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Industries:

  • Education

Offering Groups:

  • Servers

Solution Areas:

  • Systems & Network Management

Regions:

  • Japan

Challenges:

  • TCO reduction
  • Improved availability and uninterrupted service
  • Assured flexibility / scalability of system

Benefits:

  • Number of servers greatly reduced, with base server consolidation and integration
  • Arrangement of physical servers and the use of VMotion virtualization software has achieved uninterrupted
  • Easy to add new virtual machines using virtualization software and configure systems for load balancing

Tokyo Denki University


Consolidation of 20 servers over 3 campuses through virtualization

The Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the restructured infrastructure was greatly reduced by the integration of industry standard Linux servers and virtualization software (VMware).
In addition, availability and scalability of the system was improved, leading to more efficient operation and maintenance.

"Server integration of industry standard Linux servers achieved using virtualization software (VMware)"

Tokyo Denki University campus

Campus of Tokyo Denki University

Tokyo Denki University (TDU), consists of 3 campuses in Tokyo, Chiba and Saitama. Their requirement was to upgrade their infrastructure servers to provide a networked service.
The existing 20 servers across the 3 campuses were integrated using the virtualization software, VMware. Now a single location is configured with 12 Linux servers (PRIMERGY RX600 S2) and 1 disk array (ETERNUS3000 Model 500). This improved the availability and scalability of the system, and made operation and maintenance of the system much more efficient.
As a pioneer of large-scale virtualization in a university environment, TDU's server consolidation has drawn a great deal of attention from the information systems personnel of other universities.

Introduction Background

Upgrade of infrastructure server system, with focus on server integration for TCO reduction

Mr. Ryu Sato, Manager of Tokyo Denki University Media Center

Well known in Japan, Tokyo Denki University (TDU) provides an integrated educational experience in science and technology, under their motto "technology made personal". Their infrastructure server system was constructed across all three campuses (Tokyo Kanda, Saitama Prefecture and Chiba Prefecture). With each campus configured with its own UNIX servers, Network Attached Storage (NAS) and backup tape devices, IT staff had to be present, even at night, for troubleshooting creating an operational burden. In addition, other operational issues, such as the management and maintenance of servers to handle expansion of departments, had also surfaced.
Examination of a possible system upgrade started in spring 2005, with the lease of the current system coming close to its end.

While there were social issues such as a decreasing student intake due to declining birth rates, the biggest concern for the infrastructure system overhaul was how to reduce the TCO. The answer to this concern was to consolidate the 3 campus systems into one location through server integration. In 2005, TDU increased the transmission speed to 500Mbps for on-demand remote classes within the network which connects the 3 campuses. The network infrastructure was judged to then be ready for servers to be consolidated into one location. Another concern, that of server consolidation, was addressed by the introduction of a virtual system.

As TDU had already been using VMware Workstation virtualization software in their Media Center, there was no resistance to virtualization. It was assumed that it would pose few problems, even if the virtual system was used with servers. Therefore, the possibility of a virtual system was examined.

"At first, the plan was to introduce virtualized systems into the 3 campuses. However, in considering the budget, and with inter-campus transmission speeds increased to 500Mbps, access performance was very much assured, enabling the system to be integrated into one location" (Mr. Sato)

Details of Introduction

VMware, with many actual introduction cases, was chosen as the virtualization software

Mr. Akihito Hashimoto, Technical Officer of Tokyo Denki University Media Center

TDU compared various virtualization software products based on actual server integration cases. VMware ESX Server was chosen due to its abundant results, actual introduction and industry standard position. As a result evaluations were started.
The first question was could VMware be used to operate Linux WEB applications? The usage rates of the current servers were analyzed using a sizing tool, and as a result, it was confirmed that the about 60 current Solaris servers could be integrated into 12 Linux servers. Verification of the acquired data was executed with this tool at Fujitsu's Platform Solution Center (PSC).
The first 2 weeks were spent mastering and understand the easy operations of VMware. Then based on the acquired data, operational assurance and verification of applications on the virtual machine was carried out over the next 2 weeks. VMotion, in particular, was added to make the management of operations easier after introduction. VMotion is a function which allows easy migration from a physical server to a virtual machine. This excellent function ensures uninterrupted service in cases of server maintenance, physical server problems, or server reboots due to setting changes.

"Fujitsu was selected as the partner for the infrastructure system upgrade as the storage solution Fujitsu had provided previously had remained fault-free for 5 years. Fujitsu had a good understanding of our needs and system environment and could always be trusted to investigate troubles and faults thoroughly; therefore we had faith in the collective strengths and reliability of Fujitsu." (Mr. Hashimoto)

System Outline

12 Linux servers used to support 80 virtual machines

A particularly time-consuming part of the examination process was the storage configuration design of the server and disk array connected by SAN. This included arrangement of the design of the virtual machine in order to use the VMotion function, and data area design for storage backup functions. Operation was able to be started smoothly due to steady progress in basic construction.
The lead time required for construction and migration from the introduction of the virtual system to start of service took around 3 months. Data migration for each campus was carried out during the summer holidays when network loads are relatively light using an orderly copy method via WAN connection. As a result the reconstruction project could be done without disrupting daily service and operations.

"In regard to the migration work, it was just a simple task of copying the application configurations to be migrated to the virtual machine." (Mr. Hashimoto)
Finally, TDU's virtual system is reconfigured from the old Solaris server assets onto 12 PRIMERGY RX600 S2 Linux servers, and an ETERNUS3000 Model 500 disk array, providing excellent cost/performance. Around 80 Red Hat Linux based virtual machines will be used on the VMware ESX Server.
The virtual system operates the following web applications: Apache, PostgreSQL, Postfix, DHCP, BIND, NTP, Interscan and DeepMail.
To cover cases of Linux server breakdown, multiple Apache virtual machines are not allocated to the same physical server, but instead, they are designed to be distributed across different physical servers. This measure ensures "continuity of service". In addition, the SAN is designed to be shared across all the physical servers to improve the availability of the VMotion function.

As the university has researchers who continue operations at night, it was necessary to notify the entire school when the system had to be shut down. But with the VMotion function, system shutdown is no longer necessary. Operations can now continue 24 hours, 365 days a year. Moreover, the network is virtualized with load balancers installed in front of the Linux servers. Even if one of the Linux servers breaks down, the load can be redistributed to other servers. Overall it is a highly reliable system with uninterrupted service.

In the initial stage when service began, problems occurred when one portion of VMware ESX Server did not respond. However, it was found that the cause of the problem was only an outdated SCSI interface firmware version, and the problem was quickly solved. On this matter, Mr. Hashimoto gave a positive evaluation, "As it is very difficult to be 100% trouble-free for new system architecture, it is highly commendable that investigations were carried out at the first signs of trouble and the problem was solved quickly."

Greatly improved efficiency of data backup operation

As one of the benefits of storage consolidation, efficient backup operation also has positive results on TDU's Disk to Disk to Tape backup. As a daily process, large volumes of mail are spooled to the disk array. After using ETERNUS3000's OPC (one point copy) function, the information is then stored as backup on the virtual tape library. Other data areas are processed by directly writing to the virtual tape library. The virtual machine itself is also backed up onto disk, and these series of applications are processed automatically according to the performance situation each day.

"Backup is carried out daily according to performance levels and it is usually completed in 2-3 hours. It is designed in such a way that backup is carried out, as much as possible, without human intervention." (Mr. Hashimoto)

Addition of virtual machines achieved without service interruption through VMotion function

The virtual system can easily increase the number of virtual machines. TDU has made full use of this benefit. Mr. Hashimoto talked frankly about the advantage of the virtual system. "Virtual machines can be added according to our needs and these added virtual machines do not need any additional maintenance contracts, thus contributing to huge cost savings."
"In cases when VMware ESX Server settings change due to the addition of virtual machines, it becomes necessary to reboot the VMware ESX Server. But expansion can take place without service interruption by moving the virtual machine onto other physical servers and operation can be resumed after reboot." Mr. Hashimoto adds, giving his high evaluation.

Future Expectations

A flexible and scalable virtual system which can support service expansion

Currently, as there are increasingly more servers used by TDU's departments and laboratories to build and maintain websites, there can be times when there is a manpower shortage due to the operational load on the IT staff. Therefore there have been new demands for hosting services for these departments, too. With the introduction of the virtual system, IT staff can centrally manage the departments with ease and security. This makes the operation of TDU more efficient by reducing the management loads. This virtual system has also brought about TCO reduction, so it can be said to be a scalable and flexible system.

"Based on this server upgrade project, we hope to fully utilize the virtual system for provision of new services, enhancement of student services, realization of efficient work processes with Fujitsu's Syllabus Package, and as a test environment for new software like Windows VISTA. There are plans of outsourcing the data centers' service in the future." (Mr. Hashimoto)

TDU's server consolidation virtualization project has drawn a lot of attention from other major private universities for its pioneering attempt. Mr. Hashimoto has introduced TDU's successful case study and received many questions focused on virtualization at IT seminars, bolstering his confidence in the choice of virtualization for server consolidation.
TDU's successful server consolidation using virtualization will become a great source of influence over other universities' system reconstruction projects.


Tokyo Denki University
Kanda Campus: Tokyo-to Chiyoda-ku Kanda Nishiki-Chou2-2
Hatoyama Campus: Saitama-ken Hiki-Gun Hatoyama Machi Ishizaka
Chiba Newtown Campus: Chiba-ken Inzai-Shi Muzai Gakuen Dai 2-1200
Koganei Campus: Tokyo-to Koganei-shi Kajino-Cho 4-8-1
Established: September 11th 1907
No. of Students: 11,748 (As of February 2006)
Outline: TDU has always built upon the vast knowledge of the past, generating new knowledge for the future. As a contributing member of society, Tokyo Denki University has been and always will be dedicated to the sound development of science and technology, through nurturing and sending into society scientists and engineers who become good world citizens, offering our research results for the betterment of society.
100th Anniversary September 11th 2007
New department of Future Sciences (Kanda Campus) scheduled to be setup in June 2007
tokyo-denki-university-logo1tokyo-denki-university-logo02
Homepage: Homepage of Tokyo Denki University


Note: This content is a translation of a case study in Japan dated February 27, 2007.


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