2 The Big Server Push

Strong demand for the benefits of virtualization continues to propel server projects -- despite economic uncertainty.

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While Scottrade uses embedded VMware virtualization software on its blade servers for rapid deployment on the front end, hypervisors use too much overhead in the midtier transaction-processing environment. With blades, Patterson says, "the backplane isn't fast enough to keep up." Instead, Scottrade uses "the hottest, biggest" 1U and 2U rack-mounted x86-class servers it can find.

Other operations are also moving toward buying fully loaded server platforms to host virtual machines in 2009. Dan Blanchard, vice president of enterprise operations at Marriott International Inc. in Bethesda, Md., says his company remains committed to rolling out a remote-recovery data center this year. Virtual servers will be key to Marriott's fail-over strategy. "We're definitely going with high-end systems. That way we can fit more virtual platforms on a single box," Blanchard says.

Proceed With Caution

But many organizations fear that capital-intensive projects might be affected if the economy worsens. At PerkinElmer, Lindgren has a major effort under way to consolidate 17 SAP ERP programs onto Itanium systems starting in early 2009. The equipment has already been purchased. "Thankfully, that one is ahead of the curve," Lindgren says.

In some cases, IT organizations are struggling to fund server consolidation efforts. "It's a 'capital-light' environment right now," but some IT organizations are using server refresh budgets to bootstrap virtualization efforts, says Bonecutter.

IT can harness refresh dollars to gain savings quickly by rationalizing the server environment, reducing not just the number of physical servers but the total number of server instances as well. IT organizations that do that, Bonecutter says, can make virtualization efforts a "self-funding exercise."

Many organizations haven't done that in the first phase of their virtualization rollouts, he notes, adding that rationalizing server environments will be a big priority for his clients this year.

Lindgren is also planning ahead for the possibility of cutbacks in both ongoing projects and operating budgets, although so far, none are expected. "We're buying portions of things over a three-month period so that if the economy changes, we can react quicker," he says.

If the economy worsens, many companies are likely to push IT projects out for a few quarters, says Bailey.

IT organizations are also looking for ways to reduce upfront capital outlays. "[The economy] has customers thinking of more leasing and hosting options," Bailey says.

At Scottrade, Patterson says the new data center will be hosted at a collocation facility. Lindgren also plans to rely on consultants and third-party service providers, just in case a rapid pullback is called for. As he says, "It's not a great time to be taking on a lot of risk."

Next: A virtual panel of software-as-a-service users report increases of speed and flexibility

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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