“With virtualisation, we have roughly halved our server fleet and reduced our carbon footprint because we have halved server power consumption and cooling costs at the same time.”
David Davies, Manager Information Services, Wodonga Council
Wodonga Council in North Eastern Victoria is responsible for delivering a variety of services, including planning, building approvals, refuse collection and support services to local citizens. Wodonga Council staff had successfully virtualised their disaster recovery facility and wanted to extend virtualisation to core council systems, but faced a proportionate increase in overall licensing costs from their virtualisation vendor.
In 2010, the council upgraded its server environment using Windows Server® 2008 R2 Datacenter, which includes the Microsoft hypervisor, Hyper-V™. Using this software, IT staff were able to start virtualising the council’s core finance, payroll and local government systems. To manage their ICT more efficiently, the council also deployed Microsoft® System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Microsoft® System Center Operations Manager.
By virtualising core storage, finance and payroll systems, Wodonga Council reduced expenditure on servers, software licences and power. Because new servers are easier to deploy, IT staff can upgrade and deploy new applications much faster, which means they provide a far more responsive service for their colleagues.
||“We wanted greater flexibility from our server infrastructure, so we could deploy servers more quickly and test and roll out new government applications more efficiently.”
Manager Information Services, Wodonga Council
Wodonga Council is a local government organisation responsible for providing a variety of services across 400 square kilometres of North Eastern Victoria. The council employs 218 staff and has an annual operational budget of AU$56 million.
The council is responsible for planning and development, and a broad range of social and environmental services. Staff enforce statutory planning regulations, issue building permits, conduct building inspections, maintain animal registers, organise refuse collection and deliver youth, pre-school and aged care services.
To deliver these services, the council uses a variety of rating, property and registration systems. Staff also use finance, payroll and data storage systems for internal management. These systems were housed on approximately 15 dedicated servers at the council’s head office, with two servers at a back-up site tasked for disaster recovery.
“We wanted greater flexibility from our server infrastructure, so we could deploy servers more quickly and test and roll out new government applications more efficiently,” says David Davies, Manager Information Services, Wodonga Council.
“We needed to be able to match server capacity to application usage, so that excess loads didn’t slow applications down. But we couldn’t just carry on leasing more servers for new applications. We actually needed to reduce costs and server administration overheads, if possible.”
In 2005, council’s IT staff had used virtualised several servers for change-control and backup. These servers were housed at the council’s disaster recovery site, and backed up the council’s critical production servers that run core services.
“Virtualised disaster recovery servers worked extremely well and the solution was easy to manage and efficient,” says Davies. “However, virtualising our entire production environment would have been prohibitively expensive, because of the additional licences we would have had to purchase from our existing virtualisation vendor.”
Towards the end of 2010, leases on the council’s core data storage servers approached expiry. Rather than replace the servers or take out new leases, Davies and his colleagues took the opportunity to make their server infrastructure more efficient.
Wodonga Council staff assessed several options including Windows Server® 2008 R2 Datacenter, which comes with the Microsoft hypervisor-based virtualisation technology, Hyper-V™.
“We tested Hyper-V thoroughly, and it was clear that the platform was very stable,” says Wodonga Council’s network co-ordinator Dale Tassie. “We also experimented with Microsoft® System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2, which provides a console for controlling the virtualised environment. It means that we can see at a glance what all the virtual machine hosts are doing.”
Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter licences include unlimited virtualisation rights, which meant that Wodonga Council could run an unlimited number of Windows Server virtual machines on servers licensed with Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter. Wodonga Council could also upgrade to Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter under the terms of its existing Enterprise Agreement, which further reduced costs.
||“With virtualisation, we have roughly halved our server fleet and reduced our carbon footprint because we have halved server power consumption and cooling costs at the same time.”
Manager Information Services, Wodonga Council
“When we compared the costs of virtualising our production environment with Hyper-V, as opposed to our existing virtualisation technology, we saw it was far cheaper to use Hyper-V,” says Davies.
With the assistance of virtualisation specialist Perfekt, Wodonga Council staff began to virtualise their production servers in December 2010. They started with servers the council used for data storage and then virtualised the other council system servers in December.
“We also deployed two Microsoft System Center tools under the terms of the Microsoft System Center Server Management Suite Datacenter (SMSD),” says Abie Gelbart, Technical Director, Perfekt. “System Center Virtual Machine Manager helps council staff manage and balance virtual server loads. It uses input from Microsoft System Centre Operations Manager, which also helps them improve resource efficiency.”
“Our motto was start small, think big,” says Davies. “With the Datacenter licence, we could move slowly, and just add virtualised servers as we decommissioned the physical ones. Virtualisation can be a very gradual process, and we have done it step by step.
“This low-risk approach suited the council, and by mid-2011 we had most core systems virtualised. With Perfekt’s help, we will virtualise the remaining servers as their leases expire, and have switched our disaster recovery servers to
By virtualising their production environment with Hyper-V, Davies and his colleagues have saved the council from having to choose between investing in new server leases or purchasing additional virtualisation licences. As a result, IT staff have progressively reduced the number of physical servers the council needs.
“With virtualisation, we have roughly halved our server fleet and reduced our carbon footprint because we have halved server power consumption and cooling costs at the same time,” says Davies.
“In addition, because we purchase all our server software under an Enterprise Agreement, we will continue to generate efficiencies. We are only dealing with one platform which makes our IT better integrated and easier to manage, and we get updates automatically.”
More reliable platforms
Now that they have virtualised their core systems, Davies and his colleagues can provide a more reliable service to the council.
“Our disaster recovery is much improved,” says Tassie. “We can take a single copy of a production virtual server, and then if necessary, duplicate that straight into our disaster recovery site, and carry on. Previously we had to keep backing-up our entire server environment; this is much faster, simpler and safer.“
“Also, with failover clustering, we can ensure our production environment is more stable,” says Davies. “If one physical server malfunctions, we don’t automatically lose any services. Since virtualising our core systems, our staff have experienced very few service interruptions – and when they have occurred, we have been able to restore services very quickly.”
“Virtualised core services are also more reliable, because IT staff can balance loads across all servers using System Center Virtual Machine Manager. This particularly helps during maintenance and upgrades. If I need to shut down one of my physical servers, I can easily shift the load around with Hyper-V, so maintaining service continuity is much easier,” says Tassie.
Increased power and flexibility of workloads
An intuitive interface offering better control and increased flexibility also benefits the council because IT staff don’t face bottlenecks when they roll out new services or technologies.
“The whole system is easy to manage from a high level, yet it has close integration ties at an operating system level,” says Davies. “As a result, we now have a far faster time to deployment, and that’s made a big difference.
“We recently deployed a new anti-virus system. It took us only 35 minutes to set up a freshly built Windows Server 2008 R2 virtual machine, which is a record for us. Now, rolling out a new application takes us approximately one hour, when it used to take six. As a result, council staff get the services they want much faster.”
Microsoft products that were featured
With Hyper-V™ included in Windows Server® 2008 R2 Datacenter, it's now easier than ever to save money through virtualisation. The Microsoft hypervisor-based server-virtualisation technology enables you to make the best use of your server hardware investments by consolidating multiple server roles. You can efficiently run multiple different operating systems—Windows, Linux, and others—in parallel and on a single server, fully leveraging the power of x64 computing.
By purchasing Microsoft® System Center tools under the terms of an Enterprise Agreement such as the Microsoft® System Center Server Management Suite Datacenter (SMSD) bundle, you can drive even more costs savings for your business and effectively manage your infrastructure.
Microsoft® System Center Virtual Machine Manager enables staff to centralise management of their physical and virtual IT infrastructure. Together with Microsoft® System Centre Operations Manager it helps staff balance loads on virtual environments, so they can optimise server usage.
System Center Operations Manager enables customers to reduce the cost of data centre management across server operating systems and hypervisors through a single, familiar and easy to use interface.
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services call the sales and information line on 13 20 58 Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm AEST. To find a partner or solution, visit www.microsoft.com/en-au/cloud/cloudpowersolutions/private_cloud.aspx