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DAS drives down data centre costs with server virtualisation

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Digital Archiving Systems (DAS), a provider of enterprise content management (ECM) solutions, has turned to server virtualisation as a tactic to decrease its operating costs and optimise use of its existing resources.

DAS runs an outsourcing bureau for hosted document management, backscanning and on-going scanning requirements. As such, running an efficient and cost-effective data centre is right at the heart of its business.
Server virtualisation is making high-end computing more affordable by allowing companies to do more with less hardware than they needed in the past, says Ronald Melmed, MD of DAS. “There’s a strong worldwide trend towards server virtualisation as companies try to cut back on running costs in their data centres in a tight economy,” he adds.
Server virtualisation essentially abstracts applications and operating systems from the physical server, so that more than one set of applications can be run on one physical system. Virtualised servers in a cluster can be managed as a single pool of processing power.
This allows IT administrators to allocate workloads to underused servers rather than needing to buy new hardware to accommodate new applications and growing workloads. Some benefits of virtualisation include flexibility, cost-efficiency, and easier manageability.
Use of server virtualisation is growing around the world. According to market researcher, Forrester, more than a third of enterprise IT shops have implemented x86 server virtualisation and nearly two-thirds expect to do so by 2009.
A recent study by IDC, meanwhile, found that 35% of the servers bought in 2007 in Europe were virtualised and forecasts that 52% of the servers purchased in 2008 will be virtualised.
"From DAS’ point of view, one immediate benefit of virtualisation is that it allows us to optimise use of our existing hardware and cut back on the need to buy new servers,” says Melmed. “Apart from the benefit of achieving cost-savings on hardware purchases, we can contain spending on cooling and power, which have become a major expense in any data centre.”
Estimates about average server utilisation in non-virtualised environments range between 10% and 20%. Virtualisation allows companies to boost that number to 75% or more, allowing them to do more using the same energy profile. Server virtualisation also allows companies to optimise use of resources such as network bandwidth and storage space.
Virtualisation also means that DAS can reduce the load on its uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system and generator. DAS currently does not use the full capacity of its generator and UPS and will not need to purchase additional units when it grows its server processing capacity.
Server virtualisation also eases administration of the IT environment by cutting back on the amount of servers that the IT department needs to manage. Provided it is well implemented, server virtualisation can allow a company to minimise downtime.
It also improves flexibility – it’s easy for DAS to quickly add servers to its environment if necessary and allocate workloads to them, says Melmed.
Server virtualisation also simplifies disaster recovery for DAS. The company is able to capture snapshots of data and applications on different servers so that it can easily get up-and-run again if one of them experiences an outage. In addition, DAS can perform development and testing in a live environment without needing dedicated servers for this purpose.