The financial education organization is in the process of upgrading its Web Course Tools (WebCT) e-learning software from Version 4 to 6 and will be deploying it on Dell PowerEdge servers.
The flat file system will be linked to an Oracle database and connected to an Apache Web server. The Canadian Securities Institute (CSI) will use VMWare’s ESX server to run multiple instances of the software on a single piece of hardware, which the firm’s director of IT, Randy Pond, said would ensure it can meet the needs of the 40,000 students who take its distance education courses.
Pond said his use of the ESX Server software has allowed him to respond to new server requests within the same day, deploying a new OS in about five minutes.
“It’s certainly won me a lot of converts,” he said, noting that there was considerable resistance to virtualization in some parts of CSI. “There was the thinking that you always deploy a new application to get a new server . . . people just get used to doing things in a certain way.”
VMWare and Dell gave CSI the servers and software to run on a trial basis for 60 days. Pond said the organization tested it in its finance and accounting department, which was running Microsoft’s SQL Server, last November before moving it into other areas.
The other major internal concern was whether vendors would continue to support products running in a virtualized environment, but Pond said vendors themselves are embracing the same technology.
Many organizations are looking at virtualization as a means of increasing server utilization, which analyst firms such as IDC say fall within the five to 15 per cent range.
Pond said CSI’s situation was no different, which was what prompted a project a few years ago to consolidate its server infrastructure as some Windows NT machines were reaching their end-of-life.
In the end, 32 servers were winnowed down to four, which in turn are able to run virtualization software that allows for a highly partitioned environment.
The newer servers, however, include more advanced technology such as dual-core processors, which allow much greater performance.
“The utilization (on the new servers) is still about five per cent,” he said.
Pond said the CSI infrastructure has been provisioned so that any one of the servers can handle the full load of the WebCT application if one or more of the others goes down.