Case Studies

Fact FileCompanyCamping and Caravanning ClubBusinessLeisure servicesSystems management projectIntroduce multiple new servers cost-effectively; ensure...

Fact File
Company Camping and Caravanning Club
Business Leisure services
Systems management project Introduce multiple new servers cost-effectively; ensure high availability for customer-facing systems; enable rapid deployment of application servers
Solution Worked with IBM Premier Business Partner Triangle to implement two IBM eServer xSeries 360 servers running VMware virtualisation software; IBM TotalStorage DS4300 [formerly FAStT600 Storage Server]
Business benefits Faster and easier deployment of new application servers; reduced floorspace requirements; direct cost savings through avoidance of buying additional physical servers; robust, high-performance disk storage

The Camping and Caravanning Club based in Coventry, UK, has around 400,000 members and was founded more than 100 years ago. It provides a broad range of services to members and non-members alike, from reservation services at more than 90 UK Club Sites, to technical help and advice for caravan owners.

The Club continues to run its membership systems on IBM AS/400, to which it has steadily added a variety of Intel-based servers, chiefly for Web serving. When it became clear that the planned introduction of a new Web-based centralised booking system, to be known as ClubREZ, would put unsustainable pressure on internal resources, the Club looked to consolidate its server base.

The launch of the ClubREZ booking system required the Camping and
Caravanning Club to consolidate its servers.

Laurence Johnson, Business Systems Manager, explains: 'We wanted to keep the number of physical servers low, and we needed a solution that would allow us to build and deploy servers more rapidly. The ClubREZ project required a number of test servers, and we didn’t want to invest in machines that would no longer be needed once testing was complete. By introducing two powerful IBM xSeries servers running VMWare, we have gained the speed and ease of deployment that we needed, while keeping a tight rein on costs.'

Virtual servers bring rapid set-up

ClubREZ is The Camping and Caravanning Club’s brand new central reservation system allowing members to book UK Club Site pitches online, via a dedicated Contact Centre or by calling the site directly when open. This unique system links Club Headquarters with all UK Club Sites and makes booking a Club Site simple and convenient.

To make ClubREZ possible, working with IBM Premier Business Partner Triangle, the Club implemented two IBM eServer xSeries 360 servers, one with four Intel processors and one with two, running VMware virtualisation software. As a key IBM Business Partner, Triangle is recognised as a leading organisation in pioneering business-changing solutions, and is dedicated to providing cutting-edge support for the IBM server platforms. Triangle’s technology solutions empower its client base to achieve both financial and business process benefits from their investments.

The two physical servers run a total of 15 virtual servers, and new virtual servers can be added as necessary to meet new business requirements.

Says Laurence Johnson, 'With VMware on the x360 servers, we can respond far more quickly to new processing demands. It used to take a long time just to rack and cable new servers, let alone configure them. Now, we can simply clone an existing virtual server, configure it for a new requirement, and be up and running in minutes.'

'Running virtual servers on xSeries has freed up floorspace, enabled us to avoid buying several additional physical servers, and can help us save a great deal of cost and effort in the long term', added Johnson.

Ensuring availability

To help ensure resilience for its new Web-based booking system, the Club has implemented a two-node cluster for Microsoft SQL Server as the back-end database, split between the two x360s. This approach required a centralised storage server, and the Club selected IBM TotalStorage DS4300 [formerly FAStT600 Storage Server].

'The resilience offered by the DS4300 is very important for our organisation,' says Laurence Johnson. 'For ordinary membership, we can run overnight batch jobs for payments, but we are now becoming much more customer-facing than before, and moving into taking payments online. DS4300 helps us to ensure that systems are available when they are needed.' He continued: 'Originally, we selected the DS4300 purely for the VMware environment, but having seen its potential, we are now planning to implement a SAN fabric switch to make it available to other systems, too.'

Concentrated approach

The xSeries 360 servers run not only the back-end databases, but also a call-centre application, an application for remote receipt printing, a server for thin-client terminals in the 90 campsites, and the Web servers for the Club’s new online booking system. Laurence Johnson is now planning to implement IBM Director software to manage and monitor the performance of systems across the Club’s network of thin-clients.

Laurence Johnson concludes: 'The great advantage of working with IBM and Triangle has been the totality of the solution. We have been able to concentrate a large number of different systems to a compact, easy-to-manage server and storage environment that offers great resilience.'

Fact File
Company Daresbury Laboratory
Business Scientific research and computing
Systems management project Support successful Web portal project and implement new Web services for e-Science; reduce total costs of ownership and free up valuable floorspace
Solution IBM eServer BladeCenter technology running the Linux operating system and IBM Director Remote Management
Business benefits Elimination of standalone PCs has freed up valuable office space; scalable BladeCenter solution powers Web services access to applications on the e-Science Grid; lower maintenance and management costs

Formed in 1962, and now part of The Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC), the Daresbury Laboratory is one of the UK’s e-Science centres, responsible for new grid computing developments. The Daresbury staff of 550 provides computational and experimental support for the work of more than 5,000 scientists and engineers, mainly from the university research community. The facilities include databases, libraries, online analytical services and e-Science programmes. The scope of research is equally broad, covering electron synchronisation x-ray source, nuclear physics, polymers, protein structures in the human genome and fluid dynamics, among other topics.

Researchers throughout the scientific community access online services via Daresbury, which provides Web access to the specialised, high-power systems needed.

Users can browse the services on offer, and then make requests for the particular computation they need. The Daresbury portal then seamlessly handles these requests using the back-end systems, and delivers the results back to the user’s Web browser. This is one of the most exciting uses of portal technology, giving users access to a powerful grid of computing resources via a standard browser.

Daresbury Laboratory's portal gives users access to a powerful grid of
computing resources via a standard browser.

Rob Allan, Technical Director of the CCLRC e-Science Centre and leader of the Grid Technology Group, comments: 'The portal was originally developed on a collection of older machines from various suppliers. While the Web services approach was very successful, these servers were becoming hard to manage. Each needed its own power supply, operating system maintenance and licence, and so on. In addition, the machines occupied an entire room, which we wanted to reclaim. Ideally, we wanted to shift the processors into our main server room, where space was also at a premium.'

Small is beautiful

The solution lay in IBM eServer BladeCenter, which can support up to 14 blade servers in a single 7u rack-mounted unit. Daresbury now has 12 blades, each with dual 2.8GHz Intel Xeon processors and 4GB of main memory running various Linux implementations.

'BladeCenters are ideal for our kind of Web hosting activity', says Allan. 'IBM BladeCenter offered the best price and the highest specification, and the knowledge and support from IBM were excellent. We were able to fit the BladeCenter chassis into an existing rack in the server room, and the remote management technology means we have complete control from a single desktop.'

Pressures on space and the complexity of cabling up additional servers meant the simplicity of the BladeCenter was the best fit for Daresbury. The BladeCenter chassis can include two integrated Gigabit Ethernet Switch Modules, two integrated Fibre Channel Switch Modules, the unique high-availability midplane, hot-swap and redundant blowers, hot-swap and redundant power.

'Using IBM Director system management, we are now able to carry out tasks such as software upgrades without interrupting users. We can take a blade offline, upgrade it, and re-deploy it easily and quickly', says Allan. 'This helps us to save money and offer a better service to users.'

Bringing it all together

A typical example of a portal on the BladeCenter is e-HPTX, a comprehensive resource designed to unify the procedures used for protein structure determination. From a single interface, users can direct and document their computational experiment.

Now that the BladeCenter infrastructure is in place, the Daresbury team is keen to create new services that researchers can access through the portal. As the number of services grows, additional blades can be installed in the BladeCenter chassis, configured and made available within minutes.

'We are keen to encourage more projects to use our services, as BladeCenter allows us to grow so cost-effectively', says Allan. 'We are building what amounts to e-Business for research as part of the e-Science project. Users will be able to search for Web services, programmes, applications and databases, with BladeCenter acting as a portal to a vast range of information and utilities from Daresbury.'

To meet future requirements, the group is now implementing IBM WebSphere Application Server on one of its blades, which will support the UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) protocol for listing, finding and using Web services. This service will become available through the UK Grid Computing initiative, which will allow the research community to access computing services very cost-effectively through the Daresbury portal.

'Our experience with IBM has always been good, with knowledgeable people always ready to help. The new BladeCenter solution meets all of our cost and space requirements, and gives us a route into the next generation of e-Science,' concludes Allan.