Monster Savings from Virtualization on Sesame Street

At Sesame Workshop, imagination is limitless but data center space and budgets are not. Take a look at how this non-profit is using open source virtualization tools to revamp its server strategy and count up substantial savings.

By Laurianne McLaughlin
Wed, April 02, 2008

CIO — Noah Broadwater, VP of information services for Sesame Workshop , likes using open source virtualization tools for several good reasons—starting with green ones that have nothing to do with Oscar the Grouch.

Broadwater recently faced a budget crunch at the same time he needed new Web servers and was physically running out of room in his data center. His solution: new HP blade servers based on Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise server software, which builds in Xen's virtualization software (Xen is the leading open source alternative to VMware's offering.)

"We said let's try it," says Broadwater, who leads the non-profit company's IT staff of about 20 people. "It saved us from buying new servers." Happy with the results from virtualizing the Web servers, Broadwater planned a substantial virtualization project to make over his other servers, starting with his test and development boxes, beginning about one year ago.

The Vendor Road Less Taken

Sesame Workshop had been spending approximately $250,000 every three years on hardware and support for its Sun Solaris servers, Broadwater says. The new approach combined 25 virtual machines onto 4 physical servers within a blade center and reduced that cost to $24,000 every 3 years, he says. Broadwater's team also consolidated 10 servers including application, image and log servers onto 4 physical boxes. When done with its virtualization effort, the company will reclaim 2 racks worth of space in its already cramped data center, and reduce power consumption by 15 percent, Broadwater estimates.

Broadwater's desire to save is not unique: Many IT leaders now tap into the consolidation benefits of virtualization. But his choice of vendor is relatively unusual. Today, the overwhelming majority of enterprise shops use VMware's tools.

Do many enterprise leaders even think Novell when they're considering virtualization options? "On the technology side, Novell has made significant headway; however I think they need to up their marketing efforts to further build brand recognition for their virtualization offerings," says Burton Group research analyst Chris Wolf. "That is also crucial in building a strong partner ecosystem." VMware and Citirx have rounded up more partners to date than Novell, to offer complementary products to IT managers.

With Microsoft entering the virtualization market with its Hyper-V hypervisor (expected to ship in August) and a virtualization management suite, Novell will face even more competition. But that's not a death knell for Novell, Wolf says. "The virtualization market is more than large enough for Novell to carve out its own sizable chunk," Wolf says.

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