Case study Ardel Holdings - Virtualisation
Rick Brooks of Ardel Holdings Limited shares the company's experience of server virtualisation.
Ardel Holdings had increasing pressure on space; we also had fairly complex and time consuming back up and disaster recovery processes in place and due to the nature of the fiduciary business in which the company operates, compliance requirements are stringent.
With 48 servers in total including the DR site, we were keen to explore alternatives.
We had researched the potential benefits of server virtualisation but initially, as we were happy to admit, we were relatively skeptical about some of the seemingly extreme claims being made:
“Reduce your server estate by 90% i.e. 100 physical servers down to 10!!”
However we were sufficiently convinced by potential benefits to investigate the option further and came to Itex for some initial advice.
Itex was appointed in a consultancy capacity to work with Ardel to design the virtual server infrastructure. We have our own in-house IT team and Itex worked alongside us at the initial stages of the project to advise on the appropriate tactical approach for the virtualisation process.
We tackled the DR environment first. Itex assisted with the initial infrastructure build and once the virtual environment was ready, the Ardel team was able to create servers in the new environment using VMWare converter software.
Each of the physical servers was taken off-line in turn, and transferred into the ‘virtual’ environment. Once completed, it was tested for user acceptance. After running the new DR ‘virtual’ server environment on-site for a week to test functionality, it was taken to the off-site data centre to replace all the physical servers.
There then followed a period of consolidation, when the team gained practical experience of the ‘virtual’ environment and Itex delivered training in order to develop the team’s knowledge base before embarking on the next phase.
We decided to take a slow but steady approach to transferring our main servers to the virtual environment dealing with two servers each weekend.
Throughout this second phase, both physical and virtual servers were operating concurrently with the only impact on the business being during weekends when a server was taken off-line to be processed.
Server templates were created allowing for new server deployments in minutes rather than hours.
From a start point of 48 servers, we were down to 14. Not quite the 90% reduction but we were more than happy with 70%!
Ardel has enjoyed a number of benefits:
- reduction in electricity consumption both to run the servers, and the air conditioning to cool them;
- improvement in the DR process by having more servers yet less ‘off-site’ hardware, offering the business an environment that is as close to the real one as possible;
- it is easier to keep the ‘off-site’ DR servers up to date by copying the ‘live’ server (now just a file) to the DR servers on a regular basis, eliminating the need to visit the ‘off-site’ location to install updates;
- there are now more servers available from day one in a DR situation, which are also kept up to date from both version upgrade as well as data point of view;
- from a maintenance point of view, virtual servers can be moved between the remaining 14 physical servers creating significant time savings and overnight back up - which was becoming a real problem - is now quite straightforward.
Any other comments
Whilst we have an in house IT team and were able to undertake a large percentage of the work ourselves, Itex’s involvement both at the initial tactical planning stage and latterly delivering training, was invaluable to Ardel Holdings. It was a successful collaborative approach to a project which has delivered tangible benefits.
The stable and positive relationship that we have enjoyed with Itex over many years allowed us to integrate their consultancy seamlessly within our virtualisation project.
Chief Operating Officer
Ardel Holdings Limited