IMPACT is the Republic of Ireland’s largest public and services trade union, representing close to 60,000 members working in hundreds of public service occupations, grades and professions in health, local government, education, the civil service, and voluntary and community organisations. They also represent members in commercial and non-commercial semi-state organisations and in private aviation and telecommunications companies.
As the Impact Trade Union organisational requirements grew significantly in recent years this had a significant impact on the existing IT infrastructure. There were too many servers and storage devices that could not be efficiently managed with poor performance at peak times throughout the day. A review of the current IT infrastructure identified that many of the physical server’s CPU utilisation were still very low which pointed to the fact that a virtualised environment could bring significant benefits to the organisation. The current backup strategy was also ‘tape-based’ with an RTO (Recovery Time Objective) of 3 days which was unacceptable to the business. It was clear to management that a virtualised IT infrastructure would be capable of providing new services, respond more quickly to commercial requirements and be a business enabler for Impact Trade Union moving forward.
In 2014 ERS were commissioned to design, deploy and project manage the virtualisation of the network infrastructure at Impact Trade Union. A key deliverable for this project was a successful ‘live migration’ of the existing architecture and applications with minimal disruption to normal day to day operations of its 120 users. The decision was made to deploy DELL VRTX Servers and Storage using Microsoft’s Windows Server 2008 R2 with its Hyper-V virtualisation built-in that could provide live migration and management of physical and virtualised servers with multiple hypervisors. The benefit of server 2008 being tightly integrated with the Microsoft System Centre Suite made it much more cost effective than other solutions in the market place. Other features available within System Centre included four main tools – Data Protection Manager (backup and DR), Virtual Machine Manager (provisioning hardware and workload), Configuration Manager (patching, updates) and Operations Manager (monitoring performance) and all these would provide Impact with a resilient and redundant infrastructure that could scale as the business moved forward.
The combination of these new technologies with the deployment of high availability clustering enabled Impact to avail of immediate local failover to protect against equipment failure. Remote failover was also provided by an offsite DR replication server that replicates boot images via IP over a fibre backbone to the DR systems. This has provided Impact with an RTO of 4 hours with this new virtualised configuration.
The Impact IT virtualisation project has now been fully completed and viewed as a tremendous success. While virtualisation is often viewed as a costly exercise Impact have seen the benefits of greatly improved hardware utilisation and performance, much improved IT management and significantly improved disaster recovery timelines. The new managed services support has also enabled the roll-out of a significant number of other new applications all of which have been virtualised on top of the existing new virtualised architecture.