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When apps are virtualized

Application virtualization can help your infrastructure work harder and faster while reducing costs.

By James E. Gaskin, Network World
February 21, 2005 12:09 AM ET

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Future plans include providing SoftGrid to the Fidelity National groups that serve as their customers' support departments; this would reduce the number of Citrix installations required. And disaster-recovery planners soon will integrate SoftGrid into their plans by serving all applications from at least two data center locations.

"Reducing management headaches of our environment was the biggest issue for our SoftGrid solution," Little says.

One, two, three

Saving money on server hardware and operating system licenses, better utilization of existing equipment and better management of enterprise applications are benefits touted by users of other application virtualization products as well.

DataSynapse's GridServer virtualization product has made a world of difference for the applications environment at Wachovia, says Robert Ortega, chief business architect at the Charlotte, N.C., financial services firm. "Our main benefits are that we can use what we have to its full capacity and we have more flexibility in acquiring hardware resources," he says, noting that he implemented GridServer three years ago for the firm's Corporate and Investment Bank (CIB) division.

With its GridServer (formerly named LiveCluster) software, DataSynapse applies grid computing to application virtualization - essentially fracturing applications and spreading the pieces across the data center. Applications can migrate, using pre-configured policies, to under-used servers in a supply-matches-demand process. Autonomic computing processes ensure support of applications needing resources by a pool of heterogeneous servers.

DataSynapse relies on Web services specifications and standards such as Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards' Web Services Resource Framework and the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Services Description Language (WSDL ) to expose computing resources as proxies to users and developers. Use of proxies eliminates the need for client-side binding, so no application installation files are loaded locally, and lets business logic be hosted separately from specific server resources. By creating a stateful connection through the abstraction layer, DataSynapse can deliver the benefits of a grid system while still providing the two-phase commit process demanded in transaction processing environments.

GridServer helps Wachovia handle big transaction volumes while meeting high-performance and availability requirements because it divides applications from the underlying system they're invoking, Ortega says. "The abstraction layer allows us to make changes to the underlying systems without impacting users. [We can] leverage existing resources with the grid-aware system, and the user never knows the difference," he adds.

With DataSynapse running on several hundred Solaris and Windows servers, Wachovia now handles four times more volume and up to 25 times more financial modeling simulations than it did without application virtualization. "One risk report that took 15 hours now can be prepared in about 15 minutes," Ortega says.

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