Traditional Approach Bears Business Benefits

Server consolidation has long been the bread and butter of virtualization, and IT executives such as Peter Wallace, CIO of the city of Chesapeake, Va., remain content with that value proposition. After all, what's not to like about being able to run your applications on a fraction of the hardware?

Wallace was hired in 2007 to help the city contend with the server sprawl that resulted from an extended period of rapid population growth. He was faced with an antiquated data center with no modern cooling capabilities that was home to an expanding farm of 135 servers. Every application had at least one dedicated server, with the PeopleSoft HR system alone hogging up seven--and there were demands for more servers.

To make room for those expected servers, the city was planning to build a second story on the existing data center, at a cost of $10 million, and co-locate a disaster recovery environment in the same building. Wallace quickly scapped those plans. When he analyzed the city's server assets, he found that only 15 percent to 20 percent of server capacity was actually being used.

Wallace embarked on a virtualization effort, and in the nearly three years since, he's reduced the server count to 20, with plans to retire five more machines by this fall. "We have virtualized everything that we can, to the point where we have addressed the replacement of servers for the next two years," he says.

That's not to say there haven't been bumps along the road. For one thing, Wallace had to change a mindset that had the city referring to IT as a "division," a word that he says encouraged a lack of communication. He changed it to a "unit." He also had to work with resistant vendors, setting up a so-called physical-to-virtual test environment that made it possible to move applications between physical and virtual machines for troubleshooting and fixes of applications that hadn't been designed with virtualization in mind.

Ultimately, Wallace's virtualization strategy achieved several benefits:

This article was originally published on 10-20-2010
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