Recently, I had a chance to exchange messages with Ian Scanlan, Computacenter's IS Operations Manager. His organization has been using Embotic's V-Commander. I thought you’d like to hear from someone actually using the technology.
Please introduce your organization and the role you play there.
Ian Scanlan, IS Operations Manager for Computacenter. I primarily look after the internal server estate (Wintel, AIX and AS400).
Computacenter is Europe’s leading independent provider of IT infrastructure services. To help our customers maximise the value of IT to their businesses, we offer services and solutions at every stage of infrastructure investment.
We can advise customers on their IT strategy, implement the most appropriate technology from a wide range of leading vendors and manage their technology infrastructures on their behalf. At every stage we help them minimise the cost and maximise the business value of their IT expenditure.
Our corporate and government clients are served by offices across the UK, Germany, France, the Benelux countries, Spain and South Africa. We also serve our customers’ global requirements through our extensive partner network.
What are you doing that needed this technology?
Like a lot of organizations out there we had experienced high growth in our virtualized environment, and even though we are a well structured and controlled environment (our VM to Admin ration is almost twice the industry average (120:1)) we started running into basic management challenges:
- Troubleshooting times were getting longer
- Storage space was becoming more scarce
- Administrators didn’t have the time to continually police corporate policies, and
- Capacity planning was challenging due to lack of effective baseline information.
What products did you consider?
We surveyed the whole market –something we do regularly as we are in the consulting/managed services business – and talked to our consultants about their experiences in the marketplace, and came down to a shortlist. Unfortunately our PR organization would prefer it if I didn’t discuss the individual results. <Aw, that's too bad...DK>
Why did you select this product?
V-Commander hit all of the tick boxes we had:
- Centralized Inventory of record incorporating all of the associated spreadsheets and business information which we were maintaining
- Waste detection. It allows us to look for potentially unnecessary VMs that meet a number of criteria:
- Over-provisioned disks (VMs with too much disk allocated)
- Out of inventory VMS ( VMs not in the VirtualCenter inventory but still present on the storage)
- Excess snapshots (VMs with more than 1 associated snapshots)
- Unused VMs (VMs in development that hadn’t be logged into in a while)
- Orphan VMs (VMs that had not been generated from a template)
- § Aged offline VMs (VMs that had been offline for more than 30 days)
- Tools to help reduce troubleshooting time though apart from the reporting and storage tools we haven’t used too many of these just yet:
- Easy to use reporting
- Lineage tracking
- Storage mapping
- Configuration drift analysis
- Out of the box automation to help offload administrators
- Easy to use reporting
- VM Discovery & tracking
- Out of process alerts (unauthorized, wrong placement etc)
- Non disruptive installation and setup – no impact to the environment, and minimal impact to administrative time.
And whilst we haven’t yet used all of the features of V-Commander, the ones we have, have been very positive.
What tangible benefits have you received through the use of this product?
- Reduced storage costs - V-Commander identified over 3TB of storage on the first day. We reclaimed another significant amount recently
- Improved Capacity Management and Reporting: We can see actual growth trends, which is something we really struggled to do before. This really helps create a realistic capacity plan.
- No environment disruption: Most importantly for us though, was the fact that this system went in with NO disruption to the environment and taking almost no admin time. It installed in 20 minutes and by the end of the morning we had logically separated our two main environments, identified waste VMs that could be cleaned up, set up some alerting policies, and discovered a couple of unsupported operating systems!
The combination of saved disk space, as well as the software licenses and management and support time associated with any VM came to almost £140K for the initial waste saving alone.
What advice would you offer others facing similar circumstances?
VirtualCenter is a great tool, but it has its weaknesses; which limit its effective scalability, and as environments grow you need to complement it with basic automation and insight.
We initiated a manual project a couple of month ago to identify and remove sprawl in our environment and spent a lot of time and energy with only limited results. (This was actually one of the confirmation points that we had done the right thing with this purchase).
The V-Commander product actually goes back in time as it builds its database so we could see the impact of our manual program on the overall inventor. I remember just how much work that was, and we didn’t identify a fifth of what V-Commander found day one.