Faced with a rapid proliferation of Windows servers as a result of business growth, Moen Inc. tapped virtualization software from VMware Inc. to control server sprawl within its data centers. The move enabled the largest faucet maker in North America to cut operations expenses by 25 percent within six months and decreased the companys total cost of ownership.
"In the last two years, weve increased the number of Intel [Corp.] servers we have by a factor of four, which is significant because we have not increased head count by a factor of four," said Rob Buchwald, technical lead for Moens Systems Assurance Team, in North Olmsted, Ohio. "Our main goal was cost savings."
Processing power continues to drop in price—but space, electricity, installation and administration are not getting cheaper. This is why enterprises such as Moen are increasingly turning to virtualization to consolidate workloads and reduce server footprints while lowering their costs.
The cost savings are more than a drop in the sink. Research company Gartner Inc., of Stamford, Conn., estimates that by 2008, enterprises that do not leverage virtualization technologies will spend 25 percent more annually for hardware, software, labor and space for Intel servers. These same organizations will spend 15 percent more on storage costs for RISC servers.
The company began looking for a more fluid, enterprisewide IT infrastructure last year. With about 150 servers running Microsoft Corp.s Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 Server, and some servers running Red Hat Inc.s Fedora Linux operating system, Buchwald and his colleagues faced a choice of either buying more hardware—and increasing operations costs—or finding new technology to better use existing resources.
After looking at several hardware and software solutions, Moen chose to deploy VMwares ESX Server virtual infrastructure software to partition, consolidate and manage systems.
ESX Server allows the company to run multiple operating systems on one server.
"We looked at hardware services, but in the end, theyre servers and are still hardware-dependent solutions," Buchwald said. "Microsoft also has a product [that competes with VMware], but it was not on the market at that time [last year], and even then, it needs to sit on top of an operating system. We were looking for something more streamlined and optimized."
Moen moved to virtualize 20 percent of the servers at its North Olmsted headquarters in the first six months using VMwares P2V (Physical to Virtual) Assistant, a migration tool. The tool enabled the company to reduce the time it took to configure and provision a new server from 30 hours to a few hours, Buchwald said.
Today, Moen has 40 to 50 percent of its data center running in a virtual environment, Buchwald estimated. The company is also a large Sun Microsystems Inc. shop, but the Solaris operating system virtualizes on its own and doesnt need to run on the VMware infrastructure.
Currently, Moen is using ESX Server mainly for applications that are not CPU-intensive but still need a dedicated server. These include Web applications, SAP AG components, Citrix Systems Inc. servers and portions of the companys e-mail infrastructure.
"Our environment will never be 100 percent virtualized: There are always going to be some apps where it doesnt make sense to code-share hardware," Buchwald said.
In using virtual machines, Moen has seen significant cost savings, Buchwald said. Within the first six months, the company has reduced monthly hardware support costs by 27 percent and saved $250,000 by reallocating hardware it already owned instead of buying 20 new servers.
Building on the success of using virtualization technologies, Moen is now looking at incorporating virtualization into its disaster recovery strategy. Buchwald said he is now looking at tapping the native features of VMwares infrastructure with EMC Corp.s SAN (storage area network)-connected disk storage.
"We can have a disaster recovery situation where we can bring a server back in a matter of minutes," Buchwald said. "By reducing maintenance, the technology really allows us to dedicate most of our time to supporting the business."
Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.