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Virtualization serves up major savings for truck maker

Virtualizing servers with VMware ESX saves millions in hardware costs for Illinois company.

Joan Goodchild, News Writer

Virtualization technology has saved an Illinois-based truck manufacturer more than $1 million in hardware costs.

Barry Naber, IT manager for International Truck and Engine Corp. in Warrenville, Ill., has reduced physical server purchases with virtualization. The company has saved $7,500 for each virtual machine running.

International Truck now has 18 ESX servers running a total of 217 virtual machines . . . That adds up to $1,627,500 in server costs that were avoided.

Initially, the company looked into virtualization to alleviate a growth problem. Naber wanted to put a lid on the number of servers in his environment. "We had too many servers," he said. "Space wasn't really the big issue; there were just an overwhelming number of physical servers to manage."

Naber said he was sure that as business grew, the number of applications needed in his data center would, too, and he wanted a plan for the future that would reduce server sprawl and keep hardware costs down. He looked at blade servers but decided that blades, while smaller in size than traditional rack-mounted servers, did not cut down on the actual physical number of boxes in the server room.

"Our goal was to reduce the number of servers we had, and blades don't do that, so they couldn't help us with our goal," Naber said.

Naber started with just one copy of VMware Inc's ESX server software in 2002, in test mode only. After virtualizing several applications for a few months, Naber was impressed enough with the performance to start using ESX server in production scenarios as well.

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International Truck now has 18 ESX servers running a total of 217 virtual machines on a combination of four- and eight-processor IBM X Series and HP ProLiant servers. That adds up to $1,627,500 in server costs that were avoided.

The physical servers host 200 different applications and several Windows operating systems, according to Naber. The only type of application Naber said he is not comfortable virtualizing is a database. He does not think large databases are a good fit for virtualization because of the overhead generated by their massive memory requirements.

Naber also uses virtualization to ensure applications are compatible. Applications are first deployed in development mode and then migrated into production only after extensive testing. "We now have both production and development partitions," he said. "This lets us test out upgrades and patches in a development environment before moving it into production."

Naber noted that cost savings in the server room were not immediate.

"Because the older Windows servers we were running are inexpensive to support, there wasn't a big cost savings when we were able to get rid of one," he said.

But cost avoidance is an obvious benefit that has been revealed over time, he said.

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