SRC cuts hardware and administration costs

With IBM BladeCenter servers using VMware virtualization

Published on 05-Jul-2011

Validated on 01 Oct 2013

"BladeCenter and VMware work really well together, giving us greater flexibility and better insight into the infrastructure." - Michael Sullivan, systems administrator at SRC

Customer:
Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC)

Industry:
Electronics

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
Optimizing IT, Optimizing IT, Server Consolidation, Virtualization, Virtualization - Server

Overview

Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) is the world's leading technology research consortium. Created in 1982 to boost the contributions of university research for the semiconductor industry, SRC has nearly 20 member companies at any given time and has built a network with more than 250 top universities worldwide. Operating multiple low-overhead research programs both in the U.S. and globally that engage and challenge the most talented students, SRC helps to provide competitive advantage to its members. In 2005, SRC was the recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Technology®.

Business need:
With limited staff resources and growing IT needs, SRC wanted a more compact and efficient infrastructure that would require less management while offering greater scalability and responsiveness.

Solution:
SRC deployed a total of 12 IBM® BladeCenter® servers with Intel® Xeon® processors, six of which run VMware vSphere virtualization software. The organization is now migrating its old physical servers to virtual machines.

Benefits:
New infrastructure is between four and seven times more compact and efficient; SRC can deploy a new server in one hour rather than the four or five hours previously needed; lower administrative costs.

Case Study

Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) is the world's leading technology research consortium. Created in 1982 to boost the contributions of university research for the semiconductor industry, SRC has nearly 20 member companies at any given time and has built a network with more than 250 top universities worldwide. Operating multiple low-overhead research programs both in the U.S. and globally that engage and challenge the most talented students, SRC helps to provide competitive advantage to its members. In 2005, SRC was the recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Technology®.

Despite its global reach, SRC is a small organization, employing just 44 people to direct and sponsor a complex set of research programs using an advanced knowledge management system. There is continual pressure to do more with less, keeping administrative costs to a minimum in order to deliver the maximum possible research benefit for the SRC's member companies.

“The small headcount in our organization means that we are dependent on efficient and reliable technology to deliver value for our clients,” says Michael Sullivan, systems administrator at SRC. “As we added new features to our internal management systems and external websites, we were adding new physical servers, putting pressure on space and costs in our data center.”

Maximizing utilization
An expanding set of research activities, coupled with increasing demands from clients for new web functionality and reporting, had caused the IT infrastructure at SRC to grow. From its beginnings as a single-server system, the website had split into multiple database servers, web servers, development servers and staging servers—each running on a different physical machine. This meant a significant capital investment in hardware and high operational costs in power and cooling. Much of this expenditure was effectively wasted, as the average utilization of computing resources was between two and five percent.

“We were under increasing pressure to maximize returns from our investment in technology, and the obvious answer was to move to a virtualized environment that would increase utilization and shrink the physical landscape,” says Sullivan. “IBM BladeCenter solved our immediate needs and gave us a path to grow into.”

SRC considered blade solutions from HP, Dell and IBM, and concluded that IBM BladeCenter was the most mature technology. “Another important factor was IBM's reputation for quality and support,” recalls Sullivan. “We worked directly with IBM to deploy the BladeCenter and the new SAN—they were outstanding, helping us to get to grips quickly with what was a completely new technology concept for us.”

Made for virtualization
SRC deployed a BladeCenter E chassis with ten BladeCenter blade servers for its internal systems, and a BladeCenter S chassis with one HS22 blade and one HX5 blade for web services. An IBM System Storage® DS3400 with an EXP3000 expansion unit provides central storage resources for all the blade servers, replacing the previous direct-attached architecture. In addition to deploying all new systems as virtual servers on the blades, SRC is steadily migrating its existing physical servers to virtual servers, then retiring the old hardware.

Six of the blades run VMware vSphere 4.1, booting from local drives but with the virtual machines themselves (primarily Microsoft Windows Server, with some Linux) stored on the SAN. “We were using VMware ESX Server previously,” says Sullivan. “BladeCenter and VMware work really well together, giving us greater flexibility and better insight into the infrastructure.”

The new HX5 blade server used in the solution has two Intel Xeon Processor L7555 processors, each with eight cores running at 1.86 GHz and featuring Intel Virtualization Technology (VT-x). “We're very comfortable with Intel technologies, and we like to have the same processor vendor throughout the infrastructure,” says Sullivan. “The built-in virtualization features make the Xeon processors an ideal fit for our VMware landscape. The HX5 currently runs seven virtual servers and gives us plenty of headroom, so we can easily use VMware vMotion to move live virtual machines over if we need to shut down another physical host for maintenance.”

Compact and easy
Virtualizing to IBM BladeCenter enabled SRC to achieve a consolidation ratio of 4-to-1, moving the workload of four older servers to each IBM blade, freeing up valuable floorspace and cutting the organization's energy costs. The consolidation ratio is even greater for the newer BladeCenter HX5 blade, at 7-to-1. BladeCenter also provides far greater flexibility and scalability, while simultaneously cutting the cost and complexity of server management.

“With BladeCenter, we can add more hardware resources by simply pushing a new blade into the slot,” says Sullivan. “To fire up new virtual servers is also fast and easy. We install VMware vSphere, then deploy a virtual machine from a gold template managed by VMware vCenter. Setting up a complete new blade server with a new virtual machine would take perhaps one hour, including the time to install firmware and driver updates. In our previous environment, it would have taken four or five hours to complete the equivalent tasks.”

The combination of VMware vCenter and IBM Director gives SRC a single point of control for virtual and physical resources respectively, making it easier to keep systems in optimal condition. “In the past, we had to download and apply patches for each server individually,” says Sullivan. “We now use IBM UpdateXpress to apply firmware updates and patches for VMware and Windows from a central repository. We can also remotely manage the BladeCenter hardware, even powering servers off and on—which means we avoid ever having to come back into the data center on weekends!”

Sullivan also credits IBM support in reducing the administrative workload for SRC: “On the occasions I need support, I don't have to start from the very beginning. I call, say where I am, and off we go—that's hours saved. The IBM support teams are knowledgeable, quick to get to the heart of the issue, and quick to provide the right solution rather than trying to make me work around the problem.”

He concludes, “Our BladeCenter and VMware infrastructure enables us to run more services on less hardware, and saves considerable time and effort in management. This means that we can focus more investment and resources on our core activities and on supporting our clients.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
BladeCenter E Chassis, BladeCenter HS22, BladeCenter HX5, BladeCenter S Chassis, Storage: DS3400, Storage: EXP3000

Software:
VMware vSphere Hypervisor 4.1 U1 with IBM Customization

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2011. IBM Systems and Technology Group, Route 100, Somers, New York 10589, U.S.A. Produced in the United States of America. June 2011. All Rights Reserved. IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, BladeCenter and System Storage are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation in the United States, other countries or both. If these and other IBM trademarked terms are marked on their first occurrence in this information with a trademark symbol (® or ™), these symbols indicate U.S. registered or common law trademarks owned by IBM at the time this information was published. Such trademarks may also be registered or common law trademarks in other countries. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. Intel, Intel logo and Intel Xeon are trademarks or registered trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. The National Medal of Technology is a Federally registered trademark and service mark of the U.S. Department of Commerce. Other company, product and service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. References in this publication to IBM products or services do not imply that IBM intends to make them available in all countries in which IBM operates. Offerings are subject to change, extension or withdrawal without notice. All client examples cited represent how some clients have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. The information in this document is provided “as-is” without any warranty, either expressed or implied.