By Guest Blogger Todd Leavitt, IT Manager at PBS Engineering and Environmental
A little over a year ago, we experienced a near-catastrophic data center outage. Our servers were protected by a potassium-based fire suppression system that a service contractor accidentally set off, nearly destroying all our critical hardware and rendering our servers useless. As IT Manager at PBS Engineering and Environmental, this was my worst nightmare, but our IT team kept a constant vigil for several weeks to make sure that the problem wouldn’t affect our customers.
At PBS, we provide professional consulting and management services, managing projects for a range of public and private clients from our eight offices in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.Many of our clients are global enterprises, and our top priority is to store and deliver their critical data, no matter what. Fortunately, we had already invested in virtualization, so when our data center crashed, our virtual machines saved the day. Without virtualization already in place, I don’t know what we would’ve done.
As a small business, there’s no margin for error when it comes to downtime, so our outage served as a real wake-up call. We knew that we needed to strengthen our virtualized environment and improve business continuity. Luckily, just after our close call, I heard about the Journey to Your Cloud $100,000 Technology Makeover Contest sponsored by VMware and Dell. I entered the contest, explained my vision for shoring up our disaster recovery efforts, and won.
I began meeting with VMware and Dell solution experts to set goals and create a plan for implementation. At first, we considered data replication for our disaster recovery facility in Vancouver, Washington. But after much discussion, we chose the VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager solution for its additional automation and simplicity.
With VMware and Dell, we designed a solution that combined our existing hardware with new components. And in roughly a month, we built out a mini data center that serves as the protected site for our self-adjusting site recovery management. We added VMware vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler, and now we can intelligently balance capacity across hardware. Plus, all of our files and virtual server files are stored on an EqualLogic array, so if a virtual server or a physical host fails, the virtual machines will start up on another physical box and still know exactly where the files are. And best of all, now we can monitor our entire infrastructure from a single screen with advanced analytics and capacity management for each data center, cluster, host, and virtual server.
As an environmental engineering company, we are committed to green business practices, and the VMware solution helps minimize our carbon footprint. By virtualizing with VMware and Dell, we’ve reduced our total number of servers from 35 to 5 and saved approximately 40 percent in our energy costs on IT infrastructure alone. That is huge for us. And we’ve done it all the while increasing our storage capacity a hundredfold or more.
We also gained considerable efficiencies through the insights provided by the VMware vCenter Operations Manager solution. As soon as I started using the VMware tools, I learned that 85 percent of our virtual machines could be optimized for more efficient utilization. We now get incredible visibility across our entire cloud, in a single-pane view, and that helps us maximize our resources.
For our employees, VMware technology enables 24/7 accessibility to desktop applications from anywhere – field, desk, or home – on virtually any device. Mac, Linux, iPad – it doesn’t matter. Engineers can be out in the field with Windows 8 tablets and access their virtual desktops to get the latest project information. That level of flexibility and availability is of tremendous value for everyone at PBS.
And for our end clients, VMware provides us the agility to serve enterprise needs more flexibly and securely than ever. We deliver front-end Web portals to some of our clients as an IT service, and when they ask us about the availability of our data, we simply show them the details of our VMware environment. That puts them right at ease.
As I look back on our whole mini-disaster and our makeover, I only regret that we didn’t begin virtualization sooner. I started out with one machine and then virtualized a few more and ran those for a while to see if I’d have any problems. After getting consistently great results, it wasn’t long before I trusted the whole approach.
And as we look ahead, we are going to take a closer look at hybrid cloud technologies. We have aggressive plans to expand our Web-hosting business, which may bring us into the hybrid cloud. But, no matter how we choose to grow, I’m confident that VMware will be right there with us.
To learn more about our virtualization and cloud journey, join me and the rest of the PBS team in San Francisco for our VMware breakout session on Tuesday, August 27th at 5:30pm Pacific Standard Time (we’re Session VSVC 5130: Walk Through an IT Makeover, End-to-End, and See the Results).
Let us know about your virtualization plans in the comments below. If you’re interested in learning more, contact a VMware Account Executive at 1-800-964-8559.
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