The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum--a group of 21 economies representing 40 percent of the world’s population, 48 percent of world trade, and 56 percent of world gross domestic product (GDP)—was hosted by Australia in 2007. Some of the economies that sent representatives were Chile, China, Japan, Korea, Peru, the Russian Federation, Singapore, and the United States. APEC consists of a series of high-level meetings throughout the year that cover topics such as trade liberalization and free trade agreements. It concludes with Leaders Week, an event that is attended by dignitaries and government heads from all member economies.
The APEC 2007 meetings took place all across Australia, often hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the APEC 2007 headquarters in Sydney. For the IT team supporting APEC 2007, geographic issues posed substantial challenges. Specifically, to avoid the high cost of implementing servers at every location, the team needed to find an effective way to take advantage of the physical servers that were already in place in Sydney. In addition, meetings were held so frequently—about one per month—and in so many different venues that there was not enough time to establish servers for each conference. The solution was to develop and employ a transportable data center approach.
“We had limited time to set up events all over Australia,” says Gus Kollar, General Manager of Technology for APEC Australia 2007. “Our team would go into a venue, and in 24 to 36 hours they would have it up and running, connected to Sydney, and ready to support the APEC delegates.”
The team also needed a solution that had high availability and automatic failover, and that would be extremely reliable, because if the system went down, it could bring the entire meeting to a halt. “Once you are committed to the meeting schedule, there is no time to do hotfixes or patches, not when you have 1,500 miles between meetings,” says Paul Cordwell, IT Director for APEC Australia 2007. “If something goes wrong with any of the services being deployed, and you can’t produce the conference documentation or your Internet connection is not available, everything can go wrong.”
To provide the necessary range of services and support, the IT team for APEC turned to Microsoft. After reviewing available options, Kollar’s team selected Microsoft Virtual Server 2005, along with technical help from the Dedicated Support Engineer (DSE) program from Microsoft Services. The APEC IT team was attracted to the powerful virtualization capabilities of the software—most notably its ability to generate virtual networks that can access remote servers in real time. It also offered automatic file recovery, easy replication, and fast restore processes to make sure any problems were quickly fixed.
“Microsoft knew we were keen on utilizing virtualization,” says Kollar. “Not only from the business continuity and disaster recovery perspective, but also because it's a natural direction to follow when you simply cannot afford a delay in delivering your services. That was probably the greatest benefit of virtualization for us: the ability to provision redundant capacity, and be able to recover from the inevitable problems as they occur.”
The team started off with Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R1, and then migrated to Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 because of its support for 64-bit host computing. By running their networks on the 64-bit host, the team achieved even greater performance and was able to run more guest virtual machines.
The DSE program, in which a Microsoft support employee joins a team to help execute a project, was also a big help in the APEC effort. “It was very important that we saved as much time as possible, and having a Dedicated Support Engineer with us was excellent,” says Kollar. “We didn’t go down dead ends looking for solutions and answers. It helped make sure that nothing ever went wrong.”
Running APEC 2007 was a huge undertaking, but by employing Virtual Server 2005 R2 and Microsoft Services, the IT team was able to support the technical demands of the APEC delegates. Virtual Server 2005 R2 enabled the team to deliver events all over Australia, without having to haul in large numbers of physical servers and spend time hooking them up.
Save Space and Resources
Virtualization gave the IT team an opportunity to save space by consolidating their physical servers into virtual servers. For example, they were able to operate up to 80 virtual servers using just 20 physical servers to handle the load. By being able to consolidate servers into a much smaller number of physical boxes, they soon found they were saving energy, too.
In terms of their mobile data center capabilities, the team made a much smaller ecological footprint. Says Kollar, “To us, generating less power was a very compelling reason to look at the virtualization model, enabling us to host and run our services economically. Every bit helps when it comes to saving the planet.”
Reduce Hardware Dependency
Virtualization saved the APEC IT team both time and money, because they did not have to deal with physical servers each time a new network was set up.
“The beauty of provisioning virtual servers is you remove the hardware,” says Cordwell. “You're extracting the hardware layer out of it, and you have a predictable and essentially plug-and-play environment.”
Improve User Experience
As the APEC 2007 experience proved, virtualization provides the backup processes necessary to keep the system up and running with minimal downtime. This means that any technical problems that may arise on the server side can be fixed before they affect the user experience.
“These virtualized systems are very robust and quiet, and our management software gave us the time to see what is going on,” says Kollar. “If anything went wrong, it popped up on an intelligent whiteboard projection display very quickly. There was never a detectable impact on the user. So the view that's presented to the client—in this situation, the APEC delegate—was an extremely positive one.”