GlaxoSmithKline an early adopter of virtualization

Put the onus on vendors to support virtual platforms

Pharmaceuticals manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline Australia was an early adopter of virtualization, introducing the technology almost four years ago.

The company's IT operations and infrastructure manager, Brett Forrest, said a large number of physical servers were migrated last year during a Windows NT 4.0 mitigation project.

"We are now focusing on the next six months to consolidate the rest of our physical Windows infrastructure onto a very small number of servers; this has the potential to be less than 12 physical servers," Forrest said.

"We are also using the opportunity to challenge whether a particular server or application is really required."

GlaxoSmithKline is currently in the process of moving to VMWare 3.0 to gain the advantages of automated redundancy and resource allocation.

Forrest believes virtualization technology is now mature enough to deploy with confidence for mission-critical applications.

"It provides the ability to quickly implement a server allowing IT to respond to business needs in a more timely manner," he said.

To overcome some of the challenges of introducing a new technology, Forrest said it is important to gain the support of major stakeholders.

Forrest said demonstrations are helpful to educate others on the benefits of its use.

He said it is also important to put the onus back on suppliers and vendors to support virtual servers.

"If they don't support their application on virtual platforms ask them why not or find someone that does," Forrest added.

"Even applications requiring dongles no longer need to be on physical hardware. Instead, you can use USB-network dongles to meet these requirements."

Forrest said it is also worth ensuring hardware purchases are big enough to run a high number of virtual servers.

He admits one challenge is staff training.

"Take the time and effort to invest in training in the technology for your staff," Forrest said.

"Also be aware of continuity requirements. If you consolidate from 20 physical servers down to one, you increase the likelihood of a single-point of failure causing major disruptions.

"Therefore, ensure you have another physical server for fail-over."

VMWare is staging virtualization forums in both Sydney and Melbourne this week with more than 1,400 participants registered to attend.

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