As Published In
Oracle Magazine
July/August 2009

See Savings with Linux

FEATURE

See Savings with Linux

By Alan Joch

Oracle Enterprise Linux, Oracle Unbreakable Linux support services, and Oracle VM help save money, time, energy—and the planet.

Everyone wants to do more with less. Companies want to simplify their information technology (IT) environments and reduce the number of vendors they work with, and they need to cut costs and

Snapshots


University of Massachusetts

 Location: Five campus systems located throughout Massachusetts
 Industry: Higher education
 Employees: 16,000 faculty and staff
 Students: More than 60,000
Oracle products and services: Oracle Enterprise Linux; Oracle Unbreakable Linux; Oracle VM; Oracle Database; Oracle Real Application Clusters; Oracle Identity and Access Management Suite; Oracle SOA Suite; PeopleSoft human capital management applications; PeopleSoft Financials; PeopleSoft Campus Community; Oracle Business Intelligence Suite, Enterprise Edition Plus; Oracle enterprise performance management applications

save energy but still provide a scalable solution for their users. Oracle Enterprise Linux, Oracle Unbreakable Linux support services, and Oracle VM provide an easy-to-launch package of operating system, support, and virtualization with certifications and software templates that help organizations realize cost savings and make their IT infrastructure—and the planet—a healthier place.

The University of Massachusetts (UMass) chose this package for the new data center it’s building to replace a legacy infrastructure dominated by 500 physical servers running proprietary hardware and operating systems. The result is helping the university avoid nearly US$1 million in annual operating expenses and several million dollars in capital acquisition and licensing costs that they would have incurred had they upgraded their environment with an architecture similar to what they had been using.

“Because of the economy, we’ve had to take out between 10 to 15 percent of our IT budget for this fiscal year,” says Michael Poole, chief technology officer at UMass. “But thanks to cost avoidance, we’re moving forward with a lot of our other projects. It’s nice to know that hardware costs won’t be holding us up when the next hot item comes down the pipeline.”

Single-Source Advantages

The prime motivation for organizations to switch to Linux and virtualization is cost savings, says James Staten, principal analyst with Forrester Research. “IT consolidation is the top reason for doing virtualization, and when you do it on top of Linux, you get rid of the various operating systems that you no longer want to support in your environment,” he says. “It’s all part of the drive to raise the efficiency of IT.”

Cost savings can be maximized when companies do business with fewer vendors, which is another reason to move to single-sourced Linux, virtualization, applications, and support. “One of the fastest ways to cut costs is to limit the number of vendors you do business with,” Staten says. Maintenance issues can be minimized because integration issues between the operating system, virtualized servers, and enterprise applications are more easily resolved when key components come from a single vendor. “By getting the operating system, applications, and support from one vendor, you have a better chance of doing triage with one call,” he adds.

When the University of Massachusetts chose the Oracle Enterprise Linux, Oracle Unbreakable Linux support services, and Oracle VM package, Oracle’s integrated support across its product line was one key selling point. “About 80 percent of our applications are from Oracle,” says Poole, “so if Oracle can provide support from top to bottom, it makes sense for us to take advantage of that.”

Patch management was another consideration. “If there’s a specific problem related to running our databases and Oracle fixes it, there’s no guarantee that the patch will be adopted by Red Hat,” says Rick Cote, UMass lead architect. “But Oracle will push that solution forward in its future releases of Oracle Enterprise Linux.” 

Next Steps


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The migration to the new facility is already in progress, with a new version of Oracle’s PeopleSoft human capital management applications having gone live in early May 2009, protected by Oracle’s identity management system. By the time the entire project is completed early next year, the university expects to reduce 500 physical servers to fewer than 300 boxes, even though it’s adding several large new applications, such as Oracle Business Intelligence Suite, Enterprise Edition Plus, and Oracle enterprise performance management applications. The smaller investments in hardware, accomplished by using Oracle VM, will reduce operational expenses for the university, and, as an added bonus, virtualization will improve availability and promote the university’s ecofriendly initiatives, which will also save money.

“One of the goals going into this project was greater server utilization,” Cote says. “From a power-consumption perspective, there’s no reason why the servers should use 10 percent of their processing capabilities 95 percent of the time, which is where we were during the day.”

Cote estimates that the new hardware will achieve processor utilization rates of 50 percent or more during normal operations. That means big cost savings, according to Poole. “Compared to a more traditional environment, we’ll probably save close to [US]$100,000 a year in power and cooling costs,” he says.

With fewer boxes, even though quite a few new applications will be added to the mix, Oracle VM will help keep personnel budgets under control. “We’re taking on a vastly larger amount of work without significantly increasing staff,” Poole says. “We estimate that we’ll avoid adding three to five people.”

Best of all, while the university continues to look for ways to squeeze more services out of constrained IT budgets, academic departments won’t have to settle for subpar computing power. “People are just blown away by the performance on the virtualized platform, which is noticeably faster even to end users,” Poole says. “One of our biggest challenges is how to schedule our deployments. We’ve got people banging on our door saying, ‘Can I move sooner?’”

 

Hassle-Free Optimization


Because the size and complexity of enterprise IT infrastructures can make it difficult to find the right combinations of operating systems, applications, and middleware for optimal performance, Oracle offers two ways to simplify your implementations: validated configurations and Oracle VM Templates.
 

Developed with industry partners, Oracle Validated Configurations are pretested, validated architectures, including software, hardware, storage, and networking components, along with documented best practices for deployment. The tests result in a published document of what was tested, the kernel parameters, and settings on the OS level, according to Wim Coekaerts, vice president of Linux engineering at Oracle. “We also list the bug fixes that we recommend,” he says. There are now more than 100 Oracle Validated Configurations that organizations can choose from.
 

In addition, a catalog of preinstalled and preconfigured Oracle VM Templates can take the guesswork out of deploying Oracle Enterprise Linux, Oracle VM, and Oracle Applications. Oracle VM Templates enable organizations to deploy a fully configured software stack of enterprise software, from Oracle Enterprise Linux to Oracle Database, Oracle Enterprise Manager, Oracle’s Siebel Customer Relationship Management, Oracle Fusion Middleware, and more.
 

The templates are developed after weeks of testing using various combinations of products and versions. Maintenance is also simple with the templates. Within each template, Oracle software is structured the same as it would be if it were installed and patched manually, and the package and patch inventories are standard and up-to-date so that no changes to normal Oracle operations procedures are required to maintain the instances over time.
 

Organizations can choose from more than a dozen templates, and more are on the way. With Oracle Enterprise Linux JeOS (Just Enough OS)—a secure, minimized OS that is freely redistributable and backed by enterprise-class support— developers and independent software vendors can also create their own Oracle VM Templates.



 


Alan Joch (ajoch@worldpath.net) is a technology writer based in New England who specializes in enterprise, Web, and high-performance-computing applications.


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