Santa Ana, Calif.-based First American Corp., a Fortune 500 company that provides business information and analytics, is standardizing its data center with virtualization software from VMware, Inc. to improve power efficiency and better server utilization rates.
First American’s Enterprise Architect, Jake Seitz, said the increasing cost of power was the most significant driver for virtualization.
“In Q407 we started looking at our utility costs and our data center footprint, and realized that embracing virtualization would help us maximize what we have and shrink our utility footprint,” Seitz said. “My hope is that we can get to 80% virtualzed environment – we are at about 30% right now.”
Low hardware utilization rates also prompted the company to invest in VMware virtualization. “We wanted to better utilize our existing hardware. We had some hardware utilization as low as 4%, and rarely would be see anything above 15% utilization,” Seitz said.
When Seitz began looking at virualization about two years ago, he also deployed small Microsoft Virtual Server and Citrix XenServer environments – both less expensive than VMware – but decided to standardize on VMware going forward because he liked the management tools and support.
When the project started, the data center at First American was equipped with 2,800 physical servers running that many OSes. After virtualizing 700 of those servers, First American runs 3,500 OSes, Seitz said.
The OSes are mostly Microsoft Windows, though there are some Unix systems on mainframes and in Xen containers, he said. The physical servers supporting the virtual machines are x86 servers rom Hewlett Packard and Dell, and many are equipped with Intel Xeon quad-core processors, Seitz said.
First American hasn’t gotten rid of many physical servers because they lease them, but it will save power in the long run because with better server utilization, they won’t have to add more physical servers in the future, Seitz said.
Also, because their hardware is leased, it is refreshed every three years. When this happens, the IT staff has to port all of the applications and OSes from the old hardware to the new hardware. Normally, this takes months to accomplish, but it should be a lot easier using virtualization, Seitz said.
“Now, instead of doing a one-to-one refresh, we will virtualize our environment and it will shave off a few months in man hours,” Seitz said.
The company is starting to virtualize their mission critical applications now, and have even adopted a “virtual machine first” policy.
“You need a really good reason to get a physical server,” Sietz said. “Everything we do now is virtual.”