Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The natural cycle of IT – but in a virtual world.

There is a natural cycle to I.T. that wouldn’t normally be associated with the natural laws of the world. When you’ve had clients as long as 10 years you get to realise that there really is! Some comp

The natural cycle of IT – but in a virtual world.

It’s funny that there is a natural cycle to I.T. You wouldn’t normally associate IT with the natural laws of the world but when you’ve had clients as long as 10 years you get into a routine of carrying out some regular tasks. It makes sense for some companies to replace hardware every three or 4 years as it depreciates whereas for others it may have to last longer.

With some clients, I do find myself replacing many old servers at once. To be faced with this can be both daunting and exciting. The excitement comes from installing the latest technology but it can be daunting because so much relies on you to make it work.  That’s why we avoid using our clients systems to experiment and learn ‘on the job’. If something goes awry with a live system, it can be disastrous to them and would kill our hard-earned reputation overnight.

So, we use a dedicated in-house test environment so that we can investigate, learn and break new applications, operating systems and software updates. Over the past year, we’ve been using it to test Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 so we can see what’s under the bonnet and how to make it all work. We also use a great project management tool that’s just right to assist us – after all, we don’t want to spend longer creating a project plan than doing the actual work itself.

The General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTC) – is one of the clients I’m responsible for and we’ve worked with them for over 6 years now. Having been tasked with this replacement of outdated servers, we crunched the project through our planning tool and looked at the best options for GTC. There were three servers in all each one with many different roles to fulfil. These included email, databases, archiving, file and print and proxy servers.

The really cool part was walking the GTC management through the advantages and benefits against the disadvantages of the options open to them.  The unanimous decision was to opt for server virtualisation – that meant cutting the servers down to 2 physical servers (to buy and run and manage) whilst employing the distinct applications and functions across 5 guest virtual servers.

Think of virtualisation as having an office building – say a three storey one - and then having different companies living on every floor. They share an entrance, a reception, the lift and the kitchen area but the rest of the space can be divided to suit. A company can move out and another move in without changing the whole building. And there’s more space (server resources) in a whole block than in a single storey one but with the flexibility to use them exactly where they’re needed. Makes economic sense and allows you to flex computing power to where it’s needed.

It can also be wise to allow new technology to mature (a bit like wine but not as long as whisky!) so that you get the best of the original concept without all the bugs. We did just that with Server Virtualisation for GTC and it made sense for them now for this particular project. Most importantly, this solution fitted their needs and not mine.

Now GTC’s IT applications are working better and performing quicker for their staff to use. A far from routine solution to a regular development need that ensured GTC’s IT refreshment budget went further and worked harder.

If you’d like to do more with less and make the most of your IT budget, then we’re listening…

Contact GM today and talk to us about how we can help you.