Considering Running Your Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Solution in a Virtual Environment?

Over the past several months, perhaps driven by economic reasons or possibly by the desire to
Go Green”, I have witnessed more and more businesses contemplating the use of Virtual technology.

Virtualization had a key breakout session in last year’s Nexus conference in Bellevue, WA, referred to by some as one of the Northwest’s premier Enterprise Content Management conferences.

There are many reasons to choose a virtual environment.  It would take quite a long time to list all of the possible advantages, and the benefits and returns will differ from organization to organization.  A few of the reasons that are driving companies to check out virtualization include (but are most certainly not limited to) limited space, energy usage, getting more out of the hardware and initial hardware costs.

The examples and scenarios below are fictitious in nature but they all come from conversations that I have either had or have heard for real life situations.  It is generally understood that the dynamics of the scenarios below are general in nature and could go into much greater detail, but that is the purpose of the blog, to encourage conversation.

  • Limited space in a server room –
    • For Example: Recently a company downsized and in doing so had to consolidate their server hardware resources.  The current server room barely had enough room for the current servers as it was and now they have to make room for more hardware.
    • Usage of Virtualization: Adding a virtual environment could allow the hardware acquired in the company downsizing to become virtualized possibly eliminating the newly acquired physical hardware altogether.  You could have one physical virtual server and this one physical virtual server could be home to the services for a number of the newly acquired servers.
  • Energy usages “Go Green”–
    • For Example: There is a surge in companies wanting to “Go Green”.
    • Usage of Virtualization: Adding just one virtual server to be the new home for 3 or even 5 physical servers.
      • The one physical virtual server would require usage of electrical power as opposed to having 3 or 5 physical servers using electrical power 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
      • Each of the 3 to 5 physical servers may be connected to a Brown out or Black out backup power supply.  Now you require only one Brownout/Blackout backup power supply.
      • The heat generated by the processors of the 3 to 5 physical servers might require that a temperature control unit (A/C) be utilized.  With having just one physical server running the virtualized environment you not only reduce the amount of energy required to cool the server room but you may be able to eliminate the A/C unit altogether or change it out for a smaller unit using less energy.
  • Not utilizing a servers full potential (This could be considered part of Going Green)
    • For example: Conservative estimates show that the average current utilization of one physical server is 10 to 30 percent.  So on average at best, 70 percent of the physical server’s capabilities are not used.
    • Usage of Virtualization: With a virtual environment, you control the resources (CPU, Memory, NIC, Disk Space, etc.) which could allow the use of 50 to 70 percent of the physical server’s resources.
    • Let’s add three servers to one virtual server.
      • Processor usage:
        • For example: Your virtual server hardware has a single quad core (4 processors)
        • Usage of Virtualization: You might assign one processor to each of three servers. You then monitor the three servers and assign the 4th processor to the server that requires more CPU or you can assign the 4th processor as a police to jump in and help out whatever server needs the extra CPU at that time.
        • Memory (RAM):
          • For example: Your virtual server hardware has 20 GB or RAM
          • Usage of Virtualization: You assign 6 GB of RAM to each virtual server.  You can monitor the three servers and assign the remaining RAM to the server that requires more RAM permanently or you can assign the remaining RAM to police whatever server needs the extra RAM at that time.
        • Disk Space:
          • For example: Your virtual server hardware has 300 GB of hard drive space.
          • Usage of Virtualization: You create the virtual server drives as required or desired!  If you require a 30 GB C drive then you assign 30 GB to the C drive for each of the three virtual servers.  You then take the remaining 210 GB and make a 30 GB D drive on one virtual server and then create a 30 GB D drive and a 30 GB E drive on the two remaining virtual servers.  It’s all up to you.
            • You still have 60 GB remaining to use how you choose.
  • Initial hardware costs –
    • Costs will vary and every scenario will have different results
    • Recently I was in attendance when the cost for hardware to implement an ECM solution was researched.  The cost to build the environment on physical servers was in the ball park of $90,000. This cost included redundant and disaster recovery servers.
    • When a Virtual environment was priced, to accommodate the same configuration, it came to just over half that cost.

Cut costs, “Go Green” and strengthen your business simultaneously. Go Virtual!

Related blogs on “Go Green”:

http://projectmanagementforecm.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/economize-your-ecm-investment-by-making-your-datacenter-green/

Robert Gartner
Sr. Systems Engineer
ImageSource, Inc.

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