Birmingham Airport tech on flexible flight path

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

...they know what the drivers are for the business, they know what the priorities are for the company as a whole and then they manage the consultants, the specialists, the technical people, to get the system implemented."

The benefits of virtualisation

The initial business case for the virtualisation project was justified by the financial sums involved, with Centralis linking key project milestones with payment so the airport only paid when certain steps had been completed.

"It was easy to sell to the board because of that justification and because of the other benefits it's brought to us," Smith said.

The IS department now forecasts that the project will pay for itself after three years due to the 40 per cent energy cost savings in terms of energy usage, due to more efficient cooling and use of hardware compared with the old infrastructure.

With the virtual infrastructure in place, considerable time can be saved when new services need to be set up because virtual machines can be spun up rather than the IS team needing to procure and configure new servers.

Non-virtual infrastructure

Not all the airport's servers have been virtualised due to legacy airport-specific applications, and Smith's team is currently working out how to update these.

"So from our users' point of view, it's a much more responsive service. The end users don't really care about lead time on servers - all they want to see is their application so they can test it and decide whether it's right for them or not. So that's the underpinning principle," Smith said.

Other benefits include a 20 per cent increase in computing capacity that should cater for the airport's IT needs for the next three years and a reduction in downtime when there are issues with the system that require it to be taken offline. For example, when the infrastructure had to be taken offline recently due to a water leak, there were two hours of downtime compared with 12 hours if the issue had occurred with the old system.

Despite these benefits, Smith is mindful of the need for the IS department to keep sufficient control of the virtual environment.

"Because it's relatively easy to set up a new server – we just create one from an image – what I don't want to end up with is the server sprawl that people talk about in the virtualised world. So we're keeping it quite tightly controlled in that the main guy has to authorise the server images and is also the guy who looks after the licensing side of things as well," Smith said.

"We've got that control in place so we don't end up with...