Indiana University is one of the largest state university systems in the United States, with nine campuses, 100,000 students, 7,000 faculty members, and 11,000 staff members. The university’s Auxiliary Information Technology (AIT) department had a hard time keeping up with the server growth needed to support services such as dining halls and residence centers. It also wanted to eliminate server failures that interrupted services and revenue flow. AIT turned to server virtualization using Windows Server® 2008 with Hyper-V™ and the Microsoft® System Center family of management tools. The department has whittled its physical servers from 150 to 32, has trimmed server deployment time by 90 percent, and can deliver higher availability and meet new service requests faster. The department is also saving U.S.$85,000 annually in hardware costs.
Indiana University (IU) is a nine-campus state university system serving nearly 100,000 students across the state. The flagship campus in Bloomington serves nearly 40,000 of those students, and the system also operates two campuses in cooperation with Purdue University.
IU has a decentralized IT environment with about 50 different IT departments. University Information Technology Services manages the university system’s Active Directory® service and Microsoft® Exchange Server 2007 messaging system. Each academic department and school maintains an IT staff. The Auxiliary Information Technology (AIT) department manages IT for auxiliary departments such as Residential Programs and Services, Campus Bus, Campus Child Care, Parking Operations, IU Auditorium, and the Indiana Memorial Union.
Janssen Jones is the Associate Director of AIT Infrastructure, serving about 1,000 users and managing 150 servers and 1,000 client devices, including cash registers, across the Bloomington campus. “My key concern every day is to keep our systems up and running,” Jones says. “When a server fails, dozens of cash registers can no longer take payments in parking garages, dining halls, and parking-ticket offices. The moment that our systems go offline, we lose revenue, and students and staff are inconvenienced.”
Server failures were infrequent but serious nonetheless. Every server failure pulled the Infrastructure team’s four-person staff away from its normal responsibilities for hours or days. “We had no easy way to do ‘bare-metal’ restorations when a server failed,” Jones says. “Even though we had the applications and data backed up, we spent hours trying to return the hardware to its original state.”
The challenge of keeping servers running escalated as the number of servers increased. “The number of services we have to support has gone through the roof in the last few years because departments continue to come up with new service ideas,” Jones says. For example, campus housing added electronic door locks in dorms, which required server support. The dining halls decided to offer online food ordering, which also required new servers.
“Meeting department service requests has caused our server count to grow from 30 to 150 servers in the last five years,” Jones says. “Each new application requires two to six servers.” It took about 10 hours to provision each server, so each new service required up to 60 hours of work just to set up the hardware—and AIT receives at least one new service request each month. Add to that time the two to three weeks it took to order a new server, and the IT staff needed at least a month to fulfill each new service request.
AIT’s burgeoning server holdings were also expensive to house: the department’s five racks in the Bloomington, Indiana, data center cost U.S.$17,500 annually to rent. Also, because of the reactionary way that servers were deployed and because of application licensing requirements, most of AIT’s servers were vastly underutilized, running at only 2 to 3 percent efficiency.
Jones had followed the concept of virtualization for several years and even experimented with Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 and Microsoft Virtual PC, which allowed him to create multiple virtual machines within servers and desktop computers, respectively. “Conceptually, putting a shim between the hardware and the applications running on that hardware made sense to me,” Jones says. “Virtualization would allow us to make better use of our hardware and to restore failed machines more easily.”
However, Virtual Server 2005 had limitations that prevented Jones from deploying it more widely to meet his goals. It didn’t easily support clustering, nor did it deliver the performance that the Auxiliary Information Technology department needed to run demanding, real-time point-of-sale and other applications. “It was obvious to me that virtualization had to be used in conjunction with high-availability clustering to protect the increased number of applications running on each host server and to simplify server management,” Jones said.
Clustered Virtual Machines
Investigating clustered virtual machines led Jones to the Windows Server® 2008 operating system with Hyper-V™ technology. “Hyper-V not only better supported clustering, but its performance was dramatically better than that of Virtual Server 2005,” Jones says. “We also looked at VMware, but because we were already using Microsoft System Center products to manage our data center and backup files, we decided to go with Hyper-V. We liked the idea of managing our environment under one product umbrella.”
||With the ability to deploy virtual machines in an hour and to create virtual machines using existing hardware, we are better able to get new services into users’ hands sooner.
||Janssen Jones, Associate Director, Auxiliary Information Technology Infrastructure, Indiana University
AIT first migrated a few high-end applications and databases running under Microsoft SQL Server® data management software from physical servers to virtual machines. “We wanted to see if the applications slowed down, but they actually sped up under Hyper-V because the virtual machines had access to more storage than our stand-alone servers,” Jones says.
AIT deployed Windows Server 2008 Datacenter so the department could cost-effectively license up to 10 virtual machines on each host server (Dell PowerEdge M600 blade servers with two Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors and 32 gigabytes of RAM). AIT has created three Hyper-V clusters: one two-node cluster that runs highly secure applications for Payment Card Industry security standards compliance and two five-node clusters that run everything else.
“Everything else” includes SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2008 databases, Oracle 10g and 9i databases, Internet Information Services (IIS) 6.0 and IIS 7.0, file and print services, Windows® Update Server, Symantec antivirus software, Microsoft System Center solutions, and many third-party applications. The only applications not yet virtualized are those with specific hardware requirements and those not yet certified for virtualization by the vendor. Guest operating systems running on the virtual machines include Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows XP with Service Pack 3, and Red Hat Linux.
In all, AIT is running about 120 virtual machines on 14 host servers. “We’ve virtualized almost our entire environment,” Jones says. “Within a few months, we’ll be down to just 16 stand-alone physical servers and 16 physical servers running virtual machines.”
AIT uses a Compellent Storage Center SAN to provide scalable storage for its virtual infrastructure. Compellent, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, makes enterprise-class network storage solutions.
Integrated Server Management
AIT deployed Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 to manage its virtual landscape. A member of the Microsoft System Center suite of management solutions, it provides centralized management of virtual machines, accelerated provisioning, and easy virtual machine performance tuning.
Jones’s staff uses the Windows PowerShell™ command-line interface and scripting language to automate and customize system management tasks with enhanced security. “One of the greatest strengths of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 is the ability to customize it using scripts,” Jones says. “Even though we manage things natively using the GUI, Windows PowerShell lets us create new scripts for performing tasks such as creating ten new virtual machines at once or automating existing wizards. It’s very easy to use, and it’s a tool that my staff already knows.”
AIT also uses other programs in the System Center family to streamline infrastructure management. When Microsoft System Center Operations Manager is integrated with System Center Virtual Machine Manager, AIT will be able to create self-healing virtual-machine hosts. For example, if a host server is overextended and needs to offload part of its workload, it will be able to automatically migrate the workload to another host and trigger an alert through System Center Operations Manager 2007 that it has done so. The IT group also uses Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 to configure and deploy software and Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 to back up files, databases, and virtual machines. AIT licenses its System Center products using the Server Management Suite Enterprise.
By using clustered virtual machines as its new server strategy, Indiana University’s Auxiliary Information Technology department has been able to dramatically improve server—and campus services—availability. AIT has also reduced server provisioning time by a factor of ten and expects to save $85,000 annually in new-server costs by deploying virtual machines instead.
Increased Server Availability
“Using clustered virtual machines, we can keep our critical revenue-producing servers up and running more reliably,” Jones says. “We recently had a processor go bad on one of our blade servers, but we were able to automatically move the workload to another server within 15 minutes. Even though it took us two days to repair the server, there was only a 15-minute interruption to the server’s availability. If that had been a physical server, we would have had to come up with an extra server or have the service unavailable for two days while we repaired the server.”
Reduced Server Provisioning and Management
AIT has also drastically reduced its server provisioning work, from about ten hours to one hour per server. “We deploy about 20 servers a year, so that’s a time savings of about 180 hours each year,” Jones says. “At a wage of $50 an hour, that’s an annual savings of $9,000 in setup costs alone.”
||Using clustered virtual machines, we can keep our critical revenue-producing servers up and running more reliably.
||Janssen Jones, Associate Director, Auxiliary Information Technology Infrastructure, Indiana University
Apart from server provisioning savings, Jones and his staff enjoy far more efficient server management day to day. “Using System Center tools, we can manage our entire physical and virtual infrastructure from one place, which saves a great deal of time,” Jones says. “When we were trying to manage five racks of servers, there were myriad details to keep track of. The ability to manage all our servers from one console makes server management so much easier.”
Faster New-Service Rollout
Using Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, AIT is now able to meet new-service requests in a matter of hours versus the month required before to order and provision servers. “With the ability to deploy virtual machines in an hour and to create virtual machines using existing hardware, we are better able to get new services into users’ hands sooner,” Jones says. The ability to stay current with new ideas, such as online student services, makes Indiana University a better, more competitive place to work and go to school.
Reduced Hardware Costs
Jones estimates that Indiana University’s first 110 virtual machines saved the university about $100,000 in hardware and software licensing costs. Going forward, instead of adding 20 physical servers each year, AIT will add about three, which is an ongoing savings of $85,000 annually. AIT has also successfully slashed its rack count from five to two, saving $10,500 annually on data center rack fees.
AIT found additional savings by acquiring the System Center products it needed through Server Management Suite Enterprise licensing. The Enterprise suite provides a complete set of server management capabilities across physical and virtual environments, including Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, and enables customers to manage an unlimited number of virtual machines.
Improved Application Performance
Server utilization has also improved with the move to virtualization—increasing from 2 to 3 percent to an average of 25 percent with Hyper-V. “We’ve already paid for the server, and now we’re able to get as much use from it as possible,” Jones says. Application performance has also increased under Hyper-V, resulting in faster response times for users.
Next Step: Application Virtualization
AIT also plans to use Microsoft Application Virtualization, which streams applications on demand to desktop, Windows Terminal Services servers, and notebook computers from centralized servers. Using Application Virtualization, AIT can enable users to run conflicting applications on their desktop computers and to run older versions of applications. AIT can also simplify application deployment and management. “Using Microsoft Application Virtualization, we won’t have to worry about pushing conflicting applications to individual desktops, which will dramatically streamline desktop support,” Jones says. “Down the road, we may virtualize all our applications.”
Microsoft virtualization is an end-to-end strategy that can profoundly affect nearly every aspect of the IT infrastructure management lifecycle. It can drive greater efficiencies, flexibility, and cost effectiveness throughout your organization. From accelerating application deployments; to ensuring systems, applications, and data are always available; to taking the hassle out of rebuilding and shutting down servers and desktops for testing and development; to reducing risk, slashing costs, and improving the agility of your entire environment—virtualization has the power to transform your infrastructure, from the data center to the desktop.
For more information about Microsoft virtualization solutions, go to:
For more information and links to similar case studies, visit the Microsoft Education solutions website for Virtualization: http://www.microsoft.com/education/solutions/virtualization.aspx
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234 in the United States or (905) 568-9641 in Canada. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
For more information about Indiana University products and services, call (812) 855-4848 or visit the Web site at: