In Server Consolidations, Knowledge Means Power
June 15, 2004 Alex Woodie
Before jumping onto the server consolidation bandwagon and leaving all those Wintel boxes behind, it behooves the good administrator to do his homework first. Accurately monitoring your applications’ consumption of server, storage, and network resources can mean the difference between a server consolidation project that ends like the one in IBM‘s new i5 TV commercial, and slinking into the CIO’s office to request another $100,000. A new service from DYS Analytics helps eliminate guesswork in Domino server consolidations.
When done correctly, many benefits can be gained from server consolidation projects, including simplified administration, reduced costs, and simpler, more scalable platforms on which to build future applications. As an AS/400 or iSeries user, you probably already know that OS/400’s virtualization capabilities make it an excellent server consolidation platform, and in the last couple of years, consolidation of Intel-based servers running Windows and Linux, and even consolidation of older AS/400s, has moved a lot of boxes for IBM. Server consolidation is so important to IBM that its new i5 TV ad, called “Cafe Society,” is a story about a successful iSeries server consolidation project and the people who get credit for it.
But server consolidation projects don’t always go so well, and sometimes there’s no credit to share but plenty of blame. If server consolidations were so easy, companies like DYS Analytics would not have as much business. The Wellesley, Massachusetts, company’s flagship software suite, called DYS CONTROL!, analyzes the performance of Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange messaging environments, with the goal of preparing for server consolidation or migrations, improving bandwidth usage and quality of service, planning for capacity upgrades, or any other action where a customer can benefit from having a greater understanding of their collaboration environments.
Last month DYS Analytics and IBM announced a new service to help customers prepare to consolidate their Domino servers on IBM’s eServer platforms. With the new CONTROL! Server Consolidation Service, consultants will help customers get ready to consolidate their Domino environments by wielding DYS tools in a five-step process that includes cleaning up databases and mailboxes, creating baseline performance profiles, outlining the new network, creating detailed architectural designs using “what if” modeling, and, finally, validating the new design. When all goes as planned, the service reduces the cost of a server consolidation project by accurately predicting post-consolidation resources while minimizing impact on the customer by keeping service disruptions to a minimum.
The iSeries is the second most popular Domino platform, behind Intel, and as one would expect, DYS Analytics has a customer reference on the iSeries, a large Dutch financial services company with U.S. operations (we were asked not to use the company’s name, a request we are abiding by). David Price, the company’s former groupware architect, who now works as a consultant, says the DYS CONTROL! tools were essential in the consolidation of about 40 Intel-based Domino mail servers onto a single 24-way iSeries Model 840, about two years ago.
The company initially decided to consolidate about 30 servers when managing the patchwork of two-way and four-way Compaq servers that served e-mail and provided access to other Domino applications for nearly 20,000 users across the continent became too much to bear, says Price, who was put in charge of the North American server consolidation project. “The CTO said, ‘Let’s pick a platform that we don’t have to keep bolting on server after server after server,’ ” he says. After what Price describes as “a brief flirtation with Unix,” his team chose a platform they were already familiar with, the iSeries, while his colleagues in Europe decided to test the IBM mainframe’s capability as a Domino server consolidation platform.
IBM is no stranger to server consolidations and migrations, and it provides tools to help customers size new servers. However, because of the number of mail users at Price’s company whose file sizes exceeded the 200 MB threshold, that tool would not work very well in accurately picking the right box, Price was told by folks at IBM’s Rochester, Minnesota, lab. The right tool for his large and complex Domino server consolidation project, he discovered, would be found at DYS Analytics.
DYS Analytics excels at breaking down complicated, geographically dispersed Domino or Exchange environments into individual server, storage, network, and user components. The software can be used to look at performance from a number of angles, including historical and peak-use views, and make predictions for capacity planning based on that data. For example, when a user is accustomed to accessing a mail server that is located nearby, and then that mail server is consolidated to a data center that is farther away, how will that user’s application response time and quality of service be affected? What is the net reduction in bandwidth usage when SMTP traffic destined for New York is routed through Chicago? These are some of the not-so-easy questions that the DYS CONTROL! suite helps answer.
Price’s server consolidation plans became even more complicated when the company acquired another bank, and the decision was made to move the new employees, whose e-mail needs required the equivalent of about 10 additional Intel-based Domino servers, directly onto the new iSeries. As Price’s team designed the new Domino architecture around the single iSeries and a replicated copy at a remote data center, they used the DYS tools to validate their new architecture. “Where we found the tool absolutely valuable was the network. It helped the network team find the right architecture,” Price says. “Without a tool like DYS Analytics, we wouldn’t have been able to do that with any confidence.”
Because of the size and complexity of the company’s Domino infrastructure, it was difficult for Price to put a dollar amount on the benefit that DYS Tools brought the company, Price says. However, the tools did help him to justify the migration and consolidation from Intel to iSeries to management. “We knew we were sizing correctly, so we didn’t waste money,” Price says. “Having done a fair amount of guessing, I appreciated not having to do it.”
This article has been corrected since it was originally published. The article misidentified David Price. He does not currently work as a consultant for his former employer. Guild Companies regrets the error. [Change made 6/16/06]