Jersey Financial Services Commission (JFSC) has virtualised its entire operation -- reducing the number of servers from 12 to just two, with all the concomitant savings.

JFSC is responsible for the supervision of the financial services businesses on Jersey, regulating banking, investment and insurance businesses and company service providers. With companies investing over £160 billion per annum in the Jersey financial services market, the Commission is essential to the operation of the financial services sector.

As the JFSC's role grew into a more e-commerce environment, which entailed operating all day, every day, it realised it needed to improve its availability and disaster recovery capabilities. It also wanted value for money -- and as most disaster recovery solutions entail buying two servers, only to have one sitting around doing nothing, this seemed like a waste of money.

Since the JFSC expected its responsibilities to grow, this would double its expenditure not just on hardware, but also on rack space in its hosting centre, on admin and maintenance and other costs. So it wanted to contain costs while continuing to serve a growing number of applications.

So with flexibility and scalability in mind, it teamed up with HA specialist Ji Consultancy, which last year became a VMware Authorised Consulting Partner, the virtualisation software specialist's top rank for its partners.

In 2003, Ji won the business and the integrator's MD Julian Box says that: "They [the JFSC] chose us because we offered a cluster -- they were using one-to-one servers, a traditional disaster recovery solution. We offered more for the same money because the VMware ESX servers [that we would install] could run other tasks as well. They knew that they could use VMware continuously and for them, a key advantage was that they could upgrade and change their hardware more easily when all applications are running in a VM."

Following a lengthy planning and specification process, JFSC specified VMware ESX Server, which enabled it to consolidate 12 physical servers onto eight-way Intel-based IBM xSeries 440 and 445 servers at both its live and disaster recovery sites.

In effect, a complete replication environment lives in one physical box. And because there's spare capacity on the disaster recovery failover box, JFSC runs its Web servers, terminal servers and other applications on it too.

Box added: "The JFSC just needed to add disk and memory so they could add more VMs -- they're deep into double figures when it comes to VMs. Implementation is faster too -- there's no more rack space required when they want to add a server and, in a hosting centre, more space means more money. And there's plenty of life left in the box. They'll get five years life out of it easily, while previously, they were used to writing hardware off after three years."

The two IBMs now run a total of over 40 virtual machines between them, supporting 120 users. Box said that Ji had tested what happens when the disaster recovery failover system is invoked on a live server. With one piece of hardware is supporting the business, and with users going about their daily working lives as usual, "utilisation still only reaches 40 or 45 per cent", he said.

In future, JFSC plans to use VMware VirtualCenter to manage its virtualised environment from one place, and will be implementing a SAN and using VMotion to manage its VMs.