by Bob Fairchild
In 2009, while planning for a major computer system upgrade to take advantage of improved technology, MMWD faced several obstacles. The biggest initial obstacle was that our server room did not have the cooling or electrical capacity to house the additional servers that would be needed for the transition. The type of upgrade we were doing required us to keep the existing system running while we built the new system in parallel on new servers. Fortunately, a relatively new technology called virtualization had emerged that provides the ability to run many servers on one physical machine. Virtualization is basically software that allows us to get a bigger bang for our hardware buck by having servers share costly CPUs and memory in a very efficient manner. So, instead of adding costly cooling and power to our server room, we decided that the only way for us to complete our upgrade was to add virtualization to the project and ultimately reduce our cooling and power needs.
In July of 2010 we successfully completed our planned system upgrade thanks in large part to our talented staff and virtualization technology. Since the initial upgrade project, we have continued to virtualize other servers within our data center. To date, we have virtualized about 80 percent of our servers and have plans to virtualize a few more. While we have added many virtual servers, our physical server count has dropped dramatically. This has saved thousands of dollars in hardware investments and will continue to save money in the future. Additionally, the energy load for our server room has dropped by 45 percent. We estimate the energy savings alone to be over $20,000 per year because of server virtualization. Of course, this reduced energy use has the added bonus of helping the district achieve its strategic goal of reducing its carbon footprint.