After years of helping consumers pack more efficiently for their camping trips, The Coleman Company Inc. decided to do some packing of its own—by consolidating using virtual machines in its data center. The move allowed Shawn Kaiser, network engineer at Coleman, to reduce his data center footprint from approximately 40 servers to two large, eight-way machines in February. This not only lowered the management costs of the data center but also decreased the overall total cost of ownership, Kaiser said.
Enterprises have been moving toward server consolidation for some time. A survey of IT managers released earlier this year by Gartner Inc., a research company based in Stamford, Conn., found that 69 percent of enterprises moved to consolidate their servers in 2001 (the last year for which figures are available), up from 36 percent in 1998. Gartner analysts predicted that IT managers will continue to consolidate servers in an effort to manage systems better while lowering costs.
Coleman, one of the worlds largest manufacturers of camping, backpacking and outdoor gear, began deploying VMware Inc.s ESX Server on two eight-way IBM x440 servers in February. Deploying ESX allowed Kaiser to divide his large multiprocessor IBM servers into many virtual machines running multiple copies of Windows and Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux operating systems.
Using ESX, Coleman was able to replace 40 rack-mountable servers with the two IBM servers. Today, the company has virtual machines for production and eight more for development purposes on the IBM servers. The company is also about to deploy 14 more virtual machines that will go into production this summer.
Kaiser is running the virtual machines on everything from a version of Red Hat Linux to Windows Server 2003. All mission-critical applications, including accounting, e-mail, Web servers and customer relationship management, run on virtual machines created using the virtual machine software. For example, more than four rack-mountable servers that were used to power a business process management application from Hyperion Solutions Corp. have been replaced by virtual machines running on an IBM x440.
"We went from many physical boxes in several racks to two IBM servers in what Id call a rapid deployment consolidation," Kaiser said. "Without virtual machines, it would take months to roll out something like a Hyperion application requiring five servers, which require ordering, billing, maintenance and setup."