Burbank Gets Higher Performance In Move To Blade Servers - InformationWeek

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Burbank Gets Higher Performance In Move To Blade Servers

The California city's new hardware replaced Sun Microsystems Netra servers, IBM System P servers, and Hewlett-Packard ProLiant DL360s.

The city of Burbank, Calif., needed speed and flexibility in its hardware when it decided about three years ago to upgrade its Oracle ERP system. For Mahesh Saraswat, the city's technical project manager, the best choice was blade servers, but for the other stakeholders, moving to such a dramatically different architecture was awfully scary.

"It was a cultural struggle," Saraswat said of trying to sell the idea to business and IT managers. "People don't want to touch anything new." In addition, city departments often pay for their own servers and like to see a box that they can call their own. Blades are hidden in chassis and don't offer the same feeling of ownership. "To them [department heads], it looks like one big computer," Saraswat said.

In 2004, Saraswat was new to his job. Before becoming a city worker, he was an independent consultant. Before that, he had worked for Oracle. To convince people blades were the best choice, Saraswat first had to get them to trust the new guy. "I wanted to change their operations and data center, and it took awhile to build up their confidence."

Patience, hand holding, and a strong argument for making the change eventually won, so in September 2004 the new IBM BladeCenter chassis and blades arrived, and work began.

Burbank is not alone in its choice of blades to consolidate servers and reduce costs. Sales of blades are in the double digits year to year and by 2010 are expected to account for 20% of the overall server market from about 5% last year, according to Gartner. IBM is the market leader, followed by Hewlett-Packard.

Burbank's new hardware replaced Sun Microsystems Netra servers, IBM System P Servers, and Hewlett-Packard ProLiant DL360s. The machines, which had their own internal storage, mostly ran the Oracle ERP system and ESRI's geographic information system, which maps the city's infrastructure, such as power lines, sewage, and cables. The catalyst for the migration was the need to upgrade the Oracle applications from the 1999 version to 10.7.

With the old hardware, Burbank used four operating systems: AIX, Linux, Solaris, and Windows. With the new system, the city dropped Solaris and made a long-term commitment to eventually consolidate all applications on Linux and Windows, something that has yet to be achieved. The reason is not all applications used by the city run on Linux.

In fact, Linux also caused delays in deploying the blade servers. The lack of drivers for some hardware was a problem. For example, the city had to wait about four weeks for QLogic to deliver a Linux driver for its Fibre Channel host bus adapter, which was used in connecting blade chassis to the city's new IBM System Storage DS4300. "It wasn't a major delay," Saraswat said. "It was just some of the challenges in the initial installation of the hardware."

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