Starship Systems – a local technology company which specialises in the supply and implementation of virtualisation technologies – has breathed about five years of life into Junior Achievement South Africa’s (JASA) main data server with the implementation of its innovative Virtual Machine (VM) hypervisor, Nebula qVE.

“Using our Nebula qVE solution, we have virtualised JASA’s primary data server to make it faster and more easily updatable and expandable in the future. The machine now houses three VM machines which each have a dedicated purpose; two are responsible for JASA’s two extensive databases (one corporate CRM and the other for student data) and the third for office backup software (Nebula Backpack 24).
“This has allowed JASA to optimise its existing hardware and meet its growing storage and processing needs without having to upgrade to a newer, bigger and more expensive server. As it stands, this machine should serve JASA’s needs well for the next five years,” says Starship System’s MD, Herman van Heerden.
Nebula qVE is a nifty plug-in USB device (with an install option as well) that can turn any 64bit server into a high-performance VM host within seconds, providing the same performance as an installed VM solution without the effort of installation (Zero Install). Because it can be used on any lower-end spec’ed server, there is no need for companies to invest in a monster, high-end server with SCSI subsets and the latest in maximum RAM and CPU to start venturing into virtualisation.
The memory usage is extremely low, only taking up only about 150MBytes, graphical user interface included, of RAM, allowing the administrators to allocate the rest to the virtual servers. This makes it ideal for turning smaller servers into virtual hosts for quick and easy expansion of infrastructure. The technology is sound and tested in the enterprise which means Nebula qVE can also be used by larger companies for converting a single VM host server into a large number of VM hosts.
“The virtualisation of the server has made the management of the environment so much easier and allows for smart partitioning. In the past when maintenance and upgrades had to be done on any of the systems, the whole server had to be shut down. With each of the systems running on a separate VM, this is no longer necessary. Now, one VM machine can be shut down so upgrades can be carried out on an individual system without affecting the others.
“Because the management of the environment is simplified, it is easier for the server to be restarted in-house without the need for specialist assistance. Re-booting the system is also much faster,” explains van Heerden.
As part of the project, Starship Systems also implemented NAS software to address JASA’s need for a better and more robust system for backing-up and securing its data. The organisations databases and CRM solutions were also updated and refreshed.
Supported by Junior Achievement Worldwide, JASA is a nationwide, autonomous, non-profit association that prepares young people for life after school by raising their awareness of economic issues, teaching them entrepreneurial and life skills, providing them with an understanding of the business world and enhancing their sense of personal responsibility through practical business experience.
Starship Systems has a longstanding partnership with JASA, having provided and implemented the student databases as well as its own-developed Nebula CRM programme for the two CRM systems more than five years ago.
The company then took over the full backup function for JASA about three years ago. This was followed by the revamp and redesign of JASA’s website to make it dynamic and more representative of its culture and goals. The website utilises open source software which allows an in-house administrator to upload new information and update the site, with the result that the website now functions as a current and evolving marketing tool.
Commenting on the latest project, JASA’s Managing Director, Linda McClure says: “We required a better system for backing-up and securing our data. However, we were at a point where our primary data server, structured and operating as it was, would not be able to cope with the addition of the backup software, necessitating investment in another server just for this purpose.
“Starship Systems were able to offer a much more cost-effective alternative by virtualising the machine with Nebula qVE. JASA was keen to make use of open source software for its ease of use and cost-effectiveness, and this is an area in which Starship Systems specialises. The solution addresses both our systems requirements and fits our budget. We trust that this solution will postpone the need to invest in a new server for a few years.
“Once again, the Starship Systems team has demonstrated its flexibility, availability and girth of skills in delivering a cost-effective solution that is specially adapted to our requirements. Over the years, Starship Systems has been willing to experiment with us and have always responded to our needs most appropriately while remaining keenly aware of our financial constraints. This is combined with acute attention to delivering excellent customer service in the form of training and ongoing support.”