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Virtual testimony: sans servers, sans apps

ShakespeareFor the HP 3000 manager who looks at other platforms and longs for their range of choices, a testimonial from HP Enterprise Services might seem like catnip. A story about Lucas Oil that was touted in an email today shows how a 3000-sized IT department improved reliability with virtualization. The story also skips any chapters on application software. Sans servers, sans apps, sans uptime worries, to paraphrase Shakespeare.

It's a success story from HP Services, so it might not be so surprising that the details of custom software are missing. In summary, a two-person IT department (which sounds so much like 3000-class staffing) is cutting down on its physical servers by using a lower-cost quote for vitualization. Lower than Dell's, apparently, which is something of an indictment of VMware, perhaps. Dell and VMware are found everywhere together. Now they're going to belong in the same entity with the upcoming EMC acquisition.

But regarding the case study from HPE, it's more of a hardware infrastructure study rather than a full IT profile. Only Photoshop is mentioned among the software used at Lucas, the company somehow big enough to pay for naming rights to the Indianapolis Colts NFL stadium, but small enough to count on just two people to run a datacenter.

The basics in software tools are mentioned, the building blocks of Windows 2012 users: SQL Server, Windows, Active Directory. There's also a mention of an HR application, which tells us that there are custom apps in there, or HPE didn't consider software a part of the story. This is a testimonial about removing iron from IT. Garrett Geisert is the IT admin at Lucas.

Since we virtualized on our HPE ProLiant DL360 servers and HPE MSA 2040 SAN, management isn’t concerned about availability anymore, because we haven’t had an outage yet. Actually, we did have one outage in the last year but it was because of Google’s file servers, not ours. It’s sure been nice not having to tell people they can’t access their systems.

That's one set of choices that's not available to HP 3000 sites who haven't migrated, unless they consider Stromasys Charon to be a way to virtualize. Hardware failures were vexing Lucas Oil. It's the kind of problem any 3000 site has to plan for, with all of the drives out there being more than a decade old.

“If we had a single server with a bad hard drive or blown power supply, it meant kicking of all users of that application until we had the problem fixed," Geisert says in the testimonial. "For us, it could mean shutting down anything from a basic file server to HR to full-on Adobe Photoshop graphics."

Newer hardware can be a serious capital expense. Since migrated sites always have upgrade options — well, the ones that don't use HP-UX, anyway — this expense is always out there lurking, posing as a solution to problems like reliability. Buy newer drives. Buy better power supplies.

The virtualization solution at this 3000-sized IT shop puts multiple servers on a set of ProLiants, and the servers can take over for one another. In the 3000 world this was called high availability with a price tag to match. Virtualization's magic somehow cuts the cost of this while it manages software application nuances like tapping the right databases, even through a virtualized server failure.

It's just like me to think that because there's no application detail in the testimonial, it's not authentic. It makes me curious about whether those app databases needed revision to accommodate virtualization's payoffs. This might be a nuance that HP Services provided or consulted upon. A reseller is mentioned in the story, a resource that's not virtual at all. And everyone seems happy with all this is sans from the story, especially the downtime. It's been that way for HP 3000s for decades, too.