Hampered by Antiquated Infrastructure

By Tony Kontzer Print this article Print

Virtualization technology has morphed from a mere enabler of efficiency into a fast-emerging bottom-line contributor.

Hampered by antiquated infrastructure

That’s good news for the California Department of Water Resources, which in 2009 was increasingly hampered by an antiquated collection of IT infrastructure components, including 600 servers that no longer met its needs. The DWR, which delivers water to 25 million residents and 750,000 acres of farmland, has over the past several years segmented into multiple business units supporting areas such as water delivery, irrigation management, flood control and energy production.

CIO Tim Garza says the DWR’s aging IT equipment was preventing the restructured department from supporting those changes with effective communication capabilities and was making it a challenge to roll out new business solutions. Also, the storage environment lacked the ability to nimbly handle the ever-growing quantities of spatial and analytical data the department relies on to conduct business.

“IT was becoming a bit of a constraint instead of an enabler of the business,” says Garza. In fact, he had to turn to outside resources—such as the University of California, San Diego—for the computing resources scientists required to perform high-end modeling of water flows, soil erosion and the like. But relying on third-party high-performance computing capacity wasn’t a sustainable model.

“It didn’t provide the flexibility for meeting project deadlines,” says Garza. “We had to queue up behind everyone else, so we weren’t in control of meeting our own demands.”

After performing a detailed assessment of the risks and constraints the department’s aging IT environment presented, the DWR decided on an IT modernization effort built around virtualization. The effort called for deployment of x86-based  HP ProLiant blade servers running on VMware’s vSphere virtualization platform. Over an 18-month period, the department replaced the 125 racks that housed its 600 physical machines with just four racks housing 160 virtual hosts that can run up  to 4,800 virtual machines.

The new infrastructure has paid off, says Garza. Not only has it shortened the time it takes to provision computing capabilities to five days from as many as 60, it has also enabled the DWR to segment the computer needs of its various lines of business, while managing IT assets horizontally across the department.

The department’s carbon footprint has been reduced as well, thanks to a 50 percent improvement in data center cooling efficiency and a 40 percent gain in power distribution efficiency.

What’s more, the new virtualized IT environment has enabled the department to eliminate a $2.2 million maintenance fee associated with the previous infrastructure’s support of its SAP ERP system.

The DWR’s virtualized infrastructure has become the foundation of a shared services IT environment that’s used by other departments that fall under the umbrella of DWR’s parent, the California Natural Resource Agency. For example, Garza says that access to DWR’s virtualized IT resources has allowed the state’s Department of Parks and Recreation to focus on the business of keeping parks open rather than managing its own IT environment.

This article was originally published on 2012-01-17
Tony Kontzer is a freelance writer for Baseline magazine.
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.