Federal government agency eyes server virtualization

The federal Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources has begun an infrastructure consolidation project one year after severing ties with its outsourcing provider.

Drew Baker, the department's general manager of ICT services, said the department concluded an outsourcing agreement last year and began buying its own hardware.

"We were previously in a Telstra Enterprise Services Group Five outsourcing contract but from July 1 2004 we moved to selective sourcing," Baker said.

The department used to have a mixture of IBM, Dell, and Sun hardware, but decided to standardize on IBM for support and contract simplification. With 2000 screens, 80 servers running 10 Web sites and enterprise applications like Oracle, FinanceOne, and Aurion for HR, Drew hopes to simplify the infrastructure significantly through consolidation and virtualization.

The department will invest in IBM's new xSeries 366 servers with the X3 architecture to replace its ageing infrastructure.

"For the application environment there is more interest in X3," Baker said. "We also have quite an interest in virtualization which is why we looked at 64-bit, particularly for Web and online for performance, recovery, and redundancy. We have used VMWare but in this instance we are looking at IBM's virtualization."

Baker said server consolidation is "on the cards", as "we hope to see a significant reduction in the number of machines in the hosted environment".

"Consolidation savings go beyond the hardware costs; we will see how we go over the next three months as we complete the refresh process and we will look further into consolidation," he said.

The department's manager of ICT infrastructure, Piers Smith, said some software can only run one instance per server so having a virtualization environment should solve this. Also, developers already use VMWare on the desktop which saves hardware investments.

"We're already realizing the cost savings by using the 366 for testing and development of corporate applications as it replaced a multiserver acquisition," Smith said. "For example, with FinanceOne, eight servers were required for development and testing."

IBM xSeries product marketing manager, Jay Bretzmann, said virtualization makes reliability and disaster recovery cheaper.

"IBM entered a joint development agreement with VMWare [as] virtualization is taking off fast," Bretzmann said, adding that the x86 space is different now that processors have moved to 64-bit.

Bretzmann said although Intel-based systems ran enterprise applications it wasn't a "natural platform".

"[During] 2005 more [vendors] will support [Intel's] EM64T (Extended Memory 64 Technology) and we have one architecture from blades to 32-way," he said.

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