Drive IT Costs Down with Server and Desktop Virtualization

February 13, 2009

The more I visit with my clients I see the effect that server virtualization is having with credit unions. 4 years ago when I started recommending virtualization strategies all I heard was crickets. Now the tide has changed and literally the only question to ask oneself is, “Why am I not virtualizing?” In today’s environment the reality is, that questions are being asked, “can I do more with less?” VMware and Microsoft Hyper V give credit unions this flexibility.  I have a few items that I list below which I believe need to be brought to the table prior to implementing virtualization. I am going to be writing more on this subject over the next few weeks. Virtualization is analogous to a carpenter buying a ¼ inch drill bit. A carpenter doesn’t want a ¼ inch drill bit; what he wants is a ¼ inch hole. No one wants virtualization. What people want the benefits of virtualization. Here are a few of them and some planning questions to ask.

  • What actual hard costs are you looking to save? For example, I have a client who was adamant about not doing virtualization until midway througha data center upgrade project shesaid to me, “how canIsave onsome rack space? I don’t want to buy another rack ifI don’tneed to.” I replied by pointing to 4 servers and saying, “those 4 servers can all be virtualized into one.” These were very old Microsoft 2000 and 2003 servers that she has no intention of upgrading on the short term. Walla – she saves on rack space, cooling costs, server hardware costs, etc.
  • Snapshot VMs – consider if this is one of your goals.
  • If HA (high availability) and snapshot’ing of VMs is important you will need to look at iSCSI SANs as a backend to the Virtual Servers in order to enable this functionality.
  • Consider HA with virtualization on your LAN. I have several credit unions that love this. They have long term goals of growing the environment to support FR needs,etc., but on the short term all they want to be able to do is server consolidation and have a more stable and reliable server infrastructure.
  • They want to be able to do server upgrades and patches and have instant recovery to application failures

I have worked with Joe Fletcher with Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union for several years and I think one of the ways to review the value of a technology and a strategic path chosen is to see it in action. Joe is a strong IT credit union leader in the mid atlantic area and has experienced the following benefits from VMware virtualization and iSCSI SANs. Here is a listing of his successes:

  • Budget, he has been able to cut costs significantly because of the recent increase in web servers. His core processor is requiring the CU’s to provide more hardware for web based applications than ever before. My client has been able to virtualize all of these applications. He also upgraded many of his older servers to new version of Windows without the expense of buying physical hardware. Finally, he was able to build this environment in one budget cycle by adding the hardware costs for the core required web servers and reaching the same total as purchasing two LeftHand SAN’s, VMware enterprise licensing and HP Procurve Gig Switches.
  • He is thrilled with performance of the machines and the ease of setup, both on the VM and LeftHand side of the fence. VM to VM performance has been great; and he is upgrading core switching to increase the other performance. He has also been working with his core providers to virtualize other applications to improve performance.
  • Consolidation. With old core systems having to remain up for 6 years and a lack of space in general the ability to get rid of 15 servers has opened up the datacenter, making airflow better, making the DC cleaner and giving them room manage the servers without stepping over machines.
  • Disaster Recovery. This meets his overall goal of portability and recoverability. Eventually the branch office will have a replicated SAN and ESX hosts for recovery in the event of a disaster or more likely a small issue like power failure or hardware issues.

Drive IT Costs Down with Desktop Virtualization VDI

February 7, 2009

I almost forgot to mention that I have been excited about this concept of desktop virtualization for a long time. I have only 2 customers out of 40 credit unions who are fully deployed on thin clients using Citrix. The client side requirements for Citrix have usually made the technology a show stopper due to the raw horsepower needed from internal credit union IT staff and consultants to get all the mapped drives, printers, scanners, etc to work properly. Don’t get me wrong, I love Citrix. I have been a huge supporter of Citrix since back in the Winframe days. However, credit unions integration with Citrix has been definately flagged with a warning sign that says warning ‘jump dont dive’. 

The Vision has always been ooo sooo sweeet…..to have all clients cenrally managed like a Unix host. The concept of running a Credit Union on a Windows mainframe has always been appealing. Since most credit union have limited IT budgets and staffing possibilities; then the possibility of centrally managing workstation session has never ending appeal.

Recently I have personally witnessed the power of VDI – Microsoft Virtual Desktop Infrastructure with a CUSO client. I have had high hopes for VDI since I know that the ability to control client side devices is a world apart from Citrix and Terminal Services. This client of mine has integrated Symitar and VDI over a VPN connection to a remote office working multiple session and printing worked like a charm.

In addition to desktop virtualization mentioned above I have another client who is running Citrix servers in a full virtual server environment! This is exciting as well because most people will snuff at this idea. It is real and they are running 150 users in this environment on virtual Citrix servers with a LeftHand iSCSCI SAN.