual environment has already paid off for data center manager David Grant, though it pays additional dividends this week. Hewlett-Packard Co. announced this week the rollout of several new virtualization products designed to make it faster and easier to manage virtual servers.
Jonathan Eunice, principal analyst for Nashua, N.H.-based research firm Illuminata Inc., said HP's announcement is the latest installment of the virtualization technology updates HP has released annually for the past 10 years.
"This release is less about this specific event than about this year," he said.
Grant, who is the data center manager for Mitel Networks Corp., had some hard thinking to do toward the end of 2003, as leases for about half of the 12 servers running all his core enterprise services were due to expire. As he mulled his options, Grant said, "Our theme was consolidation. We also wanted to achieve more benefits and be more flexible in responding to new business needs and technology."
Mitel, based in Ottowa, provides IP-based voice, video and data business communications equipment and services. The company employs about 2,000 people worldwide.
Grant chose virtualization technology from HP to consolidate 12 servers into two clustered HP 9000 rp8420 servers running HP-UX 11i in a virtual server environment. He also considered products from IBM and EMC Corp., but ultimately decided to expand an existing relationship with HP.
In simple terms, virtualization allows users to run different pieces of software on the same piece of hardware, to pool unused computing power and to shift excess computing power to the areas experiencing the highest use, in real time.
"If, all of a sudden business picks up, the operating system is at 100% capacity, the needle is against the end of the dial and everybody's screaming at it, we can allocate additional processes and RAM without having to reinstall or expand," Grant said. "We can allocate more CPU and RAM (from elsewhere) and the bottleneck goes away."
The switch cut Grant's maintenance responsibilities from 12 systems spread over two data centers to just two servers in a single spot, lowered his lease payments while giving him five times his previous computing power, improved his server utilization by 20% and made it easier to shift unused resources to the areas where they're most needed.
"The goal of virtualization is to make things simpler," Eunice said, "but you had to have a Ph.D. to make things simpler," because of the complexity of the installation and management of virtualization technology. HP's latest virtualization products solve at least part of that problem, Eunice said.
HP announced the following virtualization products:
- Expansion of the multi-operating system HP Virtual Server Environment for HP Integrity servers.
- New HP-UX 11i mission-critical virtualization capabilities.
- Accelerated availability of OpenVMS on virtualized Integrity servers.
- New packaged software with VMware and HP ProLiant Essentials Virtualization Management software.
- A new network consolidation service.
Grant is considering workload management software, which can automate workloads in the virtual environment based on rules and policies, that is part of the HP new releases.
Nick van der Zweep, director of virtualization and utility computing for HP, said the new offerings move HP's virtualization offerings out of the basic stages and make virtualization technology more accessible to the people charged with implementing and running such systems.
"Virtualization is technology that makes a server into two, three or four servers," van der Zweep said. "The value proposition targeted at CIOs and CFOs is dramatic cost reductions and more efficient service levels. But it's system administrators and storage administrators who have to implement it to make it happen.
"We've developed some management products, planning products, and configuration and optimization products that make it easy, so a regular system administrator can plan out how they want to lay out their virtual environment versus a regular environment, then turn on optimization," van der Zweep said.