I always enjoy learning more about how organizations are using virtualization technology to enhance their operations. Along those lines, I recently had the opportunity to communicate with Matt Kopf, Systems Administrator, Emerald Queen, to learn how his organization is using clustering/high availability software from Neverfail. Here are his comments.
Please tell us about your company and your role within the organization.
Emerald Queen Hotel & Casinos is known as the “Entertainment Capital of the Northwest.” We offer visitors Las Vegas-style games including Keno and more than 2,000 video slot machines. We are also host to a number of entertainment events including World Cup Martial Arts competitions and music concerts. We recently had Rick Springfield and Gladys Knight perform to the delight of our guests.
I am the Systems Administrator for Emerald Queen and am responsible for making sure that the company’s IT systems stay up and running, 24/7, no matter what.
What are you doing that needed this technology?
We have 2,000 employees who rely heavily on e-mail to do their jobs. E-mail is truly their lifeline to keeping our operations running smoothly. Without it, our business cannot function properly, so we make its 24-7 availability a top priority. Before I joined Emerald Queen, e-mail went down one time for nearly a week, bringing operations to a near standstill. It really highlighted how mission-critical e-mail was to the company. It touches every piece of our operations. We knew we needed to put a solution in place that would deliver zero-downtime, because we couldn’t afford to have that kind of downtime again.
What did you consider before selecting a product?
Well, I am a firm believer in “Murphy’s Law” and that whatever can happen, will happen. Some may call me paranoid or alarmist, but I believe that anything man-made will eventually fail. I wanted to avoid any type of failure on my watch so my team immediately began evaluating disaster recovery and high availability solutions to keep our Microsoft Exchange server up and running at all times.
We knew they we needed a solution that would work across our disparate hardware and a physical server with attached storage hosting Exchange. It also had to work in a virtual environment. Our solution needed to fail over from the physical server to a virtual one that used VMware software running on a generic box. Neverfail was the obvious choice for us, based on these requirements.
Why did you select this product?
In a nut shell, Emerald Queen selected Neverfail for Microsoft Exchange
because it was the only product available that supported our dissimilar hardware and could fail over to a virtual server. Many of the solutions that my team evaluated required the primary server to fail over to similar or identical hardware, which would require us to spend $30,000 on new hardware to replicate the environment. When we tested Neverfail it was all on virtual machines, so we simply turned one off and it effortlessly failed over to the other virtual machine by itself.
What tangible benefits has your organization gotten through the use of this product?
In addition to the immediate cost savings of at least $30,000, we have relied on Neverfail a number of times. One time, our server went down and we did not even know it until two days later because Neverfail failed over so seamlessly! It may be intangible, but I no longer have to worry about 3:00 a.m. wake up calls and can focus on other integral projects like technology upgrades. In that regard, it’s been a life saver and has allowed the team to be very productive. Also, as I mentioned before, the fact that Neverfail supports our dissimilar hardware and can fail over to a virtual server is a big plus – it allows us the functionality we need to perform successfully and cost efficiently. Finally, the fact that e-mail is always accessible to employees is a huge plus to the company – downtime can mean serious repercussions to the business.
What advice would you offer others?
I encourage people to do their homework when choosing a high availability solution. If you know what your business needs, it goes a long way in making the best purchasing decision. There are a lot of vendors out there, but not all provide the functionality and flexibility your IT shop may need, and some are very expensive or require significant upgrades to your data center that you may not be willing or able to make. Also, customer service and support is key – without it, where are you? Neverfail delivers on all of these points and I look forward to working with them when we upgrade to Exchange 2007.