Virtual server

By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2004-03-15 Print this article Print

Cigna had specific needs for virtualization. Flock wanted to focus predominantly on the testing and development environment, using virtual machine capabilities to reduce the number of servers and improve utilization.

Flock said that although VMwares products are mature and pervasive, Cigna didnt need all their features. Cignas decision to become a Microsoft JDP partner gave the insurer early access to Microsoft Virtual Server code and a role in the products development.

"We werent looking for broad production usage and had a really fixed and focused requirement for virtualization, which Virtual Server is meeting," Flock said. "We looked to leverage our existing deployment of Windows Server 2003 because it had enhanced isolation and shared infrastructure capabilities that would allow us to take consolidated servers and reduce operating expenses."

Case file

  • Company: Cigna Corp.

  • Location: Philadelphia

  • Challenge: Improve the efficiency and productivity of the benefits providers application servers by consolidating servers in testing and training laboratories; standardize on Windows Server 2003

  • Solution: Join Microsofts Joint Development Program to test and help develop Microsoft Virtual Server; consolidate hardware holding several dozen applications using server virtualization

  • Tools: Microsofts Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition, .Net Framework, Virtual Server, Internet Information Services 6.0, Terminal Services

  • Whats next: Finish deployment of Microsoft Virtual Server in testing and development labs by summer; standardize the entire company on Windows Server 2003 by the end of the year

    Source: eWEEK reporting
  • Cigna operates a multiplatform IT infrastructure that supports its file and print, database, and Web-based services. Servers run applications in preproduction, production, testing, integration testing and development environments. As a result, testing and operating a single application, such as billing, can require as many as 10 dedicated servers, Flock said.

    Microsoft Virtual Server enables Cigna to run multiple applications on a single server. The company uses application virtualization to run multiple DLLs in different test and development environments on a single server. By consolidating current business applications and running multiple testing environments on a server, Cigna has been able to significantly reduce the time needed to introduce a new application.

    Because Microsoft Virtual Server is in beta, some of its features, including hyperthreading, are still being debugged. Through its participation in the JDP, Cigna has been able to suggest changes to ensure that hyperthreading and other features still under development will be ready for use when the product is released later this year, according to Darrell Cook, project lead at Cigna.

    Flock expects Cignas pilot of Microsoft Virtual Server to be completed at the end of next quarter. While he is not ruling out the possibility of broadening the products use to Cignas production and training environments, he said Cigna has no plans to do so now.

    Flock and Cook are also looking at the possibility of leveraging 64-bit computing for midrange hosting with IBMs DB2 and database management systems applications. For now, however, they are keeping 64-bit computing and virtualization independent of each other. (Microsoft officials have said that Microsoft Virtual Server will include 64-bit support.)

    Flock said results from the pilot test have been positive so far. As a result, he said, Cigna will move forward with a deployment of the technology this summer. "Virtualization enables us to move more quickly in the marketplace and foster application delivery," Flock said. "This way, we can dedicate more time to identifying issues and choosing business opportunities that maximize our competitive advantage and [spend less time] on the underlying infrastructure."

    Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at

    Check out eWEEK.coms Server and Networking Center at for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.

    As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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