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Monster savings from virtualization on Sesame Street

By Laurianne McLaughlin
April 7, 2008 12:00 PM ET

CIO - Noah Broadwater, vice president of information services at Sesame Street Workshop, likes using open-source virtualization tools for several good reasons -- starting with green ones that have nothing to do with Oscar the Grouch.

Broadwater recently faced a budget crunch at the same time he needed new Web servers and was physically running out of room in his data center. His solution: new HP blade servers based on Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise server software, which builds in Xen's virtualization software. (Xen is the leading open-source alternative to VMware Inc.'s offering.)

"We said let's try it," says Broadwater, who leads the nonprofit company's IT staff of about 20 people. "It saved us from buying new servers." Happy with the results from virtualizing the Web servers, Broadwater planned a substantial virtualization project to make over his other servers, starting with his test and development boxes, beginning about a year ago.

The vendor road less taken

Sesame had been spending approximately $250,000 every three years on hardware and support for its Sun Solaris servers, Broadwater says. The new approach combined 25 virtual machines onto four physical servers within a blade center and reduced that cost to $24,000 every three years, he says. Broadwater's team also consolidated 10 servers, including application, image and log servers onto four physical boxes.

When done with its virtualization effort, the company will reclaim two racks worth of space in its already cramped data center, and reduce power consumption by 15%, Broadwater estimates.

Broadwater's desire to save is not unique: Many IT leaders now tap into the consolidation benefits of virtualization. But his choice of vendor is relatively unusual. Today, the overwhelming majority of enterprise shops use VMware's tools.

Do many enterprise leaders even think of Novell when they're considering virtualization options? "On the technology side, Novell has made significant headway; however, I think they need to up their marketing efforts to further build brand recognition for their virtualization offerings," says Burton Group research analyst Chris Wolf. "That is also crucial in building a strong partner ecosystem." VMware and Citrix have rounded up more partners to date than Novell, to offer complementary products to IT managers.

With Microsoft Corp. entering the virtualization market with its Hyper-V hypervisor (expected to ship in August) and a virtualization management suite, Novell will face even more competition. But that's not a death knell for Novell, Wolf says. "The virtualization market is more than large enough for Novell to carve out its own sizable chunk," Wolf says.

Out with relics, in with open source

So with VMware commanding the enterprise virtualization market, why didn't Broadwater use the leader? "First, obviously, cost," Broadwater says. "VMware has a great solution, it's just very expensive. Second, we're a firm believer in and use a lot of open source. Not just because of cost but because of philosophy. We actually work on open-source projects and give code back." Broadwater has been using open-source tools such as the Apache Web server software for years.

This story is reprinted from CIO.com, an online resource for information executives. Story Copyright CXO Media Inc., 2012. All rights reserved.
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