VSphere4 powers server consolidation

Name: AMBERS FERRARA Senior systems administrator Transplace Dallas

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Favorite data center product: VMware vSphere 4

The data center product that we're most familiar with here and use the most is VMware (we're running Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 on vSphere 4). We have in the neighborhood of 90% of our infrastructure running on VMware. Just from the Windows side, we've taken 400 physical servers down to 36.

On our Dell [PowerEdge] 2950s, which run dual quad-core processors with 32GB of RAM, we're in the neighborhood of 15 virtual machines per server. On our Dell [PowerEdge] R710s, running dual quad cores with the new Intel Nehalem processor and 144GB of RAM, we get 40 to 50 VMs per physical machine. This year we're going to all R710s, in the end we'll have 40 of them. We're replacing on a one-to-one ratio to give us capacity for growth.

VMware also has given us benefits in licensing. With Microsoft's new policy for licensing on VMware, we can basically get two CPUs worth of licensing that covers all the operating systems that are involved on that host.

VMware also has helped reduce time for building out new servers, deploying servers and applications, and solving maintenance issues. We're almost to the point where we don't have to fix the problem. Instead we just create a new server. And it's helped with our disaster-recovery strategy.

On deck: Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) and Microsoft Exchange Server 2010

I don't know how realistic it is, but I'm interested in the Cisco UCS. It's a pretty interesting server concept – it's the first product I've seen that can multiplex the memory. The UCS product would be able to have more memory at faster speeds than we're currently able to do with the R710. And, because it utilizes blade technology, I could see where we may even be able to go with a smaller footprint.

I'm also anxious to get on Exchange 2010 as that will make a huge difference on our infrastructure and we want to expand out to include Microsoft Office Communications Server for unified messages and corporatewide collaboration.

Dream tool: Single sign-on (SSO) for software as a service

This isn't really a tool, but it's definitely something we need. We have a SharePoint environment, with all access to it using Active Directory and Kerberos for authentication. We've incorporated Microsoft's entire business intelligence stack for providing software as a service to our customers. We create internal accounts in order to give customers access to dashboards and Excel data. Currently we use Microsoft's ISA [Internet Security & Acceleration] 2006 Server to do that. But we want to let them sign on to our Web page and have seamless access to every offering. After looking at products from RSA Security and Microsoft, we went with BiTKOO. But none really has an integrated approach to allow SSO access into a domain. They have federation and other things, but if I just want SSO for end users into my domain, that would be a great tool for us.

'Greenest' data center product: VMware and Dell PowerEdge R710 servers

VMware is the greenest product we can imagine in the data center. We don't have anything that's contributed more to the decrease in footprint or power consumption. The R710s, by going to the Intel Nehalem processor itself, provides huge power consumption benefits with technology that allows us to shut down unused cores.

Pleasant surprise: Windows Server 2008

Last year, we upgraded 85% of our Windows infrastructure to Windows Server 2008, and so far this year we've upgraded 10% of those to 2008 R2. I had been expecting a lot of fixes, but some of the enhancements Microsoft has made around self-monitoring and optimization are pretty impressive. We had expected big things, and it's delivered even better than we were expecting.

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