HR group builds virtual DR with VMware

Management complexity of business continuity significantly reduced

Human resources consulting firm Chandler Macleod Group has revitalised its IT operations by using virtualisation to build virtual disaster recovery and consolidate its server infrastructure.

Chandler Macleod IT programme manager John Walker said the company had a directive to build DR capability, but if it was done the traditional way the IT team would have two sites to maintain instead of just the one main site.

"We had a handful of mid-range boxes and a bunch of aging systems at end of life," Walker said.

With equipment from four manufacturers and 14 generations of server systems Walker looked at the whole problem from the eyes of virtualisation which allowed the company to consolidate the main workload to four high-end boxes and redeploy the free equipment to a DR site.

This strategy also resulted in the decommissioning of the old equipment that was no longer supported.

With a mixture of TPG, Dell, Acer and HP equipment, HP was the most prevalent so it was the chosen vendor for the consolidation and everything was moved to HP.

The big four machines are HP DL580 servers running VMware ESX Server with over 50 VMs hosting Windows Server 2003 guests.

All the other servers are running Windows Server 2003, with 33 midrange boxes running Citrix to present desktop applications to about 1200 users.

"That's almost 40 [people] to a box and that's about as high as we can go," Walker said.

"Virtualisation was new to us, but we did a lot of internal research because we understood the type of apps we are running."

Chandler's integration partner TAS also did a lot of virtualisation testing during the project.

The project also involved an "essential" upgrade to the SAN. The existing low-range HP SAN had SAN Melody installed on top of it which allowed its capacity to increase and brought added benefits of thin provisioning and SAN replication to the DR site.

"One of the key reasons for virtualisation was the governance for the DR site was minimised, so now when we make config changes at the main site it gets replicated to the DR site. That was the governance killer."

Chandler had a secondary site in North Sydney which used to be a small computer room so it took advantage of that for the DR site.

All up, the project resulted in the disposal of 40 computers which were "old, heavy equipment".

The capital expenditure for the project included an update to the SAN and DR site. Walker expects the ROI to "easily be 24 months", including software costs.

"VMware isn't cheap, but it comes down to the ROI and the capability you get with the product. We couldn't do what we wanted to with Hyper-V as it is today."

Walker said the company's dependence on Citrix is "likely to reduce" in the coming years with a move to Web applications.

"Our focus is working off the browser," he said. "We run a lot industry-specific applications, but they are disparate and need to be integrated, so SaaS would fragment our landscape. We need a hosting partner that will run our bespoke applications."

Chandler has some 20 people in IT, including application developers that code in .Net and SQL.

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Rodney Gedda

Techworld Australia
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