Dave Vellante and Michael Crader of BT
Today the Wikibon community had Michael Crader, the head of Windows Consolidation from BT, present on the two-year project he headed to consolidate thousands of Windows servers in eight major facilities across the United Kingdom, using VMware and NetApp SAN storage.
In 2006 BT faced a crisis. Its UK data centers were out of capacity, physical space, and cooling capabilities. It was consuming 0.7% of all electricity produced by the nation, and energy costs were through the roof. It was failing to meet SLAs, and backup took days, leaving customer data at risk. To say the least, clients were not happy. And the high cost of real estate in the UK precluded building more data centers, which would cost it $120M US.
To remedy this situation, BT embarked on an ambitious project to consolidate more than 3,000 Wintel servers across the UK. The four primary business objectives of the project were:
- Improve information access;
- Reduce operational costs by lowering data center footprint and power and cooling expenses;
- Improve operational efficiency and increase systems utilization by virtualizing servers and storage;
- Respond quickly to business needs through a capacity-on-demand model.
The specific project objectives involved:
- Consolidating more than 3,000 existing Wintel servers;
- Achieving a consolidation ratio for servers of 15:1;
- Migrating to an ‘allocate-on-demand’ infrastructure;
- Implementing a best practice standard for all future Windows deployments.
In the words of Michael Crader, “It was vital that BT not institute tomorrow's legacy systems today.”
The Storage Imperative It achieved a server consolidation ratio of 15:1. To fully implement VMware, it synchronized server and storage virtualization and moved storage from a fragmented, DAS model with a little bit of everything to a centralized SAN standardized on NetApp that increased utilization drastically, cut backup time for the full system to a half hour, and allowed a small staff in a single centralized facility to manage and control the entire system.
It chose NetApp because it made thin provisioning easy and allowed for unified NFS, iSCSI and fibre channel. BT used NetApp Snap technology to eliminate tape and replicate across a WAN. As well, NetApp provided a centralized managed service for BT.
The Benefits The benefits were astounding. On average, every time BT shut off a server it saved 700 watts of power. In total, BT saved approximately two megawatts of power or $2.4M in annual energy costs. It cut hardware required by 50%, increased storage utilization to 70%, reduced server maintenance costs by 90%, and a project that started in April of 2006 paid back by Christmas.
- 3,100 physical servers to 134;
- 700 racks at eight sites down to 40 at five sites;
- 2.1 megawatts of power consumed down to 0.24 megawatts;
- More than 9,000 network ports down to 840;
- Backup from 96 hours to a full daily in 30 minutes; and
- Server deployment from six weeks to one working day.
BT got rid of maintenance contracts on 3,000 servers, eliminated antiquated backup processes, reduced maintenance expense, re-deployed technical staff, eliminated tape operators (tape loaders) and reduced restoration time from hours or days to seconds. More importantly, the firm disposed of (in an eco-friendly manner) 225 tons of equipment across two sites.
For its excellence in green IT, BT was recently recognized at the European-wide green awards summit and took home three top awards: European Green IT Summit Awards
Advice to Others
BT’s experiences with this project suggest the following advice to other users:
First, obtain buy-in from the business. As always, management support is critical, especially with virtualization, as many business owners will not want to virtualize ‘their boxes.’ Be prepared to sell this capability to the business based on better responsiveness, lower costs to the firm and eco-friendliness. As well, sprinkle in some virtual capacity (memory and disk) to sweeten the pot.
Virtualize test and development applications first to build credibility as a pilot. Use that ‘street credibility’ to build a strong story and sell management on the concept of saving many millions of dollars. But be prepared to develop in-house skills and ‘own’ the architecture.
Remember that not all applications can be virtualized, and some will require specialized storage for performance and other business imperatives (e.g. fax servers and heavy-hitting Citrix boxes).
Finally, be prepared to make investments up front. You must build a new infrastructure to prepare to exploit the efficiencies that synchronizing server and storage virtualization can bring.
Action Item: Customers considering consolidation with virtualization should synchronize server and storage virtualization to gain maximum efficiencies such as those demonstrated by BT. Stories such as BT’s are compelling. However, users should be vigilant to address the root causes of data growth and be prepared to classify, migrate, archive, and where possible shred inactive data. Don’t just buy the hype; implement disciplined approaches to information management that complement technology investments.