Birmingham Airport tech on flexible flight path

Head of information services Wayne Smith talks virtualisation and consolidation...

...take 48 of our old servers and virtualise them onto six physical hosts running in the virtual environment."

Working with virtualisation consultancy Centralis, Birmingham Airport virtualised most of its server estate down to six physical hosts using VMware virtualisation technology and virtual storage from NetApp.

Some of the newer servers were incorporated into the new set-up so the IS department only had to buy one new server in addition to the network cards, memory and new processors - all of which helped in the financial justification of the project.

Centralis said the whole infrastructure could be supported by three physical host servers, although the IS team decided to use six servers to provide redundancy across the two datacentres.

The two datacentres now run in parallel with 50 per cent of services on each. The NetApp storage technology mirrors images on a constant basis so only 50 per cent of capability will be lost if one datacentre goes down, with services being restored in the other datacentre in a couple of minutes.

Server virtualisation will allow more flexible services

Birmingham Airport's virtualisation project will let the IS department provide more flexible services to airlinesPhoto: Birmingham Airport

Smith decided to make the failover technology partially manual so the team would know about and be able to deal with any changes that took place. Smith feared that a fully automated system might mean the team would be unaware if changes took place, leaving the infrastructure exposed to risk.

Once the technology and business-case decisions were in place, the project was relatively smooth according to Smith.

"When [Centralis] started the physical to virtual migration of servers, it was a relatively quick process. It was almost like popping peas and every day I'd go out and check and there was another couple done and it was just a matter of working through them. So once they'd started it was very quick," he said.

Centralis consultants passed on their expertise in the technology to a single member of Smith's IS team, who also managed the project. The plan is for the same member of the IS team to train colleagues to use the VMware and NetApp technology so there is technical support at the airport.

Despite Centralis implementing the technology, the involvement of the IS team was key for Smith. "I always like the projects to be managed, to be controlled by internal people because...