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Virtualization And Blade Servers: A Competitive Edge

A recent case study offers some insights into a useful combination for many small businesses: virtualization and blade servers.

A recent case study offers some insights into a useful combination for many small businesses: virtualization and blade servers.Lisa Shorr is a consultant who recounted a recent project involving a fast-growing, 45-person law firm: Like any busy law office, Nicholas Barrett & Associates is a document-driven business that depends on reliable e-mail and file servers to meet clients' deadlines. However, over the years, the company's 12 rack-mounted 2U white-box Windows 2003 servers utilized for file and print, email, application, web, SQL and document storage, had become increasingly unreliable.

Further, the company's infrastructure had become prone to crashes due to single points of failure including switches, hard drives, and RAID controllers. They were also running out of space in their small server room inhibiting expansion of their network infrastructure. Cooling issues and overheating were also wreaking havoc on their network. After suffering from several serious crashes that created days of down-time and lost productivity, Nicholas Barrett called my team at PC Troubleshooters.

This sounds like a mess, but I see it as a typical situation for many smaller companies that lack the time and resources to keep up with evolving IT requirements. Faced with the need for a top-to-bottom overhaul, the company made the most of its opportunity.

"Rather than waste the company's time and money overhauling each of the 12 aging servers individually, we opted for a simpler, more streamlined approach," Shorr stated. The solution: a single IBM Blade Center S Chassis with six IBM blades, using Citrix XenServer to virtualize all 12 existing servers. Since the Blade Center includes fully redundant power supplies, storage, controllers, and other components, it avoids single-point-of-failure issues.

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This approach cut the amount of rack space required in the company's data center by nearly two-thirds. Power consumption dropped by 50 percent, and the company saves around $300 per month on its electric bill.

The firm now also has effective backup and disaster recovery plans in place, including an onsite network-attached storage device for initial backups; offsite storage for encrypted long-term backup images; and a secure co-location site where images of the firm's virtual servers are stored for disaster recovery purposes.

Lots of SMBs are thinking about server virtualization. This project, however, shows just how much planning should go into a virtualization effort -- and just how much a company can benefit from those efforts.

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