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The City of Beppu chose to deploy a virtualization environment on Fujitsu’s PRIMERGY RX600 S3 rack-mount servers running VMware Infrastructure 3 for their intranet service. As an early adopter of VMware virtualization technology in their area, the city has achieved great improvements in server availability and manageability with the minimum of investment..
Beppu City accepted Fujitsu’s recommendation and deployed a virtualization infrastructure based on Fujitsu PRIMERGY RX600 S3.
Looking to improve server manageability and availability Beppu City, in Oita Prefecture, became the first municipality in their region of southern Japan, to implement a virtualization solution. They used Fujitsu PRIMERGY RX600 S3 rack-mount servers running VMware Infrastructure 3 for their intranet based City Information System. The new virtualized environment brought much improved server manageability and availability in an affordable manner.
In seeking to resolve their IT challenges, Beppu City asked several vendors to provide cost-efficient proposals. Only Fujitsu FSAS (Fujitsu Support and Services Inc.), with a virtualization approach, lived up to the cities expectations. As a result Beppu City chose to work with Fujitsu to transform their IT infrastructure.
Named as a “Cultural and International Tourism Hot-Spring City”, Beppu City, Oita Prefecture, with over 2,840 hot water sources, is the largest hot-spring (Onsen) resort in Japan. Sandwiched between the sea and the mountains, Beppu City uses its natural advantages of abundant Onsen resources and beautiful natural scenery, to vigorously promote community development using its vision of “A good place to live, A good place to visit”.
It has long been a challenge for the city to reduce labor costs and redevelop its operations based on a scrap-and-build scheme, within strict budge constraints. In particular there has been a growing need to reduce the costs associated with the city’s information system; used for essential day-to-day operations. Ensuring cost effectiveness, when making investments in information systems, was a major headache for IT staff at the council.
“Usually, the initial installation costs of an information system are considerably high. So each investment requires great consideration of its cost-effectiveness, for example, a forecast of how savings can be derived, including all reductions in labor costs. In addition the investment must eventually pay off. This is one of the most challenging requirements on us,” states Hideaki Ota, Chief of Information Technology Division, Planning Department, Beppu City Council.
In 2002, Beppu City deployed an intranet to connect public facilities, schools and fire stations in the community. At that time, the city’s intranet was not seen as that critical, as nobody expected high levels of reliability for web and e-mail systems. The state of just “being connected” was fully acceptable. Subsequently however, as they became essential elements in conducting the city’s daily operations, service disruptions to the e-mail or internet system were no longer acceptable. Loss of the e-mail service immediately resulted in many complaints from city council staff members.
To respond, the city faced the need to improve the reliability of the intranet related servers. But, in addition there were other challenges with the existing IT infrastructure. The existing servers had no room for further availability improvements. There was also a needed to reduce server administration workloads as the city reduced IT staff numbers. With the scheduled replacement of their information servers upon them, it became time to redesign their IT infrastructure to address these challenges.
Koji Matsumoto, a staff member in the Information Technology Division, Planning Department at Beppu City Council explains, “The most critical issue was how we could minimize the costs required to deploy new systems, while addressing both our availability and manageability requirements. We decided to redesign our IT infrastructure in June 2007. That was also the time when some businesses, mainly manufacturers, started the gradually adoption of virtualization technologies. So I came up with the idea that we could also use virtualization technology to resolve our IT challenges. I actually tried the idea by installing virtualization software on my own personal computer.”
“As a result, I came to the conclusion that virtualization technology would be able to provide a problem-free environment for our intranet system,” continues Matsumoto.
The timing coincided with the scheduled replacement of the information servers. Rather than wait another 5 years, until the next replacement period, this created a good opportunity for the city to go ahead with the IT transformation.
When Beppu City decided to implement virtualization, their Information Technology Division tested multiple virtualization software products. The city finally turned to VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) because of its rich features including VMware VMotion and VMware HA. VMotion would allow the city to perform hardware maintenance tasks with no downtime, and VMware HA, which can move important applications between different servers, would enable continuous system operation even in the event of server failure. In this sense, VI3 appeared to provide exactly what the city needed.
“Before we validated VMware, we were not 100% confident of VMware’s features. Having said that, we knew that without the two features in VMware we would not be able to achieve an affordable, reliable and easy-to-manage system. If we tried to meet the availability requirements without VMotion and VMware HA, we would have to provision two servers for each application. With our limited project budget, that was definitely impossible and a single configuration was the best we could afford,” states Ota.
After reached their decision to implement VMware-based virtualization in June 2007, the city issued a Request for Proposal(RFP) to several vendors. Traditionally, it had been their common approach to provide vendors with information such as hardware specifications and the number of servers desired. However, this time the city took a different approach. Instead, they just expressed the IT challenges the city faced and asked vendors to come up with dynamic solutions that could resolve the challenges and meet their new system requirements.
“We explained to the vendors, for example, that we were looking for a solution to improve server availability and minimize downtime in the event of hardware failure or scheduled maintenance. That was the way we requested their proposals. Five vendors responded, but only Fujitsu FSAS lived up to our expectations. They recommended that we could go for a virtualization solution. Thus, we decided to work with Fujitsu,” says Matsumoto.
At the end of August 2007 Beppu City turned to Fujitsu and in November of that year their IT staff visited Fujitsu’s Platform Solution Center in Tokyo. This was to see first-hand if the proposed approach would work properly or not. At that time, Beppu City had no case studies that showed municipalities ever having implemented VMware, so there was much concern about the use of virtualization technology in a production environment.
“We had already selected the applications we wanted moved to a virtualization environment, so we needed to validate the following: applications that could run correctly on VMotion; and if the VMotion feature could ensure uninterrupted service availability of the applications. The results of the validation gave us confidence that VMotion would do a lot for the city’s new system,” recollects Matsumoto.
In the middle of December 20007, led by Fujitsu FSAS, Beppu City started to move its physical servers into a virtualization environment. The city’s Information Technology Division wanted to complete the migration tasks without interference to users. In this spirit, the tasks were concentrated on weekends and during the New Year holidays; outside of normal working hours. As a result of this effort, Beppu City stated that the migration tasks were completed in a perfectly seamless manner without any users even realizing that the migration to virtualization was taking place.
Overall, the virtualization project went well, and the newly deployed environment at Beppu City’s Information Center was pushed into production in February 2008. Beppu City chose to implement two Fujitsu PRIMERGY RX600 S3 and two PRIMERGY RX300 S3 servers running VMware Infrastructure 3, and with VMware HA configured on the servers. 10 virtual machines currently operate; running applications associated with the city’s intranet services. These include Active Directory, Internet filtering, administrative management of personal computers, application distribution, user authentication, Internet Proxy, DNS and the mailing lists.
Beppu City well appreciates the administrator-friendly features of PRIMERGY RX600 S3 rack-mount servers. For example, the REMCS feature makes it possible to notify administrators of any detected potential risks to the servers. Based on the information provided, the IT staff can then perform preventive maintenance prior to the server actually breaking down. Another well liked feature is the button on the PRIMERGY RX600 S3 that, when pressed, allows a user to simply collect memory dumps for further analysis.
“We are very happy with the newly deployed system. We were able to reduce our server count from 12 to four, and most importantly, we achieved our initial goal of improved server availability and manageability. Actually, since we started operating the new system, we’ve encountered a hardware failure only once, but, the virtual machines on that failed server moved to a different server immediately without causing any disruption to services. So we didn’t even recognize the failure occurrence,” explains Matsumoto.
Besides improved availability and simplified server administration, the new system has brought benefits that allow the city to respond much faster to user requests for test environments. Previously, when there were no resources available, Beppu City needed to purchase an additional server platform to provide test environments. This caused great difficulties as the purchase of the new server would be charged against the next year’s budget. With the new virtualization environment, Beppu City can create test environments easily and quickly just using the template function in VMware. For example, the city very quickly provided a user test environment when Beppu City’s website manager needed to test CMS. Beppu City is also hoping to increase its IT staff skills by taking advantage of easy-to-create test environments that allow staff members to evaluate both open-source software and vendor-provided software packages.
The Information Technology Division of Beppu City is now planning the migration of the remaining information servers to virtualized environments as soon as possible. A replacement of the city’s mission-critical systems is scheduled for 2011. This will include the creation of virtual environments for its tax-associated systems, citizens’ information, healthcare and welfare services. During the information server’s virtualization project, Beppu City was able to gain important virtualization knowledge. Now based on that experience, the city believes they can further utilize and build on those skills.
By their success in deploying a virtualization environment, Beppu City has reduced the big leap needed to achieve virtualization of its entire IT infrastructure. With its information servers, the city deployed a virtualized environment in just the way they wanted. The deployed system has continued to operate with no problems so far. The city also achieved IT cost savings and now provides better services to its citizens and users from their stable and reliable IT infrastructure.
About the City of Beppu
Locations : 1-15, Kaminoguchi-cho, Beppu, Oita 874-8511 JAPAN
Number of employees : 1,124
Consolidated : March 1942
City introduction :
With a population of 120,000, Beppu City is the second largest city in Oita Prefecture. With the largest number of hot water sources in Japan it is known as a hot-spring (Onsen) tourism town. The city features eight major hot-spring areas called Beppu Hatto (eight Onsens). Beppu City is also famous for its commitment to international exchange, welcoming some 4,000 foreign students from many countries.
Website : Beppu City official website
Information in this case study, including figures, names and job titles are based on information supplied at the published date and may have changed when this information is viewed.
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