U.S. Navy Intranet Realizes Big Savings Through Virtualization

EDS has helped the military in consolidating 1,200 x86 servers down to 200, each hosting multiple VMware ESX virtual machines.
In terms of customer satisfaction, he said the consolidated servers not only chew up 50% less energy, but they have 50% less downtime as well. "If one server fails, the virtual machines are moved to another server" and users scarcely notice the outage, he said.

The network previously relied on a form of Windows clustering that moved application services from one copy of the operating system to another. Now he relies on Vizioncore's vRanger to protect against server or cluster outages. It's more efficient, he said, to boot a new virtual machine out of storage and let it resume an application's processing than to move workloads around.

Through his experience with virtualization, he's beginning to think differently about disaster recovery as well, not single server outages but "the smoking hole type of scenario," he said, invoking the 9/11 experience.

With a heavily virtualized data center, exact copies of hardware don't need to be standing by to run an organization's software infrastructure. It can be stored as a set of virtual machines, each representing an operating system and middleware stack, at another data center, and brought up to run quickly in response to a site's disaster. The alternative center can be part of his own organization, a rented facility, or part of someone else's infrastructure in a cooperative agreement where each party maintains surplus computing power for an emergency. He's thinking further savings are possible through such an arrangement and VMware's Site Recovery Manager is the right tool for the task.

Kern issued one caution. The more you virtualize the data center, the more you will need to load up on storage. Saving copies of virtual machines takes space. And virtual machines tend to proliferate. But virtualization also makes it easier to perform maintenance without disruptions and to provision and manage new servers.

Virtualization "is a change in the way you do business and the way you manage IT... . Virtualization doesn't just touch one team. It touches the Active Directory team, the SQL Server team... . They all have to understand it's a bigger challenge than we expected," Kern said.

EDS started managing the NMCI in 2001 under a five-year contract. The Navy extended the contract for three years in 2006, raising its total value to $6.9 billion.

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