WA Roads drives Hyper-V into production

A year after betting on Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualisation platform, Main Roads Western Australia is looking to consolidate its server infrastructure and exploit better disaster recovery.

The state government agency outsources most of its IT to service provider Empired in a contract managed by WA Main Roads' IT operations manager John Tidy.

Tidy said the adoption of virtualisation is progressing well, and Main Roads is making “good use” of the features.

“All up it was a good decision,” he said. “We have expanded the production cluster, which has now gone from four to six physical servers.”

Main Roads has about 30 virtual servers in production and another 70 on a separate cluster for testing and development.

With the total physical server up around 180, including 50 blades in 5 chassis, Tidy wants to reduce the number down to half or less by mid-2011.

“I wouldn’t call it a private cloud, but it has gone a long way to increasing our agility,” he said. “Out management of IT is centralised with our main server room in East Perth and all IT activities come through information management branch so we’re not talking about a scenario where we have multiple IT departments.”

Main Roads is going through a “significant growth spurt” with applications and instead of purchasing physical server licensing for Microsoft products it uses VMs instead as its current server licensing allows unlimited number of guests.

“It didn’t take long to recover data centre licensing costs by running as many guests as possible,” Tidy said.

During the virtualisation evaluation process, Main Roads deployed VMware, but eventually migrated to Hyper-V as it is a “Microsoft shop”.

“We are happy with the decision to go Hyper-V. Our view is if you are Microsoft shop you will have Hyper-V anyway so we didn’t want to divide our skill set across two different products,” Tidy said.

“We will use less hardware, which is good for environmental reasons, but the longer term strategic areas are DR and the ability to duplicate the environment easily.”

Main Roads is not yet doing DR with is virtual infrastructure, but Tidy expects the new architecture to be helpful in achieving it.

“Empired is testing automated fail over of a physical server to a virtual equivalent and that is quite promising,” Tidy said. “We are doing a proof of concept at moment.”

Main Roads WA senior technical consultant Simon Calley said the cost of the project was recovered less quickly that first expected and the agency will realise savings of about $500K over a longer time.

“The result of this project is agility which has not clouded the cost,” Calley said. “The gap between VMware and Hyper-V has narrowed with [Server 2008] R2 and the product is meeting our needs. We are also using Virtual Machine Manager which is familiar.”

Main Roads is now rolling out Exchange 2010 on its virtual server infrastructure.

Rodney Gedda is Editor of TechWorld Australia. Follow Rodney on Twitter at @rodneygedda. Rodney's e-mail address is rodney_gedda@idg.com.au. Follow TechWorld Australia on Twitter at @Techworld_AU.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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