IT in the Ad Biz

Apr 28 2008   2:24AM GMT

Virtualizing the Ad Agency

JohnWilder John Wilder Profile: JohnWilder

Virtualization seems to have taken the IT world by storm, and those of us in the Advertising business are along for the ride. I’ve been playing around with virtualization myself for over a year now, and I only see this becoming a bigger part of our business in the future.

It starts at the desktop level, where personally I’ve been running VMware’s Workstation product on my personal laptop. I’ve been running Vista for over a year now, and during that time Workstation has provided me with a convenient copy of XP for those apps which didn’t behave on Vista. The reason I ultimately chose VMware’s product over Microsoft’s desktop virtualization was that it included support for USB devices.

Even more important for those of us in the Agency business at a desktop level, are the possibilities for desktop virtualization the Mac side. Once again, we’ve opted to go with VMware’s Fusion product on our Intel-based Macs. We’re currently struggling with two problems on our Macs which have proven difficult to solve. We’re not huge fans of Microsoft Entourage as an e-mail client, and I could probably devote an entire rant to Microsoft’s decision to drop support for Outlook on the Mac side. We’re also experiencing problems with Mac access to our SharePoint sites. SharePoint works with Safari and Firefox, but as one would expect with a Microsoft app, it works much better with Internet Explorer. We’re hoping that both problems will be solved by actually providing our Mac users with access to Outlook and IE through VMware’s Fusion and a local copy of Windows on their machines.

On the server side, we took the plunge into VMware last year, purchasing ESX Server. We’ve gone fairly slowly in terms of virtualizing our infrastructure, but we’re currently running a SharePoint server, two utility servers, and two development servers as VMs, and we’ve become totally sold on the technology. As a result, we’ve added a second box in order to utilize Virtual Center to aid in the management and to provide load balancing. We’ve also added shared storage via our EqualLogic iSCSI SAN. It all works great, and the possibilities it provides us are endless. If there is a downside, this stuff is expensive, and VMware’s product line and licensing are pretty confusing, and that could give them a problem down the road as Microsoft’s Hyper-V product continues to mature.

We’ve got big plans for virtualization in our Agency. In addition to what we’re doing already, we’re considering virtualization for both high availability and disaster recovery. While we’ve been warned not to virtualize some things, such as domain controllers, Exchange server, and SQL server, we do feel that we can employ a virtual copy in a high-availability or disaster scenario, especially in cases where we maintain the data on a separate platform. We’re also going to explore the possibility of creating a “remote office in a box”, providing us with a quick solution which we could use in acquisitions or the opening of new offices. Our remote offices require a fairly basic setup, and it’s one which we think could be completely virtualized.

We’re going to continue on the path to virtualizing both our servers and desktops. We’ll also be taking a long look at Microsoft’s Hyper-V product. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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