P2V gets us closer to 100% virtual

At Westminster College, my goal is to move us as close to a 100% virtual infrastructure as makes sense. We do have a few services that will remain physical, but the vast majority of our services are humming along on four ESX hosts.

We initiated our virtualization project at the College to save money and extend the life of some workloads without having to buy new individual servers. To do so, we used PlateSpin Power Convert (this was about 4 years ago) to perform a P2V migration of legacy physical machines to what, at the time, were standalone ESX hosts with local storage. Shortly thereafter, we moved to our first SAN and, from there, our ability to virtualize workloads and reap the full value of the virtual environment was truly realized.

As we got started with virtualization, we were also deploying a number of new physical workloads, including Exchange 2007 and SharePoint 2007 with a dedicated SQL 2005 database server. Again, this was back in the 2007 timeframe.

Once we got our full SAN-based virtual environment in place, we suddenly had the ability to do much, much more. The storage could keep up with the demand much better than a few disks on each individual server. As such, as we’ve begun implementing new services, such as Exchange 2010 and SharePoint 2010, we didn’t even consider the physical road. All of our new services are built on vSphere. However, we still have a need to maintain our legacy services – Exchange 2007 and SharePoint 2007 – while we work on a full migration to the newer versions. At the same time, the servers on which these services reside need to be removed from the data center since their lease is expiring. Although our replacement cycle would allow us to replace them, we instead once again fired up PlateSpin and performed three P2V migrations – one for SharePoint 2007, one for SQL 2005 and one for Exchange Server 2007 – and moved all of these legacy workloads to vSphere alongside the other 50 or so virtual machines we’re already running.

At this point, other than the vSphere servers, we have the following physical servers in place:

  • Exchange 2003: Used only for public folders. We’ve been planning to move these to SharePoint and will do so once we’re on SharePoint 2010.
  • Security cameras: All of our campus security cameras store their video on this server which is connected to a mass amount of storage. There is little benefit to virtualizing this system.
  • Backup server. Our primary backup system is physical and resides outside the data center in another secure location on campus.
  • SQL 2008 R2 server. Our primary database server – this will be virtualized very shortly.

We also in the early planning stages for a Microsoft Lync deployment and are studying which implementation method – physical or virtual – would make more sense for us.

This is a quick look at how we’ve moved from a fully physical infrastructure to one mostly reliant on our virtual infrastructure. Please share your own virtualization story in the comment section.

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