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Ansys India's VMware ESX cluster formula for server consolidation

Anuradha Ramamirtham, Principal Correspondent

Ansys Software Private Limited (India) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ansys Inc, U.S. Headquartered in Bengaluru, with offices in New Delhi, Hyderabad and Pune. For the Indian subsidiary, virtualization became the best option for consolidation of its server resources from several physical machines to fewer robust machines. Consequently, a

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VMware ESX cluster was deployed at the company.

Although reduced power consumption, efficient cooling and rack space constraints were important reasons why Ansys began thinking about server virtualization, these weren't the reasons why the decision was finally made. The company's physical servers were getting old, and were due for replacement due to their end of life. "However, we didn't want to replace all of them with new physical hardware, but rather, to consolidate them into fewer robust machines with the VMware ESX cluster installed with virtual machines running on them," says Nitin Raina, the IT manager of India at Ansys Software. "Since VMware is the standard vendor for Ansys Inc globally, we went in the same direction as laid down by our corporate for Ansys India as well. Hence, no evaluations were done of other vendors such as Microsoft and Citrix, and we stuck to the VMware ESX cluster."

Post-implementation, we saw combined savings of around $21,000 for capex and opex for a year
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 Ansys India started the evaluation in early 2009 with standalone VMware infrastructure using a couple of standard licenses. The VMware ESX cluster implementation was led by the IT team. The company roped in the Dell Implementation/Services team as the consultant for the project.

The VMware ESX cluster started operating by the middle of August 2009. It took the company four working days to complete this implementation, and for migration of its live machines from the physical state to the virtual state. "We performed a live migration of these servers from the physical to the virtual environment. The deployment was completed in one go. The cluster was set up, and machines were virtualized using the P2V convertor tool. We had to use our internal IT skills to break the software RAID performed on the Linux OS' partitions to allow the P2V tool's use," explains Raina.

Ansys India performed the P2V conversion of each server with minimal downtime—less than five minutes for each server. Adds Raina: "We continue to add more VMs to this VMware ESX cluster on a need basis after evaluating the resource situation." The VMware ESX cluster is running on x86 architecture. Earlier, the India operations had eight physical servers which were mainly two CPU, 2 GB/4 GB machines. These were consolidated on two VMware ESX clusters running with 2 CPU (Intel Nehalems) and 32 GB RAM. Ansys uses Dell rack servers with SUSE Linux enterprise servers, Red Hat Linux and Windows server 2003/2008 as the operating systems. Dell R710 servers based on Intel Nehalem processors are used as the server platform to host the VMware ESX cluster for disaster recovery mode.

"Post-implementation, we saw combined savings of around $21,000 for capex and opex for a year," discloses Raina. "Yearly opex savings were close to $5,000 inclusive of power and cooling. Additionally, when you compare the physical area, the space needed for the VMware ESX clusters is 4U, as opposed to the 12U which we needed while using physical servers."

On the training front, Ansys trained its users much before starting the VMware ESX cluster project. "Well before commencing the project, we completed individual staff trainings on VI 3 infrastructure using third-party agencies such as HP and GT enterprises," informs Raina.

Apart from using the VMware ESX cluster, Ansys India uses EMC Clariion SAN (CX-320) as its storage solution. The first deployment of SAN was done in 2007. The company's data center is located in Pune's Hinjewadi area, and uses EMC Legato Networker for its server backups.