Apr 22 2010

Self-Taught Server Virtualization

Alan Lantz, system administrator for the city of Rogers, Ark., began dabbling with server virtualization about a year ago when he needed to deploy a new public safety communications application that required six servers.

To get the application up and running, he turned to Citrix XenServer to virtualize the application and made it available to users through Citrix's XenDesktop desktop virtualization software. He chose Citrix's software because the city previously standardized on Citrix XenApp for its thin-client computing architecture.

The VMs worked so well, Lantz is now virtualizing as many applications on the server as possible. He's currently migrating 40 rack servers to six new Fujitsu BX900 blade servers. Lantz currently runs about 80 VMs across six different servers. About half the VMs are running in production, while the others are available for load-balancing purposes.

"We don't have to buy any more hardware," Lantz says. "We just virtualize whatever we get in the door." 

Lantz taught himself to implement server virtualization by reading 500-page Citrix manuals and reading Citrix's online support forum. "It's very easy to use and gives me high availability," he says.

The only beef he has is that Citrix XenServer requires VMs to run on the same make and model of servers, but that's no longer an issue because he has standardized on the Fujitsu blades.

For server virtualization to work well, make sure your tech infrastructure is up to snuff, Lantz advises. That means ensuring there's enough network bandwidth and that you deploy a SAN for centralized storage, he says. The city purchased a 7TB NetApp SAN, which immediately simplified storage management.

 "We had so many makes and models, we couldn't keep spares of every hard drive," he says.