Multiplying Virtual Servers With New VMware Tools

Gannett plans to use software from VMware to increase the number of virtual servers it runs on one physical server fivefold

November 22, 2003

3 Min Read
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VMware Inc. began in November to ship VirtualCenter, an expanded management tool that handles provisioning, monitoring, and security access controls for virtual servers across multiple physical servers. VirtualCenter, unveiled in June as VMware Control Center, also feeds the data it collects to more comprehensive management suites such as IBM Tivoli and Computer Associates Unicenter. VMware is working on integration with Hewlett-Packard OpenView. In addition to VirtualCenter, VMware is also making its VMotion technology available as part of ESX Server. VMotion software lets system administrators move virtual servers from one physical server to another using a drag-and-drop Windows screen interface. These servers can be moved without interruption to any applications running on them.

Gannett Co., one of the world's largest media companies, plans to meet the need for computing power through a strategy of server consolidation. The company, which owns 94 daily U.S. newspapers, including USA Today, is using VMware's virtualization software to quickly and cheaply upgrade older servers while also setting up test environments to ensure a smooth transition.

Since August, the company has been running VMware's ESX Server on two four-way Intel-based IBM x440 servers. Gannett's IT staff is using ESX Server to divide the x440s into 10 virtual servers running intranet, systems management, and financials apps migrated from older Intel-based servers running on either Pentium 2 or Pentium 3 processors.

That's just the beginning, Gannett IT architect Eric Kuzmack says. The company plans to continue to wring efficiency out of its IT operations by running as many as 25 virtual servers on each x440 over the next several months. The century-old news company saw 2002 net income jump nearly 40% to $1.2 billion, while sales only increased 1% to $6.4 billion.

Companies in several industries, including agribusiness J.R. Simplot Co. and insurance provider American International Group Inc., have for years been using VMware virtualization software to consolidate Intel-based server farms that grew out of late 1990s business growth. Gannett, however, is taking advantage of VMware's newest technology to improve the management of these virtual servers.Gannett has been testing a beta version of VirtualCenter with VMotion software. "Using VirtualCenter, I can delegate permissions for accessing virtual servers to groups of users in our [Microsoft] Active Directory," Kuzmack says. Without VirtualCenter, he would have to create a directory on each physical server running ESX Server and wouldn't be able to integrate those directories with Gannett's larger enterprise-level management applications.

"This integration will also let us better monitor server utilization," Kuzmack says. Using VMotion, Gannett system administrators will be able to quickly move virtual servers from highly utilized servers to those with plenty of resources without having to schedule downtime.

Gannett is planning to use ESX Server with VirtualCenter and VMotion to create a test environment for a new identity management application to be used to delegate access to the company's databases and E-mail servers. "With a small amount of financial investment, we can create an environment for testing," Kuzmack says.

Gannett purchased two Intel-based IBM x345 servers and is using ESX Server to re-create its entire domain infrastructure, including database, E-mail, and identity-management servers, Kuzmack says. Without VMware, Gannett would have had to purchase a separate server for each application. "While today we're focused on basic things like server consolidation, if virtualization matures we'll see where else in the company it can be used to save money and improve business processes."

Although Gannett wouldn't disclose how much it has invested in VMware software or its test environment, pricing for VirtualCenter Management Server starts at $5,000, while VMotion is an option priced at $700 per CPU. ESX Server is priced starting at $3,750 for a two-way server. ESX Server is designed to run on any 32-bit Intel-based servers, VMware president and CEO Diane Greene says. Although Intel has big plans for its 64-bit Itanium processors in the coming year, Green says her company will wait for demand to grow before delivering a 64-bit-compatible version of ESX Server.

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