Virtualization Cuts Capital and Operating Costs

When Peter Wallace became CIO of the City of Chesapeake, Va., in 2007, he discovered the city’s datacenter produced so much heat that it reduced the lifespan of the equipment it housed. Wallace had two options to dissipate heat and accommodate future growth: expand the data center or virtualize. After careful consideration, Wallace turned to virtualization.

Wallace discovered that virtualization was the more economical solution and would also improve staff efficiency – an important consideration as many local governments grapple with lower tax revenues and increased need for citizen services. Wallace’s decision to deploy 84 virtual servers significantly improved the utilization of the city’s existing IT equipment while increasing the longevity of its hardware – resulting in significant cost savings.

With virtualization, the city realized the following benefits:

  • Information technology (IT) energy cost savings of $3,000 a month (50 percent)
  • Annual hardware cost savings of $200,000
  • Reduced physical server count from 135 to 20
  • Implementation cost savings of at least $120,000 by training in-house staff instead of hiring consultants

The savings Chesapeake received from server virtualization allows IT staff to work on projects that would otherwise be underfunded. Next on the city’s list is a storage virtualization project, which will include off-site data backup and disaster recovery capabilities.

Local governments and state agencies nationwide are realizing similar benefits of virtualization. Seventy-nine percent of state and local government agencies are implementing server, storage and/or client virtualization, and of these, 89 percent say their deployment is successful or somewhat successful, according to CDW-G’s Government Virtualization Report, released July 13. CDW-G surveyed 300 state and local IT professionals and 300 Federal IT professionals to understand the state of client, server and storage virtualization.

Despite the cost savings, equipment utilization and IT staff productivity benefits of virtualization, governments note that there is more work to be done. CDW-G found that 82 percent of state and local agencies say they are not using virtualization to the fullest extent. IT managers cite limited budgets and lack of staff and resources as the biggest barriers to further virtualization projects.

To successfully implement virtualization, CDW-G recommends that government IT professionals follow four steps:

  • Lead: Secure support from non-IT leadership and ensure adequate end-user education
  • Analyze: Conduct cost-benefit and performance analysis and set benchmarks for evaluating return on investment
  • Plan: Audit current IT environments to determine areas that can immediately benefit from virtualization and areas that will require additional planning
  • Implement: Begin with a small-scale implementation and apply lessons learned to subsequent deployments ?
Following these guidelines will streamline the implementation process and help ensure that agencies realize the best return on their virtualization investment. McKinney, Texas, for example, began its virtualization implementation in the data center and, because of the operational improvements and budget savings, is expanding the initiative to the desktop.

Named by Forbes as one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in the United States, McKinney had outgrown its data center. To continue operations in the same physical space, Don Grammar, the city’s IT director, embarked upon a three-year initiative to implement server virtualization.

With server virtualization, McKinney:

  • Significantly improved IT staff productivity, reducing server deployment time from one week to one hour
  • Will save about $3 million in capital expenses and $1.5 million in operating expenses over the next five years, based on VMware’s total-cost-of-ownership calculator
  • Reduced the city’s carbon footprint by 562 tons a year, based on VMware’s calculator
  • Improved IT services to citizens and employees
McKinney’s server virtualization solution freed staff time significantly, allowing them to focus on other critical IT initiatives, including the desktop virtualization project, which is expected to double the life of the city’s desktop computers – resulting in further savings.

“Reducing” our carbon footprint was a major driver in our decision to virtualize, but the service we provide to our end users was equally – if not more – important to us,” Grammar notes. “Our users now benefit from higher-quality service without experiencing disruption when infrastructure changes are made.”

David Hutchins is director of state and local government sales at CDW Government (CDW-G), a leading source of IT solutions to governments and educators. Hutchins is responsible for leading the team of sales executives and account managers focused on meeting the unique needs of CDW-G state and local customers.