A Case For Virtualization: Roswell Park Cancer Research Institute

The following case study is the second of our five-part series on the gains and pains of server virtualization.
The activation of the Matrixes as production systems will save Vaughan's small staff time and administrative headaches. The Matrix systems automatically produce auditable server logs and reports that help meet compliance requirements. To some extent they're self-regulating, instead of IT needing to painfully reconstruct server events to illustrate compliance in an audit.

Although Vaughan is concerned about the concentration of VMs that Roswell will eventually achieve on 28 blades, he says the BladeSystem is equipped to deal with heavy I/O from VMs. It's equipped with HP's Virtual Connect switch, which passes combined network and storage traffic from VMs off the server to switching devices outside the blade chassis. It's a "smart" pass-through, able to aggregate traffic from multiple virtual servers and move it to the appropriate network devices, whether Ethernet communications or Fibre Channel storage. A virtual infrastructure administrator can assign 10-Gb Ethernet or Fibre Channel capacity to each virtual machine in 100-MB increments, without needing to attach multiple cables to each physical server.

The Matrix can supply each blade with six network connections for its VMs while needing only two cables attached to the blade. Cabling multiple communications and storage networks to Roswell's rack-mount servers was previously a major headache, Vaughan says. As the number of VMs per server increased, so did the cabling. With his planned concentration and automation of VMs, "that wasn't going to work for us," he says. Instead of juggling cables, he's now "using a mouse" to establish network connections.

Vaughan is seeing a potential new value to virtualization that he hadn't anticipated. He's thinking of putting Roswell's SQL Server databases into VMs because their I/O capabilities will no longer be an issue. After a database stress test on the Matrix, he says: "From the I/O it does, SQL Server will have no problem running on the Matrix." Meantime, he'll get the automated compliance, load balancing, redundancy, and failover features that now characterize his other VMs.

Using virtualization and BladeSystem Matrixes, Vaughan estimates Roswell will save $2 million in operating costs over three years and avoid hiring staff he would otherwise have had to add.

Next Up In Part 3: Rooms To Go

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