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.

A major change in moving to blade servers was the need for a separate storage area network. This added to the learning curve for the IT department, since it also had to learn how to use the monitoring and management tools for IBM's BladeCenter. The process took less than two months, because IBM provided lots of documentation for the blade system and the DS4300. "We didn't go to any classes," Saraswat said. "We just learned by ourselves." IBM partner Sirius Computer Solutions installed the storage system.

Saraswat and his team started rolling out applications running on the new systems in February 2005. Among the immediate advantages was speed. The internal input/output connections in the old servers were about 500 Mbytes per second, while the Ethernet connection between the blade chassis and the SAN was 2 Gbytes per second.

Other advantages were inherent in the blade server architecture. For one, applications that ran on Solaris were consolidated on to a Linux blade, which left one less OS to maintain and fewer software licenses, Saraswat said. A server outage was also easier to handle because a broken blade could be swapped out with a spare.

Overall, the blade/SAN combination led to a 40% reduction in total cost of ownership over the old system, Saraswat said. Part of that drop came from the elimination of one IT position and the fact that the new systems came with a three-year, on-site maintenance support package, which means Burbank did not have to pay extra for support during that timeframe.

The scale-out approach of blade servers has proven to be an advantage as Burbank adds applications. If more processing power is needed, then the city adds more blades. In stacking the servers in a chassis, however, Saraswat advises that at least one slot stay empty, in order to increase airflow for cooling and to avoid excessive heat from power consumption.

About a month ago, Burbank started on what Saraswat calls "phase two" of the project, which is building server clusters, so that if a blade goes down, the application can continue to run on other hardware. In building the environment, the city is using Oracle's Real Application Clusters tools, which support blades and Linux.

Once clusters are created, the city plans to move them to different geographical locations for protection against a disaster. If one group of servers gets knocked off the network, then others would pickup the workload. Burbank is in the earthquake-prone Los Angeles Basin.

Overall, Saraswat is pleased with the move to blades and was hard pressed to name any disadvantages from the old system. "I don't really have any," he said.

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