It seems obvious that virtualisation should offer the potential to save on licensing costs, but how does that actually work out in practice? The example of ING Bank provides some answers, and also demonstrates how private cloud deployments, virtualisation and improved disaster recovery often operate hand in hand.
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A recently published case study for ING demonstrates that savings are definitely possible if you don't have to license the hypervisor independently of the operating systems being deployed. That wasn't the approach ING took initially in its Benelux data centre when it began a VMware-centred virtualisation project in 2007. By September this year, that project had blossomed to include 200 VMware hosts and 2500 virtual machines (VMs) running 5000 Windows Server instances (both 2003 and 2008) across 12 data centres. However, ING wanted to shift to a private cloud model so it could more efficiently deploy resource on an on-demand basis.
Its first experiments in that area have involved deploying five Hyper-V hosts on Windows Server 2012 systems in three countries, including one in Australia. Just 10 VMs have been deployed across the system to date, but the results have been impressive. In particular, ING has made use of Hyper-V Replica to instantly replicate between the five systems without requiring any down time.
The most obvious cost benefit is through not licensing separate hypervisor, OS and system management layers. "ING Bank will save on licensing costs compared to other hypervisors by not having to license the hypervisor separately from the operating system and by not having to license a separate tool for managing the hypervisor infrastructure, as the company already uses System Center products and technologies," the case study notes. A longer-term benefit will come through rationalising data centre locations; ING eventually hopes to just run two, down from a peak of 16.
The Australian operation on ING has also seen benefits from switching its virtualisation approach. A separate case study notes that in mid-2012, ING actually had more virtual machines (1100 spread across two data centres) than employees (950). That pool of VMs was evenly split between VMWare and Hyper-V, but many of the resources were underutilised. The second site was a disaster recovery location and was largely unused.
ING Direct ran an early adopter evaluation of Windows Server 2012 and was particularly impressed with the ability to use Hyper-V Replica to make instant live copies of deployed servers. The bank intends to shift all its systems to Windows Server 2012, though the full deployment will be awaiting the final release of System Center 2012. Ultimately, it expects performance to improve by 20 per cent, and expects (again) licensing costs to fall.