Fairfield, California Has Used Virtualization to Efficiently Deliver Crucial City Services
Fairfield, California Has Used Virtualization to EfficientlyDeliver Crucial City ServicesTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast from the VMworld 2011 conference on how one city inCalifornia has gained cost and efﬁciency beneﬁts from virtualization.Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. 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 VMware case study interview focuses on the City of Fairﬁeld,California and how the IT organization there has leveraged virtualization and cloud-deliveringapplications to provide new levels of service in an increasingly efﬁcient manner.We’ll see how Fairﬁeld, a mid-sized city of 110,000 in Northern California, has taken the do-more-with-less adage to its fullest, beginning interestingly with core and mission-critical cityservices applications.Please join me now in welcoming Eudora Sindicic, Senior IT Analyst Over Operations inFairﬁeld. Welcome to the show, Eudora.Eudora Sindicic: Thank you. Thank you very much.Gardner: Im really curious, why did you choose to move forward with virtualization on yourcore applications, mission-critical level applications, things like police support and ﬁredepartment support? What made you so conﬁdent that those were the right apps to go with?Sindicic: First of all, it’s always been challenging in disaster recovery and business continuity.Keeping those things in mind, our CAD/RMS systems for the police center and also our ﬁrestafﬁng system were high on the list for protecting. Those are Tier 1 applications that we want tobe able to recover very quickly.We thought the best way to do that was to virtualize them and set us up for future businesscontinuity and true failover and disaster recovery.So I put it to my CIO, and he okayed it. We went forward with VMware, because we saw theyhad the best, most robust, and mature applications to support us. Seeing that our back end was
SQL for those two systems and seeing that we were just going to embark on a brand-newupgrading of our CAD/RMS system, this was a prime time to jump on the bandwagon and do it.Also, with our backend storage being NetApp, and NetApp having such an intimate relationshipwith VMware, we decided to go with VMware.Gardner: And how has that worked out?Snapshotting abilitiesSindicic: It’s been wonderful. We’ve had wonderful disaster recovery capabilities. We have snapshotting abilities. Im snapshotting the primary database server and application server, which allows for snapshots up to three weeks in primary storage and six months on secondary storage, which is really nice, and it has served us well. We already had a ﬁre drill, where one report was accidentally deleted out of a database due to someone doing something -- and Ill leave it at that. Within 10 minutes, I was able to bring up the snapshot of the records managementsystem of that database.The user was able to go into the test database, retrieve his document, and then he was able toprint it. I was able to export that document and then re-import it into the production system. Sothere was no downtime. It literally took 10 minutes, and everybody was happy.Gardner: So you were able to accomplish your virtualization and also gain that disasterrecovery and business continuity beneﬁt, but you pointed out the time was of the essence. Howlong did it take you, and was that ahead of schedule, behind schedule? How that affects you interms of timing?Sindicic: In regards to the incident or in regards to the whole project?Gardner: The project and the implementation.Sindicic: Back in early ﬁscal year 2010, I started doing all the research. I probably did a goodnine months of research before even bringing this option to my CIO. Once I brought the optionup, I worked with my vendors, VMware and NetApp, to obtain best pricing for the solution that Iwanted.I started implementation in October and completed the process in March. So it took some time.Then we went live with our CAD/RMS system on May 10, and it has been very robust andrunning beautifully ever since.
Gardner: Tell me about your apparatus, your IT operations, the number of servers, the level ofvirtualization that you’re using. Then, we’d like to hear about some of the additional apps youmay be bringing on or have brought on.Sindicic: I have our ﬁnance system, an Oracle-based system, which consists of an Oracledatabase server and Apache applications server, and another reporting server that runs on adifferent platform. Those will all be virtual OSs sitting in one of my two clusters.For the police systems, I have a separate cluster just for police and ﬁre. Then, in the regular day-to-day business, like ﬁnance and other applications that the city uses, I have a campus cluster tokeep those things separated and to also relieve any downtime of maintenance. So everythingdoesn’t have to be affected if Im moving virtual servers among systems and patching and doingupdates.Other applicationsWe’re also going to be virtualizing several other applications, such as a citizen complaint application called Coplogic. Were going to be putting that in as well into the PD cluster. The version of VMware that we’re using is 4.1, we’re using ESXi server. On the PD cluster, I have two ESXi servers and on my campus,I have three. Im using vSphere 4, and it’s been really wonderful having a good handle on thatcontrol.Also, within my vSphere, vCenter server, Ive installed a bunch of NetApp storage controlsolutions that allow me to have centralized control over one level snapshotting and replication.So I can control it all from there. Then vSphere gives me that beautiful centralized view of all myVMs and resources being consumed.It’s been really wonderful to be able to have that level of view into my infrastructure, whereaswhen the things were distributed, I hadn’t had that view that I needed. I’d have to connect one byone to each one of my systems to get that level.Also, there are some things that we’ve learned during this whole thing. I went from two VLANsto four VLANs. When looking at your trafﬁc and the type of trafﬁc that’s going to traverse theVLANs, you want segregate that out big time and you’ll see a huge increase in yourperformance.The other thing is making sure that you have the correct type of drives in your storage. I knewthat right off the bat that IOPS was going to be an issue and then, of course, connectivity. We’reusing Brocade switches to connect to the backend ﬁber channel drives for the server VMs, andfor lower-end storage, we’re using iSCSI.
Gardner: I know youre only a few months into this in terms of being in full production, but inaddition to getting some of these beneﬁts around view and analytics into the operations, do youhave any metrics of success in terms of lowering the total cost of doing this vis-à-vis yourprevious physical and distributed approach?Sindicic: We are seeing cost beneﬁt now. I don’t have all the metrics, but we’ve spun up sixadditional VMs. If you ﬁgure out the cost of the Dells, because we are a Dell shop, it would costanywhere between $5,000 and $11,000 per server. On top of that, youre talking about the cost ofthe Microsoft Software Assurance for that operating system.That has saved a lot of money rightthere in some of the projects that we’re currently embarking on and for the future.We have several more systems that I know are going to be coming on line and were going tosave in cost. We’re going to save in power. Power consumption, Im projecting will slowly godown over time as we add to our VM environment.As it grows and it becomes more robust, and it will, Im looking forward to a large cost savingsover a 5- to 10-year period.Better insightGardner: So we’ve seen that youve been able to maintain your mission-critical performanceand requirements for these applications. You were able to get better insight into these operations.You were able to cut your costs. And now you’ve set yourself up for being able to extend thatvalue into other applications.Was there anything that surprised you that you didn’t expect, when you moved from the physicalto the virtualized environment?Sindicic: I was pleasantly surprised, as I said, with the depth of reporting that I could physicallysee, the graph, the actual metrics, as we were ongoing. As our CAD system came online intoproduction, I could actually see utilization go up and to what level.I was pleasantly surprised to be able to see to see when the backups would occur, how it wouldaffect the system and the users that were on it. Because of that, we were able to time them so thatwould be the least-used hours and what those hours were. I could actually tell in the system whenit was the least used.It was real time and it was just really wonderful to be able to easily do that, without having tomanually create all the different tracking ends that you have to do within Microsoft Monitor oranything like that. I could do that completely independently of the OS.Gardner: So better control management and therefore efﬁciency, being able to decide whenthings should happen in a more efﬁcient manner. Given the fact that you’re a public organization,
have compliance or regulatory issues crept in, and has that been something that’s beenbeneﬁcial?Sindicic: Regulatory and compliance is going to creep in. I see that in the future with some ofour applications as that rolls into a virtual environment. Were going to have some complianceissues, and it’s mostly around encryption and data control, which I really don’t foresee being aproblem with VMware.They also have a lot of hardening information that I am going to be using and utilizing to hardennot only the OS, but you can also encrypt your VM. So Im looking forward to doing that.Gardner: Of course, you’re also in the public service business and you have to provide for yourusers who are those people that are then supporting the people in the community, the proactivepublic at large. So how has this gone?Sindicic: Our biggest are our CAD and RMS systems. This is an application that is used in thelaptops on all of the squad cars. And so far so good. Everybody seems to be really happy. Theresponse of the application is signiﬁcant. There haven’t been a lot of issues when it comes toconnectivity and response times, all the way down to the unit. So it’s been really nice.Gardner: Thats the right effect I suppose, the right response. Were hearing a lot here atVMworld about desktop virtualization as well. I don’t know whether you’ve looked at that, but itseems like youve set yourself up for moving in that direction. Any thoughts about mobile orvirtualized desktops as a future direction for you?On the horizonSindicic: I see that most deﬁnitely on the horizon. Right now, the only thing thats hindering usis cost and storage. But as storage goes down, and as more robust technologies come out aroundstorage, such as solid state, and as the price comes down on that, I foresee that somethingdeﬁnitely coming into our environment.Even here at the conference Im taking a bunch of VDI and VMware View sessions, and Imlooking forward to hopefully starting a new project with virtualizing at the desktop level.This will give us much more granular control over not only what’s on the user’s desktop, butpatch management and malware and virus protection, instead of at the PC level doing it the hostlevel, which would be wonderful. It would give us really great control and hopefully decreasedcost. We’d be using a different product than probably what we’re using right now.If youre actually using virus protection at the host level, you’re going to get a lot of bang foryour buck and you wont have any impact on the PC-over-IP. That’s probably the way we wellgo, with PC-over-IP.
Right now, storage, VLANing all that has to happen, before we can even embark on somethinglike that. So theres still a lot of research on my part going on, as well as ﬁnding a way tomitigate costs, maybe trade-in, something to gain something else. There are things that you cando to help make something like this happen.Gardner: It certainly sounds like the more you’re able to learn and develop competency andimplementation experience, the more you can then take advantage of some of the otherefﬁciencies and its almost as if there is a sort of a snowball effect here around productivity. Isthat a fair characterization?Sindicic: Most deﬁnitely. Number one, in city government, our IT infrastructure continues togrow as people are laid off and departments want to automate more and more processes, which isthe right way to go. The IT staff remains the same, but the infrastructure, the data, and thesupport continues to grow. So Im trying to implement infrastructure that grows smarter, so wedon’t have to work harder, but work smarter, so that we can do a lot more with less.VMware sure does allow that with centralized control in management, with being able todynamically update virtual desktops, virtual servers, and the patch management and automationof that. You can take it to whatever level of automation you want or a little in between, so thatyou can do a little bit of check and balances with your own eyes, before the system goes off anddoes something itself.Also, with the high availability and fault tolerance that VMware allows, its been invaluable. Ifone of my systems goes down, my VMs automatically will be migrated over, which is awonderful thing. We’re looking to implement as much virtualization as we can as budget willallow.Gardner: So fewer of those late night calls. That’s important. Its really been impressive to hearwhat you’ve been able to do and you are a small-to-medium sized organization and you are on atight budget. So congratulations on that.Sindicic: Thank you very much.Gardner: We’ve been talking about leveraging virtualization and cloud-delivered applications toprovide higher levels of service in an increasingly efﬁcient manner especially for coreapplications.Join me please and thanking our guest. We’ve been talking with Eudora Sindicic, Senior ITAnalyst Over Operations at Fairﬁeld, California City of about 110,000 folks. Thanks so much,Eudora.Sindicic: Thank you.Gardner: Thanks to our audience for joining this special podcast coming to you from the 2011VMworld 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. Sponsor: VMwareTranscript of a BrieﬁngsDirect podcast from the VMworld 2011 conference on how one city inCalifornia has gained cost and efﬁciency beneﬁts from virtualization. Copyright InterarborSolutions, LLC, 2005-2011. All rights reserved.You may also be interested in: • Case Study: CharterCARE Health Partners Leverages Cloud and VDI to Aid Digital Records Management and Regulatory Compliance • Tampa Bay Rays Hit Home Run with Virtualization that Enables Tablet Applications Delivery in the Field • VMwares Carl Eschenbach on the Scope and Depth of Cloud Computing and How CIOs Will Have to Adapt • VMworld Showcase: How ADP Dealer Services beneﬁts from VMware View in its expanding use of desktop virtualization • VMworld Case Study: City of Pittsburghs IT success and the beneﬁcial synergy between virtualized servers and desktops • From VMworld, Cosmetics Giant Revlon Harnesses the Power of Private Cloud to Produce Impressive Savings and Cost Avoidance