City of Pittsburgh Has Seen Numerous Efficiencies from Virtualization at the Server Level and Now at the Desktop Level
City of Pittsburgh Has Seen Numerous Efficiencies fromVirtualization at the Server Level and Now at the DesktopLevelTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect Podcast from the VMworld 2011 Conference on how the City ofPittsburgh has launched a major virtualization effort to serve a variety of city departments.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Sponsor: VMwareDana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to a special BrieﬁngsDirect podcast series coming to you from the VMworld 2011 Conference in Las Vegas. Were here in the week of August 29 to explore the latest in cloud computing and virtualization infrastructure developments. Im Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and I’ll be your host throughout this series of VMware-sponsored BrieﬁngsDirect discussions. [Disclosure: VMware is a sponsor of BrieﬁngsDirect podcasts.]Our next VMworld case study interview focuses on the City of Pittsburgh’s Information Systemsorganization and how they’ve deeply embraced virtualization at the server level and nowincreasingly at the desktop level. We’ll see how critical city services in Pittsburgh are beingsupported using VMware View 4.6 and the new 5.0 version and how the beneﬁcial synergybetween virtualized servers and desktops is shaping up.To learn more, please join me now in welcoming Alex Musicante, the System Security Architectin the City Information Systems department in Pittsburgh. Welcome to the show, Alex.Alex Musicante: Welcome.Gardner: Your environment is almost 100 percent virtualized on the server side. First, why isthere such a holistic embrace, and how has that provided the conﬁdence for you to move nowaggressively into the desktop virtualization space as well?Musicante: The City of Pittsburgh decided to embrace virtualization ﬁve years or so ago, and we did this in a development environment with VMware. The conﬁdence was not there for the server virtualization, and we decided its a good place to offer development to our internal engineers. From there, we kept building and building, and we decided to put our ﬁrst production system on there. Without a problem, everything started going. What virtualization had to offer for us was higher availability, higher reliability. When we were remote, we had full console access. We were able to offerhigher reliability on our development than our production. That was what led us to go to
production. Its very difﬁcult in this day and age with budgets and all that. Were now doing morewith less. In order to be able to accommodate that and be able to handle the increased workloadwith fewer people, it has been embracing server virtualization, and virtualization in general.Gardner: And to what level are you at server-side virtualization and how many servers areinvolved at this point?Musicante: In server virtualization we currently have 16 hosts, 98 percent virtual. There areabout 250 or so virtual machines (VMs) between two data centers; and we are using VMwareSite Recovery Manager to replicate or to bring up the replicated site in the event of a disaster orany planned maintenance that we need to perform at one data center versus the other.Gardner: I’d like to hear more about your desktop virtualization strategy, but lets learn a littlebit more about the scope and scale of your mission-critical set of services. How many users?Youre supporting the mayor’s ofﬁce, police, and ﬁre. Tell us a little bit about what yourdepartment is doing in the City of Pittsburgh?3,000 usersMusicante: The City of Pittsburgh’s City Information Systems Department, which I work for, has about 3,000 users that they support. That ranges from all public safety -- Police, Fire, EMS, and Building Inspection -- to the branches of government -- the Mayor’s Ofﬁce, the City Council, and Controller’s Ofﬁce as well as other important departments like the Finance Department, Personnel, Human Resources, and Parks andRecreation. Thats who were supporting, and each and every one of them has their own littlecaveats of technology that they need.Gardner: You’re also of course concerned about security, performance, disaster recovery, whichyou’ve already mentioned. How has virtualization helped you not just in cutting cost, but inmaking these more hardened, more resilient services?Musicante: In terms of hardening and security, when we took our virtualization approach, westarted out by saying that we were going to physical-to-virtual (P2V) and migrate a lot of thesemachines. As we proceeded and matured in that environment, we decided that we were going tobuild fresh and build new.So when we did our server virtualization, we looked at virtualization in general. It became anopportunity for us to evaluate how we were going to harden things, how we were going to securethings, and since now we don’t have to support that many physical servers, we can expand onour current capacity, and hardware.We’re able to separate things, where servers that were multi-functional servers, database server,ﬁle server, web server, all in one, now get to be three different servers, and only allowcommunications to the speciﬁc application and supports what they need.
Gardner: Any issues around storage? Has that been something that you’ve been able to wreaksome efﬁciencies out as well?Musicante: Storage was very interesting for the City of Pittsburgh. They were coming from anenvironment where everything was on direct-attached storage (DAS), and going to a storage areanetwork (SAN) environment, which they had. They had an array with an HP 6000, but they wereonly using 500 gigabytes at the time. So storage transition was huge in terms of reliability, but aswell as cost at the same time.It was an unexpected thing from the city’s perspective, as they were not in the market for anarray where everything is central. It was all individual and unique to each host and physicalserver. So storage came about and offered a lot more ﬂexibility and a lot of beneﬁt to the City ofPittsburgh, but it was not without hassle.Gardner: So you’ve gone through that process -- 98 percent is very impressive on your server,and your infrastructure. What prompted you to now take the additional step to use View andmove into desktop virtualization?Musicante: The City of Pittsburgh moved into desktop virtualization with very similarcharacteristics as we looked at the server virtualization as how can we offer higher reliability andhigher support, give us more management from a central standpoint back at our remote ofﬁces,and offer them to the clients and given them the same if not a better level service for additionalbeneﬁts from administrative.Security provisioningThere were a bunch of reasons, and those are like pushing out software updates withoutdowntime for the users. They just log off and get a new one. It was security provisioningsoftware, keeping all the storage and everything is back in our data center, so nothing leaves thefacility.Those were motivating factors as well as keeping administrative cost down. That was the push,and it actually took off. It took some time, but its being embraced more than I ever would havethought it would have been.Gardner: Lets learn a little bit more about the nature of your distribution requirements.Obviously, youve got City Hall. You’ve got some centralization. You’ve got police headquartersand ﬁre headquarters, but you’ve also got a lot of distributed sites around the city. So let us betterunderstand your distribution requirements when you’re going to desktop virtualization?Musicante: There are 175 remote facilities, and they range from connectivity of facilities thatare on dark ﬁber, with 100, 200, 300, 500 users, to these individual remote ofﬁces that arelocated in the park facility, and they have one or two employees that are coming across the DSLline.
One of the major complaints was the problem with connectivity where people are on DSL. Theywould load the roaming proﬁle or pull documents or upload ﬁles and they would see this hugelag where it took them upwards of 30 minutes to start their day off. Theyre now able to go intoView, sign-in, and theyre in. So we pretty much recovered 30 extra minutes for some of theseemployees on a daily basis.Gardner: How are you leveraging the PCoIP bandwidth improvements for the WAN?Musicante: Very well. With each version its deﬁnitely gotten better. Still from a managementside we do maintain an IPSec tunnel to all of our facilities.So PC-over-IP has been what we’ve been using for our remote facilities, even back in the 3.0days. When 4.1 PC-over-IP came out, 4.5, 4.6, its been progressively getting better and hashigher availability with more response. When 4.6, matured, they gave us the View SecurityServer, and even now with 5, it has increased and lowered the actual requirements necessary fortrafﬁc. So some of our facilities are not feeling the same same pain that they were prior to.Gardner: As you’ve been making this transition, it would be good to understand better howyou’ve adopted version 5. To what degree are you using version 5 for View on your desktopvirtualization installations?Musicante: Currently, were in a mixed mode. We have two environments which were trying toexpedite to move off of, but we currently have a 4.6 environment and a 5.0 environment. Rightnow with our 5.0 environment we are embracing Persona Management for some of our EMSemployees.Gardner: That’s another one of those ancillary beneﬁts that people don’t always appreciate butit’s pretty important.Everything is identicalMusicante: Absolutely. It wasn’t something that we were expecting, but at the same time, whenwe go back with 20/20 hindsight, we reevaluated and said that that makes sense. Everything isnow identical. We use non-persistent machine. So every time they log in, its a brand-newmachine and it’s conﬁgured identically the way we want it. The only factor that’s different foreach user is their proﬁle.Gardner: You know how to resolve them, it’s not starting from scratch.Gardner: Absolutely not starting from scratch. That’s also one of the beautiful beneﬁts. As wemove and as we mature with the product and as the product matures itself, we seem to be takinga very parallel progression between the two -- the City of Pittsburgh and VMware View. PersonaManagement right now has been doing wonders for that.
Those departments that have migrated over and wanted to take this “experiment” of PersonaManagement have been pleasantly surprised. Deﬁnitely, that’s also a point to bring up. When youhear problems from people, when end-users complain, there’s always something that they target.It was networking at one point. Then it moved on to virtualization and everyone said it was thepromised virtualization, whether it was or wasn’t.With View, it actually stands alone. It an outlier. Our users call and they say, "I would like to beon View. I would like to be on that system." For an end-user come back to us and request thatblows our mind. We appreciate it. It means we’ve done something right. And it also has to beattributed back to VMware. They’ve done something right.Gardner: Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet, and then some, with 5.0, what are some of theother salient beneﬁts?Musicante: That’s going to give us extra 5 percent. There is always that server virtualizationwhere you’d only get that 95 percent, although we got past that. There’s that 5 percent that youcouldn’t for or you wouldn’t for whatever reason. That’s the same market for the desktopvirtualization and 5 percent was for high graphic intensive people. Were able to now start toachieve that and were looking to try to achieve that.Weve not gone through some of the advanced 3D accelerated graphic things that are now outwith 5. We are in the process of testing, but it’s currently in our test labs within our department.It’s also in terms of deriving the beneﬁt. We have all of our infrastructure. Were going to with amore green approach. So were going with zero client. Theyre currently Dell FX 100s. So theymay take one tenth of the power, but there is very little there.I know that VMware View 5.0 3D acceleration is going to be there and is going to help out, butthose people are going to be using the repurposed machines, taking their machine, putting astripped down version of 7 and use it from there. So were trying to achieve that, but it’s multiplefacets.Gardner: When we think about your adoption pattern around virtualization, you took your time,learned through your development environment, walked in, made some progress and then reallyramped up on adoption for your server side. You’ve followed a similar pattern now withdesktops.What’s next? Is there an additional synergy between a private cloud implementation, where youcan get even better synergy efﬁciency? Tell me what you think about this fear and movingtowards even higher plane of efﬁciency and productivity on that overall delivery from a centraldata center environment?Going towards the cloudMusicante: It’s really unclear where were going to go. As far as cloud and where the cloud istaking the City of Pittsburgh and where the City of Pittsburgh is going with cloud, City of
Pittsburgh currently is in the process of taking that last two percent of our system that isn’tvirtualized, which is Exchange, and we are currently in the process of going towards the cloud.So it’s actually going to be going to Google Apps for government for mail.As far as cloud within ourselves, the City of Pittsburgh is using its resources that we’ve regainedor recouped from all of our consolidation purposes, especially with the government processesand mentality of doing more with less. There is a lot of fellow government agencies that werenow going to be partnering with to provide them infrastructure as a service.That’s where some of the other product lines come in like vCloud Director, to be able to allowthem to still manage their infrastructure to use our resources, and we can now ourselves be acloud provider, which I have been marketing as Cloud9 because there are nine entities includingthe City of Pittsburgh -- nine entities that we are going to consolidate.Gardner: Im impressed with the fact that you’ve been able to move through this progression,recoup those savings, and then apply it to the innovation that get you yet more productivity andsavings that you can further apply. That’s commendable. Any words of advice for folks that areperhaps not as far along as you’ve been on this progression? What 20/20 hindsight and words ofwisdom might you supply them?Musicante: With server virtualization, everyone is involved in it, and that is the easy part.Desktop virtualization, is where we got hit hard and the lessons that will be learned is that end-user’s matter. Every step of the way, you need their input. It’s not just an administrative decisionsaying this is the right thing. You need to be good at psychology to convince your users that thisis what they want, and getting them to the point of seeing that this is the best approach or gettingtheir input.That really makes all the difference in the world. You’ll have the same end result and you’ll getto the same target, to the same place, but you need their input. It was not the same with servervirtualization. That was for the administrators. They owned it. It was their territory. Thesedesktops that youre taking from the users, yes, they’ll have a better reliability, better up-time,better everything, and better end-user experience, but they feel that that’s theirs, and rightly so.The only thing that I could say is to involve your users. Get them in the proof of concept fromthe beginning. Get their input, what they need, what they want, how they want to access it, andwith that it’ll no doubt be a sure success.Gardner: And if you can do it in such a way that they are asking by brand for the virtualizeddesktop approach, that sounds like an optimal outcome.Musicante: Absolutely.Gardner: We’ve been talking about the beneﬁcial synergy between virtualized servers anddesktops and how that’s shaping up in Pittsburgh. Join me in thanking our guest. We’ve beenhere with Alex Musicante, System Security Architect in the City Information SystemsDepartment there in Pittsburgh. Thank you so much, Alex.
Musicante: Thank you so much. Have a good one.Gardner: Thanks, and also thanks to our audience for joining this special podcast coming to youfrom the 2011 VMworld Conference in Las Vegas.Im Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, your host throughout this series ofVMware-sponsored BrieﬁngsDirect discussions. Thanks again for listening, and come back nexttime.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Sponsor: VMwareTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect Podcast from the VMworld 2011 Conference on how the City ofPittsburgh has launched a major virtualization effort to serve a variety of city departments.Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2011. All rights reserved.You may also be interested in: • VMwares vSphere 5 Hits the Streets • VMware Launches a Developer Edition for Cloud Service • Open Group Cloud Panel Forecasts Cloud as Suprring Useful Transition Phase for Enterprise IT Architecture • HPs Kevin Bury on How Cloud and Saas Will Help Pave the Way to Increased Efﬁciency in IT Budgets for 2011 and Beyond