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Posted: 6/7/2011
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Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Service Fire Service Solves Bandwidth Limitations at Nine Area Headquarters with Virtualisation

Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Service in Scotland needed to reduce operating costs and reinforce its green credentials by virtualising servers. Bandwidth limitations at nine remote sites had reduced the potential for centralising support services. Using Hyper-V virtualisation technology, the fire service is consolidating physical servers by a ratio of 10:1 and reducing the amount of data-centre hardware, thereby improving its carbon footprint.

Business Needs

Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Service is the second largest emergency service in Europe, serving 52 per cent of the population of Scotland. Strathclyde is also the biggest fire service in Scotland. It has nine area headquarters (HQs) serving 111 community fire stations, many of which are in remote locations. With a vast geographical region to cover for protection against fire, Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Service was hampered by bandwidth limitations at several key sites.

With low bandwidth at these sites, support services—including the Active Directory service, dynamic configuration host protocol, the distributed file system, and print services—had to be located strategically. This was expensive to manage and required technicians to spend time on the road.

Tom Graham, Head of Technical Services, Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Service, says: “This bandwidth challenge meant higher operating costs than we would have liked at nine of our area HQs, and hampered our ability to upgrade our infrastructure. There was often frustration for users in what is a round-the-clock service that needs to respond rapidly to emergency situations.”

Strathclyde put together a strategy with three principal objectives—to consolidate servers and use virtual machines, reduce operating costs, and improve the carbon footprint of the organisation. Environmental sustainability is a major commitment in the service’s current Integrated Risk Management Plan, which sets out the governing policies of the service.

With business continuity being vital to emergency services, Graham was also given the task of developing the service’s disaster recovery and high availability capabilities. He says: “The aim was to maximise business continuity and minimise the risk of downtime to business-critical systems, including resource availability and finance applications.”


Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Service was using VMware before, but found the licensing costs prohibitive. After an evaluation, the fire and rescue service chose the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system with Hyper-V technology as the preferred solution. He explains: “We chose Hyper-V on the basis of it having excellent technical features with a much reduced licensing cost compared to any other technology.” In addition, further savings will be realised by phasing out the third-party support costs for the previous environment, and the need to employ technicians with specific expertise.

To maximise the performance of the physical and virtual environment, Strathclyde also deployed Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2. It gives IT personnel a simple way to consolidate physical servers onto virtual hosts and optimise the virtual machines.

Being a Microsoft enterprise technology customer meant the fire and rescue service found it easy to choose Hyper-V, due to its interoperability with other Microsoft products such as Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R2.

Graham says: “With the exception of our command support system—which uses advanced integrated command and control technology—our other service areas are either running 2003 or 2008 versions of Microsoft products. These include Microsoft data management software, email messaging and collaboration software, and middleware.”

Strathclyde subscribes to Microsoft Software Assurance services, through which it received technical support in the migration to Hyper-V.

Today, the service has addressed its bandwidth issues by installing one physical server per site at the nine area HQs, and creating 55 virtual machines for the required services using Hyper-V.


Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Service is using Hyper-V to resolve the bandwidth limitations at nine of its area HQs. Once all servers are virtualised, Strathclyde will have consolidated its physical machines by a ratio of 10:1. This will help reduce hardware costs, saving both capital and operating expenditure. The migration from VMware to Hyper-V was seamless and managed internally without the need for third-party support. Virtualisation gives Strathclyde the ability to test service packs and other software upgrades in a safe, controlled environment before implementation.

Improves resilience at remote locations. Graham says: “The virtual environments at the nine area HQs are already improving network resilience and providing effective business continuity throughout our service area.”

Consolidates physical servers by 10:1 ratio. The fire and rescue service will be significantly reducing the number of physical servers, consolidating them at a ratio of 10:1. Nine servers will deliver up to 90 virtual machines, helping lower hardware, heat, and electricity costs, and reduce server space requirements.

Lowers software licensing costs. Graham says: “With Hyper-V, there are no additional licensing costs and our proof of concept showed that the technology provided the ideal solution for our nine area HQs.”

Restores applications quickly and easily. Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Service will soon have a complete disaster recovery solution that is highly available, meeting the service’s requirements for business continuity in a cost-effective, environmentally sustainable way.

Provides reliable solution for testing software upgrades. Graham says: “Hyper-V allows us to reduce the number of physical servers in our data centre and create development and user acceptance testing environments.”

Boosts productivity. Using Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager, IT personnel can easily manage the virtualised environment while deploying and monitoring software.

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 3600 employees

Organization Profile

Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Service is the largest in Scotland, protecting more than half the population. It has nine area headquarters managing a total of 111 community fire stations.

Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Active Directory Domain Services
  • Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2
  • Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
  • Microsoft Hyper-V

Vertical Industries
  • Government
  • Public Safety & Justice

United Kingdom

Business Need
  • Corporate Software Licensing
  • Cost Containment
  • Environmental Sustainability

IT Issue
  • Identity, Security and Access Management
  • Virtualization