Testing Virtualization

By Bob Violino  |  Posted 2009-09-24 Print this article Print

Professional services firms must provide a customized level of service to their customers, but they also want to increase agility, improve employee productivity and cut costs. Virtualization, mobility and social networking help these companies achieve their goals.

Testing Virtualization

The architecture, planning and interior design firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP in Seattle began testing virtualization software from VMware in 2008 and has since deployed it on new servers and has started to convert its existing production servers to virtual machines, says Ronald Pike, an associate at the firm.

“We are basically virtualizing what we are comfortable with and what our third-party software vendors approve for virtualization,” Pike explains. “We wanted to leverage our [storage-area network], which had been purchased a year earlier, to get the typical benefits of virtualization: power, cooling and space saving, as well as some disaster recovery options that would not have been as easy to achieve without virtualization and a SAN.”

Thanks to virtualization, the firm immediately retired 20 older physical servers and reduced rack space significantly.

Zimmer Gunsul Frasca can now deploy servers in minutes. With physical hardware, the server preparation process entails setting up a utility partition, installing drivers for the physical hardware and installing the operating system, Pike says. The firm can now replicate virtual machines across its WAN seamlessly.

“We’ve found our newly installed virtualized environment to be ideal for testing and prototyping new services,” Pike says. “It is much faster than using physical hardware.” Last year, the firm used it for testing its Microsoft Exchange 2000 to Exchange 2007 migration. More recently, it used it to test an enterprise resource planning upgrade.

Zimmer Gunsul Frasca is also testing desktop virtualization software. But Pike says the firm will likely have a limited deployment of that technology because most employees use applications that are very demanding of desktop hardware.

Pike says the company didn’t encounter any serious challenges during the virtualization deployment. “We were surprised how trouble-free the implementation has been,” he says. “I believe it really helped to be using hardware that is certified compatible.”


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