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City of West Torrens goes virtually disaster-proof!

  • 23 April, 2008 11:57

<p>The City of West Torrens, which is home to Adelaide Airport, has implemented a sophisticated server virtualisation and redundancy strategy to protect its data and information systems from unexpected disasters such as air crashes and floods.</p>
<p>Under the previous disaster recovery plan, it would have taken up to three weeks after a major incident before Council became fully operational again. But now, deploying new servers is a drag-and-drop exercise in which entire virtual machines can be backed up, and system restoration can happen in minutes rather than days or weeks.</p>
<p>Council’s Manager Information Services Chris James said the need to upgrade the council’s disaster plan was prompted when fire devastated a neighbouring council office.</p>
<p>At the time, West Torrens was relying on uninterruptible power supply technology that allowed systems administrators to conduct a controlled shutdown sequence if power failed. Data was backed up nightly to disks and tapes, but resuming normal operations could have taken up to three weeks.</p>
<p>“We began formulating a technological and policy-based disaster recovery plan to ensure we could remain operational in the face of unforseen events,” said Mr James.</p>
<p>“This was also an opportunity to update our information systems strategy, utilising current technology to optimise the IT Server architecture.”</p>
<p>Recognising that a virtualised environment would help meet disaster recovery objectives, Council engaged Technical Architecture Solutions (TAS) to plan and implement a virtualised server environment. TAS formulated a two-stage plan that included virtualising a number of servers then replicating these to a second physical site to provide full disaster recovery capabilities. In all, 24 of the 26 physical servers would be virtualised and consolidated on to three or four physical servers.</p>
<p>Within a month, Council and TAS converted 15 physical servers into virtual machines, running on top of the VMware ESX Server hypervisor on four IBM X3650 servers, each with two dual-core 3GHz CPUs and 16GB of RAM. PlateSpin PowerRecon was used during capacity planning, while VMware Converter and PlateSpin PowerConvert facilitated the virtualisation of Council’s application environment by converting existing servers into virtual server images.</p>
<p>Rapid success proved the migration project’s viability, prompting virtualisation of the remaining servers. Virtualising the data centre environment freed up 24 physical servers, some of which have been reused to construct the disaster recovery capability.</p>
<p>To ensure continuous availability, virtual machines can be mirrored daily between the primary and backup data centres over a dedicated fibre-optic connection. This configuration significantly improves business continuity capabilities: in the event of a primary server outage, Council’s application environment can be switched easily to the redundant site or to any other third-party facility capable of receiving the virtual machine files.</p>
<p>“Rather than build disaster recovery over our old server environment, it made sense to virtualise and then develop disaster recovery over our new Virtual Centre,” said Mr James.</p>
<p>“It’s a lot smaller footprint; deploying new servers is now a drag-and-drop exercise, entire virtual machines can be backed up, and restoring systems can happen in minutes rather than days or weeks.”</p>
<p>Even in normal operation the virtualised environment has paid significant dividends. Payroll, web services and intranet systems are running faster, changing out equipment is significantly quicker, new servers can be brought online in minutes when needed rather than days and having fewer leases will slash server leasing costs by 80 per cent during the next two years.</p>
<p>Mr James said: “We’ve designed a lot of robustness, reliability and fallback into the solution. Our targeted tasks have been achieved successfully, with network administration staff working incredibly well and productively.”</p>
<p>In the long-term, Council’s ability to move its virtual servers easily from system to system may lead to an even more comprehensive disaster recovery environment. The City of West Torrens is considering setting up a physically distant secondary site where similarly configured servers would provide additional protection from disaster. A ‘shared services’ model, in which the City of West Torrens and neighbouring councils would jointly develop a central disaster recovery environment physically distant from their offices, would further reduce costs and help spread risk further.</p>
<p>About Technical Architectural Solutions (TAS)</p>
<p>Technical Architecture Solutions (TAS) - www.techarchsolutions.com - is a leading IT architecture design and integration company with holistic enterprise experience and solutions, guided by the principles of reducing complexity and improving your return on investment.
TAS delivers in the areas of consolidation, virtualisation, databases, performance, disaster recovery and storage.</p>
<p>TAS partners with some of the world's industry software leaders, including VMware,
Platespin, Microsoft and Oracle. Clients include industry leaders such as MasterCard International and MasterCard Europe, Suncorp, IAG, Commonwealth Bank, MYOB, CSIRO, Chandler MacLeod, Westnet Group, University of NSW, ABB Grain, Blackmores, and other high profile organisations.</p>
<p>About City of West Torrens</p>
<p>The second oldest metropolitan Council in South Australia, City of West Torrens encompasses an area of around 36 sq km, and has a population of 50,500. The Council boasts an attractive metropolitan location, close to Adelaide’s central business district and the coast. It has easy access to extensive retailing opportunities and employment.</p>
<p>Contact Details</p>
<p>Chris James
City of West Torrens
Phone 08 841 66 333
Email cjames@wtcc.sa.gov.au</p>
<p>Tony Wilkinson
Technical Architecture Solutions
Phone 02 9984 8133
Mobile 0404 036 340
Email twilkinson@techarchsolutions.com</p>
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