South East Water avoids $250k floor strengthening

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South East Water avoids $250k floor strengthening

What do you do when you need a structural engineer to sign off on each new server to be added to the data centre?

South East Water has virtualised over 80 per cent of its servers after data growth threatened to push the data centre over the building’s physical floor weight limit.

The utility has virtualised more than 130 servers to avoid the cost of strengthening the floor or relocating the centre, according to South East Water (SEWL) CIO Marcus Darbyshire.

Expanding the perimeters of the centre was not possible due to its location on the floor.

“We were at a crossroads,” Darbyshire told iTNews.

“Our building manager would not let us put in another server unless a structural engineer signed off each time.”

Increasing the floor load capacity of the building up from 400 kilograms per square metre was going to cost in excess of $250,000.

This did not include the cost of relocating staff seated immediately below the data centre during the floor strengthening works.

Initial estimates to relocate the centre completely came in at over $500,000, said Darbyshire.

SEWL explored a number of options, including application sociability testing and co-location, and the potential to use blade servers. Overhead costs such as increased management complexity and air conditioning made both options unsuitable.

The utility also sent servers to its disaster recovery site to free up space, and even looked at adding $50,000 of UPS power “to buy us some time”.

After a complete review, the utility overhauled its environment, upgrading all servers to HP ProLiant DL380s and virtualising up to 80 percent of them using vmWare.

“We’ve emptied around six racks of gear,” Darbyshire said.

Applications virtualised to date include BlackBerry, domain controllers, Web servers, SharePoint, GIS applications and “several proprietary business systems."

An interesting side note is that SEWL has also cut $10,000 per year from the data centre energy bill – interesting because as with many organisations, the responsibility for the bill rests with facilities management, not IT.

“We still don’t see the bill,” admitted Darbyshire. “It wasn’t until we placed a smart meter on our switchboard to monitor electricity usage in the data centre that we realised we were using around 70KW of energy – day and night,” he explained.

“We’ve now reduced our power consumption by nearly 15 percent, equating to $10,000 per year in savings on our bill.”

SEWL runs a predominately Microsoft-based environment. It has upgraded around 20 percent of servers to Windows Server 2008, mostly the domain controllers. The majority run Windows Server 2003 R2, and desktops run Windows XP.

Darbyshire told iTNews the utility is now rolling out Office 2007 to 700 desktops across the organisation, following a successful year-long pilot of the technology by 50 users internally.

SEWL also runs Open Text’s LiveLink solution for document and records management.
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