July 12, 2013

Virtual Success

When Maquoketa Valley Electric Cooperative, in Anamosa, Iowa, decided it was time to replace their aging HP9000 database server, they first took stock of their existing infrastructure. With the ability to choose between multiple database server options – HP hardware running the HP-UX operating system, or a variety of dedicated hardware choices running the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) operating system or a virtual server running the RHEL operating system, MVEC wasn’t locked into a single option. Instead, they were able to consider all the factors that could affect their decision: cost, ease of management, availability, and compatibility with their existing infrastructure.

“Cost was considered,” according to Brent Wegmann, MVEC’s IT Manager, “but it wasn’t the driving issue.” Instead, Wegmann considered the benefits of deploying the Linux system in their existing virtual environment, which had been powering much of the MVEC network infrastructure for nearly six years. “The HP9000 was old and needed to be upgraded, but still I had to make a case for it to be put in the budget and then it had to be approved by the board,” he explains. “Now, if I need to upgrade the RHEL virtual machine, I click to add a few more CPUs and memory. When the hardware it’s running on needs to be updated, all virtual machines on that host get the upgrade too.”

Brad Camp, SEDC’s Director of Information Technology, agrees with Wegmann that expanding their existing virtual environment was the right choice for MVEC. Adding a new €˜server’ to an existing virtual environment is easier than ordering new hardware and replacing a physical server,” he explains. “When you add to an existing virtual environment, the same methodologies that drove Maquoketa to choose virtualization for their core infrastructure can now be applied to the UPN database server. That allows great flexibility and redundancy while reducing costs and operational overhead. Additionally, the ability to maximize your resources’ potential is dramatic. Because Maquoketa already had a virtual environment,” he continues, “it made perfect sense for them to leverage the infrastructure for the backend Linux UPN system.”

Immediate Improvement in Performance
At Maquoketa, Wegmann has seen a dramatic improvement over their old HP9000. “I expected modest gains,” Wegmann states, “but we were pleasantly surprised with how much performance improved. Backups went from 2 – 2 ½ hours to 20 minutes. Billing in preview went from 2 ½ hours to 40 minutes.”

MVEC’s Billing Staff has also noted that “UPN is snappier and all the reports run faster,” according to Wegmann.

This mirrors our own results in hosting the internal SEDC development, support, and testing environments with RHEL virtual servers. In fact, compared to the HP9000 servers that used to host our internal systems, the RHEL virtual servers deliver about twice as much power – power that translates to dramatic increases in speed for intensive programs and operations like the Billing program, backups, coop jobs, and other system jobs.

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