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Virtual magic: HR specialist throws out 40 servers, adds 8TB SAN and saves $100,000 for disaster recovery

  • 01 December, 2008 15:28

<p>Among the multiple benefits from implementing a nine-month virtualisation project to consolidate its servers, human resources and recruitment firm Chandler MacLeod Group has saved $100,000 on new hardware for a disaster recovery (DR) system.</p>
<p>The group retired about 40 of its 115 or so physical servers, implemented DR, set up an 8TB storage area network (SAN), revised key legacy applications and improved application delivery to its 65 branches throughout Australia and New Zealand. It has also made substantial floor space and power savings.</p>
<p>Chandler Macleod Group recruited Technical Architecture Solutions (TAS), an IT architecture design and integration company with server and storage virtualisation expertise and solution design, to help with the project.</p>
<p>After years of expansion, the group needed to consolidate its servers and provide DR in a separate facility. Server virtualisation was the first step. The original 115 servers came from five manufacturers and comprised 14 generations, representing a significant support headache. Today, Chandler Macleod Group has 60 production servers and 15 in DR: all Hewlett-Packard machines, supported by the vendor.</p>
<p>“The system is rock solid, but if a disaster were to occur we could keep paying candidates and invoicing clients,” says John Walker, the company’s IT Programme Manager.</p>
<p>The decision to virtualise followed a significant change to the company’s data centre architecture, which relies on Citrix Systems thin-client servers to deliver applications to branch offices. Managing key applications centrally had kept management costs down, but heightened the need to ensure that remote offices never lost access to their essential servers.</p>
<p>TAS conducted a detailed evaluation of the IT environment, identified servers ready for consolidation, and developed a project roadmap. TAS also audited DR capabilities, highlighted areas for improvement and wrapped a DR strategy into the project plan.</p>
<p>The solution is built around VMWare ESX Server virtualisation technology, which was used initially to secure server consolidation benefits. Dozens of Chandler MacLeod Group applications, most running on under-utilised servers, were converted to VMware virtual machines (VMs) using PlateSpin PowerConvert. These VMs were installed on a cluster of four HP DL580 servers, which now run more than 50 VMs simultaneously. The DL580s are running at only 50 per cent capacity and should not need replacing for two years at current growth rates.</p>
<p>The only servers not converted to a VM were involved in the Citrix thin-client environment used to deliver applications to branch offices.</p>
<p>Having freed the server applications from their hardware, TAS implemented a new DR environment that replicates all the VMs to a secondary site. This level of redundancy would not have been impossible given the previous number of servers, but became feasible because VMs are self-contained in large files that are easily moved and copied within the virtualised storage environment. PlateSpin PowerRecon is used for ongoing performance reporting and monitoring.</p>
<p>Virtualising crucial but aging legacy applications has allowed the company to keep these running smoothly as virtual machines on modern servers, while disposing of aging physical servers no longer supported by their vendors. The project has allowed Chandler Macleod Group to meet legal requirements for document retention without being obliged to maintain outdated technology.</p>
<p>Physical floor space decreased by almost 20 per cent after the 40 physical servers were made redundant. This reduced power consumption significantly, with an estimated 260,000 kWh of electricity saved annually – the equivalent of 160,000kg of carbon emissions, or taking 60 cars off the road permanently.</p>
<p>Chandler MacLeod Group’s new environment incorporates a redundant design that satisfies its need for high-availability DR. The infrastructure has improved IT governance and allows IT staff to add new applications in minutes by configuring additional VMs. The virtualisation project has laid the groundwork for a broad range of future enhancements.</p>
<p>John Walker said: “It would have cost us a bomb to set up a DR site without virtualisation - we would have had to pay $100,000 for new servers. Through redeploying servers we get $100,000 to spend, so essentially DR site is free except for the WMWare licence fees.</p>
<p>“We are running on fewer generations of hardware with better support, the system is far more reliable and easier to govern, and we have added DR without capital outlay. Another benefit is flexibility: we are able to deploy new environments and add new services without having to provision hardware, while saving on heat and power and increasing speed in the data centre.</p>
<p>“Working with TAS to implement this technology has given us a degree of freedom that put us in a far better position than before. We didn’t want to partner with a massive consultancy, and found TAS to be far more flexible and accommodating with their services.”</p>
<p>About Chandler MacLeod Group</p>
<p>Chandler Macleod Group is one of Australasia's largest and most diverse HR outsourcing and recruitment companies focusing on the provision of complete and fully integrated human capital solutions across blue-collar, white collar, executive and professional recruitment and contracting. Additionally, the company offers comprehensive consulting services encompassing psychometric assessment, management and organisational development, executive coaching, outplacement, career transition, talent management and deployment.</p>
<p>Chandler Macleod Group, operates a network of 65 offices across Australia and New Zealand and employs approximately 985 branch and head office staff, 2,000 permanent field staff and 14,000 on hired employees. The group is a market leader in the areas of:</p>
<p>Blue-collar/white collar recruitment services
Psychological assessment and consulting
HR outsourcing</p>
<p>About Technical Architecture Solutions</p>
<p>Technical Architecture Solutions (TAS) is an 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>Clients include three of Australia’s leading banks and other leading organisations including MasterCard International, CSIRO, City of West Torrens, ABB Grain, Woolworths, GWA, GWF, Sigma Pharmaceuticals, Blackmores, IAG and a number of other high profile organisations.</p>
<p>For more information</p>
<p>John Walker, IT Programme Manager
Chandler Macleod Group
Phone: 0401 724 083
Email: John.Walker@chandlermacleod.com</p>
<p>Tony Wilkinson, CEO
Technical Architecture Solutions
Phone: (02) 02.9984 8133 or 0404-036 340
Email: twilkinson@techarchsolutions.com</p>

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