In Ontario, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) provides workers compensation for employees and helps companies improve workplace safety. WSIB chose Windows Server® 2008 Hyper-V™ to automate server provisioning. The IT operational staff cut time required to provision servers to test and deploy software that supports WSIB activities. Now developers can quickly update software and improve claims services and worker safety programs.
Based in Toronto, Ontario, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) provides a workers compensation system for employers and workers. With a stated mission for 2009, called the Road to Zero workplace fatalities,
||Our experience with the Hyper-V RDP has been successful. As the strategic vision, we’ll be migrating all the virtual machines off our VMware hosts.
Director, Technology Management Services, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board
injuries and illnesses, the WSIB provides disability benefits, assists with return to work, and develops education programs that help companies improve their work safety practices.
WSIB developers create, test, and maintain software that more than 4,300 employees rely on to process 340,000 claims per year and other staff use for WSIB’s workplace safety programs. Business demands mean that developers are under pressure to test and deploy software to support WSIB’s activities. “We wanted to be more responsive in provisioning servers so that IT could support initiatives such as the Integrated Case Account Management Program that changes how we process claims for injured workers,” says Vince Jordan, Director, Technology Management Services, at Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
The WSIB data center houses approximately 200 servers, running either the Windows® 2000 Server or Windows Server® 2003 operating system at approximately 12 percent utilization rate. The center had reached capacity and WSIB needed to consolidate servers to create space and reduce data center costs so that money could be redirected to the company’s injury prevention programs.
In 2007, WSIB addressed these issues by using a virtualization solution to consolidate servers. It chose a combined VMware ESX and Microsoft® Virtual Server 2005 R2 virtualization solution and virtualized about 50 servers running infrastructure services. WSIB knew that Windows Server® 2008 featuring Hyper-V™ virtualization technology was due for release, but it needed an interim solution. Explains Emmanuel Otiotio, Manager, Server & Desktop, at Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, “We wanted to virtualize 35 percent of our data center and leverage our investment within the Microsoft technology stack, but Virtual Server 2005 R2 couldn’t host the multiprocessor workloads we had in mind.” The mixed environment also required manual processes and different tools for physical-to-virtual (P2V) conversions.
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board addressed this dilemma in April 2008 by joining a Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) to test Hyper-V, the hypervisor-based virtualization solution that is a feature of the Windows Server operating system. WSIB is also evaluating Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 to facilitate management of its virtual environment. “Microsoft seems to be allocating more research and development money into virtualization, which gave us confidence,” says Jordan.
WSIB purchased three servers and worked with the Microsoft RDP team to install Hyper-V on each. One server is for the production environment, and the other two are for the test and development environment. The IT team is also evaluating System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 to see how it handles P2V conversions, virtual-to-virtual (V2V) conversions, and workload transfers between servers in the VMware and the Microsoft virtualization environment.
“We tested Hyper-V scalability by loading line of business application and core infrastructure services [printing and administrative services] servers in our production environment,” says Otiotio. “We thought we had a performance issue, but Microsoft, working with the WSIB server team, quickly diagnosed that we had a hardware problem and told us to upgrade the BIOS. It has worked perfectly since.”
Adds Jordan, “Our experience with the Hyper-V RDP has been successful. As the strategic vision, we’ll be migrating all the virtual machines off our VMware hosts. In the interim there will be a heterogeneous solution of VMware and Hyper V.”
The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board optimized an operational activity for the business with its Hyper-V solution. Now the IT department can free up data center space, quickly provision test and development environments, and reduce data center costs. “With VMware, any reduced energy and space costs were negated by increased license costs,” says Jordan. “For 2008, we plan to virtualize 50 servers. Using Hyper-V, we’ll get better results and avoid having to spend $300,000 in licensing.”
Quick provisioning of test and development environments. “We are excited about the potential to respond better to business demands for servers in the test and development environment,” says Otiotio. “With Hyper-V, our developers expect to work more efficiently to update our claim processing software so that employees can improve service and expand on workplace safety outreach programs. We can fulfill requests for infrastructure faster, helping to expedite the development of new workplace safety programs to achieve our Road to Zero strategic goals.”
Frees data center space, improves hardware utilization. The RDP proved that Hyper-V can handle resource-intensive, multiprocessor virtual machines, thereby removing a major barrier to WSIB’s consolidation goals. Based on its experience in the RDP, WSIB expects to improve hardware resource utilization from approximately 12 percent to 70 percent. “With Hyper-V, WSIB plans to reduce physical servers by 25 to 35 percent in the near future,” says Otiotio.
Reduce data center costs. WSIB owns Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 and Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007. Utilizing an integrated Microsoft solution will reduce training costs due to similar user interfaces among the System Center family of products and leveraging full life-cycle management from rapid provisioning to patching and monitoring. “With System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, we can retire our old tools and automate tracking virtual workloads to save administration costs,” says Jordan. “Data center cost savings can be redirected to our diverse programs benefiting Ontario employers and their workers.”