Northern Ireland Water taps into virtualisation with Hyper-V

21 Jun 2011

Northern Ireland Water has increased its server use to more than 60pc following a recent virtualisation project.

The Northern Irish utility, which provides water services to a population of 1.7m across the province, virtualised its servers using Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V. The organisation switched from its previous vendor VMware, saying its reason for the change was to eliminate server sprawl, where 90 servers had been running in excess of 40 applications with 2pc utilisation.

Northern Ireland Water decided not only to migrate the existing VMware images to the Hyper-V farm but also to use Hyper-V as the virtualisation platform to provide a disaster recovery capability for all key NI Water business applications

The success of the first phase involved physical consolidation of machines and resulted in an increase of server utilisation to more than 60pc. In Phase 2, the decision to move to a single virtualisation platform has seen even further reductions on the total cost of ownership and a degree of flexibility and disaster recovery capability that in the past would not have been available, NI Water said.

“We wanted to get everything into a much smaller footprint and run it as efficiently as we could. Fifteen to 20pc server utilisation is considered a driver for pursuing a virtualisation strategy so we knew that it was the way to go,” said Colin Daysh, ICT programme director at NI Water.

Migration result

Ronan Geraghty, business lead for Microsoft Ireland’s server and tools division, said the migration has resulted in lower cost of ownership. “In NI Water’s case, this has enabled them to save on additional costs of third-party software purchases, investing instead in management to reduce long-term operational costs while increasing service levels, ultimately supporting their future business growth and transformation through better use of the IT budget.”

Using system centre has provided the ability to centrally manage the entire infrastructure more effectively. As the old VMware environment is phased out, NI Water no longer needs separate skills to manage two different environments or support separate hardware. Tools like Virtual Machine Manager, which are part of the Microsoft System Centre suite of products, address the management challenge of virtualisation.

The Live Migration feature allows NI Water’s IT team to move a running virtual machine from one physical host to another without any disruption to the service. “At this point, the default for all new applications is to virtualise them on Hyper-V in what is a very stable, enterprise-class production environment. Hyper-V just works,” Daysh said.

Gordon Smith was a contributor to Silicon Republic