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Fueling Success

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2009-05-05 Print this article Print

To build a more efficient and cost-effective IT department, USEC, a nuclear fuel company, turned to server virtualization.

Fueling Success

Like many other companies, USEC is adapting to profound changes in business and information technology. It relies on several enterprise applications and environments—including Oracle

ERP, PeopleSoft human resources (HR), various Web applications (including several based on .NET) and a tangle of internal systems.

Underpinning IT is a philosophy of creating a clear upgrade path—including upgrading to newer servers and systems that provide performance and cost gains. At the center of this approach: server virtualization. “We’ve made a strong push to virtualize almost every server we’ve introduced over the last two or three years,” Vordick says.

So far, USEC has moved many of its homegrown applications and its test environment over to the virtualized environment. It also manages DNS servers and various infrastructure, utilities, and network and support services on the virtual machines.

Over the next few years—as USEC updates and refreshes servers—it will move its Oracle ERP and other enterprise applications onto virtual machines. It will also adapt its business continuity and disaster recovery strategies—which now use one-to-one physical backups—to harness the benefits of virtualization.

Already, USEC has been able to realize significant gains using VMware ESX running Windows Server 2003 and 2008, as well as Linux. “We are now able to manage the data center and systems far better,” Vordick says.

For example, if a server goes down or IT needs to add memory or make physical changes to a machine, it can do so without interrupting services. It is also possible to deploy new servers within minutes or hours rather than weeks.

In the past, Vordick says, IT had to wend its way through the process of identifying the need for a new server, handle the procurement process, set up the system and then get it running correctly. In some cases, a new server also meant rearchitecting applications and tweaking other servers.

Virtualizing the servers has also provided other benefits. For one thing, USEC has achieved a 40 percent drop in power consumption by moving to more energy-efficient servers that run in a virtualized environment. For another, it is trimming hardware costs significantly.

The company is currently using about seven virtual machines per physical host, but Vordick expects that ratio to climb to almost 15-to-1 in the next few years. This could push the cost savings for hardware from 50 percent today to beyond 70 percent.

At USEC, server virtualization has steadily gained momentum—despite the fact that the company has never adopted a formal strategy. “Virtualization was just something that made sense as we transitioned to new servers,” Vordick explains. “We evaluated it, we saw that we could achieve benefits and we began deploying servers.”

Not surprisingly, success has accelerated deployment of this technology. “Over the last year, we have made much more of a concerted effort to ensure that any new server that’s deployed uses virtualization,” he adds.

Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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