Green matters: How green is your forest?

Bracknell Forest local authority has discovered some welcome benefits after implementing virtualisation software. Projects are rolled out faster and evaluation is less hasty as a result of this green initiative, says Richard Dawson, IT services manager at the council.

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Bracknell Forest Borough Council, decided to fast track an implementation of VMWare after it had centralised its server provisioning and realised that refresh rates of kit were somewhat wasteful. The IT team monitored the load on each server using a tool called PlateSpin and established that only eight out of 100 servers was running at even 10% of capacity.

After taking a look at what colleagues in West Berkshire council were doing with virtualization, Bracknell Forest decided that a very attractive return on investment (ROI) could be achieved by putting in VMware. For instance, supporting the existing infrastructure over the next four years would cost an estimated £500,000 on server reinstatement alone, but introducing VMware would save them £200,000.

Alongside the projected five year saving obtainable through more efficient processing were other considerations. Power saving, a lower refresh rate and speed of deployment would all add to the ROI, it was calculated.

"Implementation was fairly simple. It’s not like putting in a massive software application,” explains Richard Dawson, IT services manager at the council.

Once implemented, other bonuses quickly materialised. An integrated system for its Children's Services department, was deployed across two physical servers instead of twelve, and supplemented by another ten virtual servers on VMWare. This delivered a cost reduction of £50,000 in hardware, while a reduction in deployment time from two weeks to one afternoon also saved money.

VMWare has also reduced the pressure on procurement decisions and enables a more thorough evaluation of product by departments. These decisions can be more leisurely now. "We can work with a two week instead of a six week lead time," confirms Dawson.

Additionally, as a result of virtualisation, Bracknell Forest expects to be in a position to decrease its overall energy spending in the datacentre by 20% year on year over the next three years. With the current figure spent each year in power at about £75,000, this equates to a substantial saving by 2011. Downtime has also been reduced, with servers and server processing monitoring now a one man job.

Dawson's efforts have been well received by the rest of the organisation. "So often IT is seen as the department that just consumes," says Dawson. "Using technology in clever ways to make multiple savings has gone down well in cash strapped times."

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