Tax office aims for virtualised data centre

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Tax office aims for virtualised data centre

ATO's virtualisation plan spurs new approaches to outsourcing.

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The Australian Tax Office aims to virtualise 70 per cent of the servers in its data centre by the end of 2010.

Speaking at the Data Centre Summit in Melbourne, ATO Strategy and Architecture infrastructure manager Ross Smith said the tax office had mandated that all new applications be deployed on virtual machines, and had also set about porting existing applications across to the virtual environment.

Smith told delegates the ATO had identified 2500 existing servers to virtualise, but was taking a "crawl, walk, run" approach to the project.

"We've started with the less troublesome applications," Smith said. "Then we'll move to the more difficult ones. Siebel, for example, we let off the hook early. But there is [a] noose closing in on Siebel, on SQL, on SAP."

Smith said the ATO was about halfway through its server virtualisation journey, running 1000 virtual machines and 800 virtual desktops today.

The project was already yielding savings in terms of data centre footprint and power consumption. Smith estimated that the virtualisation of just 100 physical servers in late 2008 led to a two per cent decline in energy consumption and $42,000 in annual savings.

One of the main business drivers was the "self-service" nature of deploying applications on virtual machines, which allowed for far faster deployment of new services.  But the ATO has managed to achieve this flexibility while avoiding the oft-cited ugly side-effect - virtual machine sprawl.

"We don't have server sprawl problems because we introduced and stuck to an ITIL [Information Technology Infrastructure Library] process a long time ago," Smith said.

"It's not a free-for-all at the ATO and it never will be. Whether it's a virtual server or a physical one, nobody provisions it unless they have gone through those authorisation steps.

Read on to Page 2 for the challenges virtualisation presents in an outsourced environment.

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