City of Alexandria, Louisiana Time, Simplify Management

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C A Tstu
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City of Alexandria, Louisiana
City of Alexandria Virtualizes to Cut Costs, Save
Time, Simplify Management
C h alle n g e
The City of Alexandria in Louisiana,
under tight budgetary constraints,
wished to decrease the cost of running
its IT infrastructure, while improving
manageability and making ongoing
application upgrades to deliver
excellent city services.
s o lu t i o n
Aided by CMA Technology Solutions, the
city began with virtualizing its datacenter
and then took things a step further by
setting up a disaster recovery site and
using Site Recovery Manager as the
failover mechanism to provide maximum
system availability.
•Datacenter 90% virtualized and moving
toward 100%
•Desktop virtualization to extend to
approximately 180 end users
•Site Recovery Manager for automated
datacenter failover to disaster
recovery site
•IT staff of 7 supports systems for 750
geographically dispersed employees using
dozens of applications
IT Staff of Seven Relies on VMware Technology to Provide Dozens
of Applications to 750 End Users
From firefighters to finance directors, employees of the City of Alexandria in Louisiana
depend on the city’s IT department for the applications they need to do their jobs.
Yet the IT department consists of just seven people, providing dozens of applications
to 750 end users—on a budget so tight that three jobs remain unfilled. What makes it
possible is virtualization. Alexandria started virtualizing in 2003, with the aid of VMware
partner CMA Technology Solutions. Since then the city has virtualized 90 percent of its
datacenter, including core Oracle applications. It aims now for 100 percent datacenter
virtualization, as well as desktop virtualization and robust disaster recovery using
VMware solutions.
“Why did we virtualize? It was about money, time and manageability,” says Blake Rachal,
Alexandria’s assistant director of IT. “We saw the value of getting rid of all these physical
servers and virtualizing them—having one physical location with all the resources at
our fingertips.”
Virtualization with VMware technology is saving Alexandria some $300,000 a year
in labor costs, Rachal says. Routine maintenance requires no interruption of service
and no weekend overtime. Provisioning new applications has gone from a month-long
headache to a 30-minute snap.
“Our goal for the city of Alexandria was to develop back-end systems to make the
organization run better, be easier to manage and cost less,” says Jonathan Peyton, IBM
System x and storage specialist with CMA. “Virtualization with VMware technology is
the key.”
City Relies on IT Department for Vital Services
vm wa r e at wo r k
• VMware vSphere 4
• VMware vMotion
• VMware High Availability
• VMware Fault Tolerance
• VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler
• VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager
• Labor-cost avoidance of approximately $300,000 a year
• New applications and upgrades deployed
within hours instead of weeks, with
no travel
• Predictable and reliable site failover
with Site Recovery Manager
Technology Solutions
Located along the Red River, the City of Alexandria is home to 46,000 people and
serves as a premier port for the central Louisiana corridor. City operations are spread
across 14 individual campuses. Vital services supported by the IT department include
police, fire, public works, parks and recreation, wastewater treatment, and utilities, as
well as business functions such as finance and legal services.
Alexandria started working with CMA in 2002. An IBM Premier Business Partner that
provides end-to-end technology solutions and services, CMA helped architect and
deploy the city’s first virtualized infrastructure, as well as a recent upgrade. CMA also
helps the city think strategically about technology possibilities for the future.
“We lean on CMA quite a bit,” Rachal says. “When we put in storage area networks, for
example, and when we put in blades, CMA is our solution partner. They’re professionals.
They do it every day.”
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Today, Alexandria’s VMware infrastructure consists of VMware vSphere® with VMware
vCenter™ management, and a desktop virtualization pilot project running VMware
View™. The vSphere platform includes key features delivering resilience, flexibility
and dynamic agility. VMware vMotion® leverages virtualization of servers, storage and
networking to move an entire running virtual machine instantaneously from one server
to another. VMware High Availability (HA) and VMware Fault Tolerance (FT) decrease
downtime and reduce risk. VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) dynamically
allocates and balances computing resources.
“We run the servers with Distributed Resource Scheduling enabled, so if one is
overtasked it hands operations off to another that’s not working as hard,” Rachal says.
“When we have to bring down a server for maintenance, it happens without end users
even knowing—there’s no interruption of service. On the IT side, it’s not night work
anymore; it’s
not overtime.”
The city’s IT systems run in a City Hall production datacenter and a Customer Service
Center that also serves as a disaster recovery site. These datacenters use IBM servers
and storage, with Microsoft® Windows and Linux operating systems. Before virtualizing,
the city ran 28 physical rack mount servers and a mainframe. Today approximately 16
physical servers remain, in addition to four new IBM hosts. Most of the city’s 38 virtual
machines run on two IBM servers at City Hall.
“They have 8U worth of virtual machine hosts carrying workloads that would take
at least two racks full of physical equipment,” CMA’s Peyton notes. “They save on
equipment, space, power, pooling, and external infrastructure for fiber channel
connections and network ports.
A new 10-gigabit fiber network looping around the city will enable Alexandria to
centralize even the most demanding applications in the main datacenter without
compromising speed of service to end users. “Centralization is where it’s at for us,”
Rachal says. “It just makes everything easier.”
All of this is about delivering the applications that keep Alexandria running and its
citizens safe. The IT department delivers some 30 virtualized applications, ranging
from the core Oracle geographical information system (GIS) database—Oracle Spatial
Network Data Model—to specialized applications used by just a handful of people.
One application connects police patrol cars with databases, so officers can search
information from their mobile laptops. Another helps the motor-pool department track
vehicle maintenance. Yet other applications help run the city animal shelter and zoo.
Alexandria’s virtualization of its GIS application demonstrates the feasibility and
advantages of running a large, mission-critical Oracle database on VMware technology.
The application runs on both an Oracle Web server and a database server, with 5
terabytes of images attached. Approximately 150 end users rely on the resource,
including the planning director; engineering director; and all building, gas, water and
electrical inspectors. The utility and engineering departments use the GIS system to
mark underground utility lines, so they won’t be punctured during new construction.
Ultimately, the application will tie into the property-tax system.
“It will be a stem-to-stern deployment covering all aspects of public works,” Rachal says.
“The Oracle GIS application is absolutely critical to a broad range of city functions—and
it runs beautifully on VMware technology.”
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Fast Provisioning Stuns Application Owners
Application owners typically come to Rachal needing a new deployment “done
yesterday.” In the past it took up to four weeks to order, purchase and deploy physical
servers to handle a new application. Now it takes minutes to provision a new virtual
machine. Recently the city director of utilities came in with a request for new utility
software. “We called him the next day and said, ‘Mike, your server’s ready to go,’” Rachal
recalls. “That was jaw-dropping to him.”
“We have a golden template that we keep updated with the most current version of the
server product, so we’re able to provision a server in less than 30 minutes,” he adds.
“We create it and it’s done.”
Building on the keen success of its datacenter virtualization, Alexandria now is moving
toward desktop virtualization and automated disaster recovery.
Virtual Desktop Pilot to Expand
Alexandria started desktop virtualization with a VMware View pilot project involving 23
end users in a variety of employment settings. Ultimately virtualization will extend to
some 180 desktops for utility department call-center personnel, warehouse staff, dataentry workers, secretaries and other city employees.
View is a solution for delivering desktops as a simplified, automated managed service.
The software allows Rachal and his staff to consolidate virtual desktops on datacenter
servers and manage them from a single point of control. Application updates are
centralized and automated. End users, meanwhile, gain a desktop experience that is
rich, consistent, high-performance and personalized.
“From the operating system to every application they need to do their jobs, employees’
virtual desktops are implemented according their organizational unit in Active
Directory,” Rachal says. “There’s no build-up time whatsoever. My techs don’t have to
go onsite every time there’s a problem. They don’t have to touch 180 individual PCs to
provision new applications.”
The city has chosen HP Mobile Thin Clients as its desktop hardware platform. With no
hard drive, these devices deliver powerful cost and security advantages. They’re less
expensive to purchase and maintain. If a unit fails, it can be replaced at low cost. If it is
stolen, no data is at risk because all applications and data reside on servers at the
back end.
“It’s total desktop control,” Rachal says. “The end user’s profile is there and their system
is built on the fly—any data or software they add during their session is erased from
the system when they log off. They start with a fresh desktop every day. Everything’s
running on this state-of-the-art, highly available, totally redundant storage back end in
this virtual infrastructure. Not only are the liability and serviceability issues addressed,
but also security in general.”
Virtual Desktop Pilot to Expand
Alexandria’s other key initiative is to strengthen its business continuity and disaster
recovery capabilities. Because it is in a hurricane zone, robust disaster recovery is a
must for Alexandria. The solution is VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager (SRM) to
automate the recovery process, ensure successful recovery, and simplify management
and testing of recovery plans.
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“SRM provides a step-by-step documentation of what it’s doing,” CMA’s Peyton says.
“Doing this manually—failing over servers and storage to another location—could be pages
and pages of steps, and if you miss one nothing works. SRM takes all the guesswork out
of it, makes it easier. It’s a powerful, proven and supported solution. The addition of Site
Recovery Manager has taken the city to an entirely new level of availability—VMware’s
underlying virtualization layer is a key component of that business continuity tool.”
“We saw the value of being able
to get rid of the physical servers,
virtualize the infrastructure
and have one location that two
people can manage. Through
VMware vCenter, every server
is at our fingertips. We don’t
have to stand at a console at a
datacenter across town. ”
Blake Rachal
Assistant Director of IT
City of Alexandria, Louisiana
Rachal notes that Alexandria’s ongoing infrastructure updates have created all the
resources, such as fiber lines and storage replication, needed to implement Site Recovery
Manager. “All we needed was the SRM licenses to get push-button failover to the disaster
recovery site. We are now able to transport our entire main production environment from
City Hall to our backup datacenter in minutes. A task such as this would have taken weeks
of downtime in a physical environment and would have no doubt added data loss. We have
had several outages in the past that could have been avoided had SRM been in place—
now that the system is up and running, we feel much more secure about planned and
unplanned downtime,” says Rachal.
Alexandria is in the process of virtualizing its Microsoft® Exchange implementation. The
city also is starting to provide e-citation capabilities for police officers to print traffic tickets
right in their patrol cars.
“Computers are the reason I come to work every day,” Rachal says. “Something that 20
years ago sounded impossible becomes a common business application. Virtualization isn’t
some fantasy. It’s the technology of the future, here today.”
D e p loymen t En vir on men t
Primary Application
VMware vSphere 4
Primary Hardware
Production: Two IBM
x3850M2 4-way 6-core
systems with 128GB RAM
each, VS4 hosts; one IBM
x3550 vCenter Server;
one IBM DS5100 4Gbps
Fiber Channel storage
system with 28TB SATA
and 14TB fiber channel
Customer Service Center/
disaster recovery:
Two IBM x3850M2
four-way six-core systems
with 128GB RAM each,
VS4 hosts; IBM DS5100
4Gbps Fiber Channel
storage system with 28TB
SATA and 5TB Fiber
Channel disk; the two IBM
DS5100 storage systems
have two-way mirrors
over a direct fiber link
between the two
buildings; HP 4320t
Mobile Thin Clients for
virtualized desktops.
Primary Software
Microsoft Exchange 2010
Operating Systems
Microsoft® Windows, 2003
to 2008; Linux.
Oracle Spatial Network
Data Model DB-GIS; Avaya
call accounting;
BlackBerry Enterprise
Software; North American
Electric Reliability
Corporation (NERC)
utility software; ADSI
Court Management;
Numara Track-It! workorder processing;
NetMotion Wireless patrol
car software; GeoManage
Software, property tax
solution; Microsoft® Active
Directory; Microsoft SQL
Server; also software for
animal shelter
management, golf pro
shop, domain controllers,
file servers.
More than 30 applications,
750 end users
Technology Solutions
VMware, Inc. 3401 Hillview Avenue Palo Alto CA 94304 USA Tel 877-486-9273 Fax 650-427-5001
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trademarks of their respective companies. Item No: VMW-CS-Alexandria-USLET