Bracknell Forest reaps virtual rewards

Case study: How the council turned to virtualisation to slash costs and boost flexibility

Case study: How the council turned to virtualisation to slash costs and boost flexibility

Bracknell Forest Borough Council is reaping the rewards after making the move to a virtualised server environment.

The council estimates it will save around £75,000 per year in terms of hardware refresh and reduce power and cooling costs by 20 per cent.

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The council now has 146 virtual servers on just six physical servers running VMWare technology and has reduced its physical server estate by 60 units.

Before the work the council found its servers were running at around 10 per cent capacity, meaning there was significant scope to make more efficient use of the hardware.

Speaking to silicon.com, Richard Dawson, IT services manager at the council, said: "We found [the network] was being heavily underutilised in terms of performance. So we looked at what we could actually do with that in terms of consolidation."

The IT department secured funding for the virtualisation project from the council's Invest to Save initiative, which funds projects to deliver longer term savings.

Following a pilot at the beginning of 2007, the technology was deployed in June last year with the help of tech partners Sol-Tec and Intercept-IT.

Applications being run on the virtual servers include Novell Groupwise email, SAP Document Management and SQL Server databases, along with those developed in-house.

The move has allowed the council to become more flexible, improve business continuity and disaster recovery as well as accelerate the delivery of new applications and services to the public.

Dawson said: "If you came to me [previously] and said I want a new server, we would be looking at a three week lead time - for us to get that server, procure it, install it, rack it, commission it, harden it. We can now do that in an afternoon."

Other benefits include a quicker test and development cycle for new applications, disaster recovery and better business continuity as virtual servers can be moved around while patches or upgrades are carried out.

Dawson added: "It's simplified, it's more manageable, it's actually speeded up the process and it's actually shortened some of the project times as well. There's a lot more staff time being released."

And the council is keen to extend its use of virtualisation technology in the future. Dawson said: "As and when systems drop off warranty or we're about to do a migration to a new platform or upgrade to Windows 2003 they get considered and then they get pushed onto VMWare."