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  • A State Model

    "A lot of thought and careful planning went into this. It is a model for others in the state."

    Dennis Bray
    Chief Technical Officer
    Virtualization Architect
    Enterprise Networking Solutions, Inc.

     

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Case Study

Multi-Tenant Virtualized Datacenter with VMware vCloud Director

Mar 2015

Government Agency Leads California IT Consolidation Efforts with Virtual Multi-Tenant Data Center

With the provisioning capabilities of VMware vCloud Director, this California state agency implemented an agile multi-tenant infrastructure that allows individual departments autonomy to manage their own virtual environments. The new datacenter provides flexible, scalable, highly-available IT resources for all departments along with overall cost reductions, improved security, and enhanced business continuity/disaster (BC/DR) recovery capabilities.

(CS019)

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CUSTOMER PROFILE

This cabinet-level agency, based in Sacramento, oversees 27 departments, boards, commissions, and conservancies.




Solution Overview

BUSINESS SITUATION: In addition to meeting State IT consolidation mandates, this project sought to provide cost-effective, efficient, and flexible IT services for all departments in the agency.
SOLUTION: The project team implemented an agile virtual infrastructure design with standardized deployment processes, achieving a consolidated multi-tenant environment that allowed individual departments autonomy to manage their own virtual systems.
BENEFITS: The multi-tenant virtualized data center provides flexible, scalable, highly-available IT resources for all departments along with overall cost reductions, improved security, and enhanced business continuity/disaster (BC/DR) recovery capabilities.
TOPICS COVERED:
  • VMware vSphere
  • VMware vCloud Director
  • VMware ESX servers
  • VMware View
  • VDI
  • IT Consolidation
  • IT Security


Challenge

Laying the groundwork for a new IT culture as well as a new environment.
Thinking outside-the-box leads to a whole new box!

In the summer of 2009, this State of California IT team was in the midst of a complete datacenter rebuild. Everything from the walls, floor, power, and cooling to the IT networking and hardware infrastructure was addressed. ENS-Inc architects and engineers worked with the state teams to design and implement a virtual environment that allowed them to migrate off of all their existing physical servers and systems which were going out-of-warranty and were very expensive to keep.

Standardization became a key element of the process which would allow flexibility for the deployment of individual machines, either physical or virtual, basing move choices on load balancing or on business continuity rather than network compatibility and variances. Specific networks for different applications or different security zones were designed in from the beginning, creating a template-like approach to deployments. The traditional one-off server/app deployment which typically took 3-5 weeks was replaced by a standardized “plug-in” approach completed in a matter of hours.

“We deployed 108 ESX servers in one day,” explained ENS-Inc’s Dennis Bray, virtualization architect for the project. “We set up the entire team on laptops and everyone was assigned machines with instructions on their screen from an already-scripted deployment. Essentially all they did was type in the name of a machine and make sure it worked. We got them to think less about individual machines and more about a standardized environment for running those workloads. Actual implementation took about six hours.”

“We made the CIO install the last one,” Dennis added, “So he could see how easy the process was. It became less about ‘just in time’ and more about building an inventory of resources that are ready to be used. We’ve laid the groundwork for a new culture as well as the environment.”

We've gone through an evolution, so now into the next phase.

Within the Agency are a number of small departments, each with their own IT staffs, servers, and networks. It was necessary to consolidate resources and requirements and get the small departments out of the server IT business so they could focus on the business of fulfilling their own mandated missions.

A consolidated infrastructure would provide savings agency wide by getting all departments off old hardware and onto a new and better-supported environment. Specific staff trained on storage or other specialties would be provided without each department IT manager having to be a “jack of all trades”. At the same time, the datacenter consolidation would need to provide both economical savings and flexibility of offerings to individual departments in addition to options of self-management when needed.



Process

ENS-Inc architects and engineers had been involved not only with the Department datacenter implementation, but had also worked with a number of departments within the Agency. This gave ENS-Inc a unique perspective from both the view of the “provider” and of the “consumer”, as well as an intimate understanding of the respective environments and needs.

Meetings were held with the Agency CIO and Chief Enterprise Architect in addition to program managers and IT team leaders to understand requirements, expectations, and assumptions about the services to be provided. Rather than approach the project collecting requirements of “how many of this or that do we need”, the question was asked, “How big is the warehouse and what can we do out of it?”

“All the lessons learned from the consolidation project were able to be leveraged and implemented into the creation of a multi-tenant environment for the Agency,” said Chad Hodges, VP of Business Development at ENS-Inc. “This allowed for more than a dozen departments to consolidate into the new facility that the Department implemented four years ago.”

Initially, the datacenter was built on VMware vSphere 4.1. The VMware infrastructure, the networking, the load balancers were all in place. It was a matter of upgrading to newer versions. The Agency built on vSphere 5.0 and laid on top of that was vCloud Director.

“vCloud Director was important to the project,” emphasized virtual architect Dennis Bray. “It allowed us to take big customer pools of resource capabilities and assign individual tenants with their own administrative capabilities. The Agency did not need to manage the user accounts. Each tenant could keep their own user accounts. They have their own portals to be able to do their own day to day administration. vCloud allows presentation of different characteristics to customers, shared hardware and assignment to tenants without giving them back-end interfaces. They have just what they contracted for, just what they can operate.”

vCloud allows pre-allocation of specific networks to customers. The physical connections in the datacenter can be routed into the appropriate virtual networks, then delivered on demand. Cost-effective, flexible offerings allow for purchase of “blocks”, such as memory, or storage space, with self-defined usage. Other options allow for deployment of a specified number of virtual machines of specific size or for blocks of resources, blocks allowing more self-management.

"It became less about 'just in time' and more about building an inventory of resources that are ready to be used. It is doing the work ahead of time - no crunch time at the time of need... same gear, same terminology, but in a new environment... used a little differently."


“I like to use the analogy of inventory control in a retail setting,” says Dennis, “not too much on the shelves, but enough on the shelves. The IT teams are used to waiting for the customer to define what they want, and then respond to that. But we’re setting up a store, we’re going to have product, and it will be for sale. We can’t wait for someone to say, ‘I want something,’ and then we go back and work on it. Rather, ‘I want something and I expect to have it soon.’ So we need to have it available.”

“This is good news/bad news,” he continues. “IT teams are used to deferring the work, but this is doing the work ahead of time – no crunch time at time of need.”

In order to help better secure the production systems, a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environment was also deployed using VMware View. The security availed through the VDI solution enabled the network teams to implement firewall rules that only allowed administrative permissions from specific desktops and significantly improve the security of the end-user data.

Mentoring and Knowledge Transfer

It was important to train Agency teams in the new technologies and in the upgraded versions of existing technologies. There was also the restructuring of how tasks were approached; same gear, same terminology, but in the new environment it would be used a little differently. ENS-Inc led numerous classroom sessions with the various teams: server teams, network teams, storage teams, etc. Following tutorials and Q&A sessions were hands-on implementations.

Training was detailed from the bottom up and from outside in, viewing from the customer perspective. It wasn’t focused just on how you do it, but also why: translating from what things look like physically to what it looks like in the virtualization layer and then the cloud.

  • How to get from physical to virtual and then through vCloud Director, the external network
  • How do things get to the customer machine
  • How do resources get allocated
  • How to create a new organization
  • How to put a template machine into the service catalog

While Agency teams worked on the onboarding documentation, ENS-Inc provided design documentation and “how-to” documents for the operators.



Benefits

Flexibility, Scalability, High-Availability... All This and Protection Too!

“A lot of thought and careful planning went into this,” states Dennis. “When it became operational, part of what’s there is a model for others in the state. This isn’t the first multi-tenancy, but there is a lot more flexibility here, consideration for the customer, not just the provider’s standpoint.”

Flexibility, scalability, and high availability are all benefits from this modernized virtual datacenter. In terms of agency-wide computing, this implementation was a transformation. To the IT administrators it’s a whole new ball game. Fewer people have access. There is tighter security. All business units in the Agency have access to the computing power and the protection. The efficiency of standardization also results in cost savings.

To the CIO, this is a win: physical security, disaster protection, high availability… the avoidance of downtimes.



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