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Virtualisation Services

VM for Rent Service

The VM for Rent service has now been superseded by the Hosted VMs service within the Private Cloud, one of the Shared Infrastructure Services. All existing clients will be migrated to the Hosted VMs service in due course.

VMware Consultancy and Management Service

Virtualization offers cost saving, envionmental and operational benefits. However poor choices at the planning stage can lead to a more costly, less efficient solution than might otherwise be possible. The NSMS team has been leading the use of industry standard virtualization technologies within the collegiate University for over 5 years and has experience in both large multi-site virtual infrastructures and smaller scale implementations. The NSMS Virtual Infrastructure Consultancy will, through a process of evaluation and recommendation, help you to successfully virtualize your physical systems, or assist with expansion, development, or troubleshooting of an existing virtual infrastructure.

The NSMS team can fully manage new or existing VMware installations. Members of the NSMS team are recognised and respected members of the VMware community worldwide and three team members are VMware Certified Professionals. They have already been involved in several major VMware projects, offering their services to more than 20 University departments and colleges. Phone x73209 or email the NSMS Team at nsms@oucs.ox.ac.uk for a no-obligation discussion on how we can help you.


For current charging information for these services see our charges page.

Case Study: Building An Enterprise Infrastructure Without An Enterprise Budget

In 2008 Business Services and Projects (BSP), the Information and Communications Technology Support Team (ICTST) and NSMS embarked upon a collaboration to implement an enterprise level server infrastructure with dual site redundancy and mirrored data storage. The goal of the project was to consolidate the servers from BSP, ICTST and Oxford University Library Services (OULS). The requirements were to provide:

  • Highly available services
  • Minimum single points of failure
  • Resilient storage configuration
  • Resilient against total site failure
  • Large resource pool

Using the expertise within NSMS the servers would be migrated from many physical devices to a virtual infrastructure using VMware's ESX software running on fully redundant hardware. The design of the solution was based upon a storage farm and an ESX farm being deployed at two separate locations (the OUCS machine and a machine room in the science area known as the Beach) linked by dedicated and redundant fibre. The detailed design was as follows:

  • 14 dual quad-core Xeon Dell 1950III servers with 32GB of RAM
  • Two 10GB dedicated fibre links between OUCS and The Beach
  • Ten LHN iSCSI SAN nodes providing 18Tb raw 15k SAS storage
  • Synchronous cross-site storage replication for data integrity
  • VI3.5 Enterprise for cross-site VMotion and High Availability
  • Redundant links to Oxford WAN utilising STP
  • Redundant network hardware utilising 2 x Cisco Catalyst Stacks
  • Redundant bridging firewalls at both sites

The project had a very ambitious timetable but nevertheless was successfully delivered on time in August 2008 after an 11 week implementation phase. Since handover, the ongoing management of the hardware and virtualisation platform has been undertaken by NSMS and the infrastructure resources have been shared between BSP and ICTST.

Case Study: Enhancing web services at the Museum of the History of Science

The web server for Museum of the History of Science was running on old hardware that was past end of life and the Museum wanted to avoid spending on new hardware. A physical to virtual server conversion was performed on the old server. This then immediately ran on the NSMS blade system. This work took 3 hours.

The Museum then decided that, for a new website project, they needed to upgrade from PHP4.2 to PHP5.2, a big change that was likely to break many of their existing websites. So the new virtualised Web Server was cloned to a second VM and the clone was used to test the PHP upgrade. All the while, the live server was up and running while NSMS worked out and resolved the problems caused by the PHP upgrade. Once this was done, PHP was upgraded on the live server without a hitch or any downtime, following the steps developed on the clone. This work took 2:30 hours.

Case Study: Improving emergency status notification

In August 2007 the electrical power to the OUCS machine room had to be suspended for a significant part of a day for a routine five yearly safety inspection. It was impossible to supply sufficient power from alternative sources to keep all the services going but there were some essential services that had to be switched over to an auxiliary supply. The Status service (http://status.ox.ac.uk) provided by OUCS was one of these essential services.

The Status server is a Debian Linux based system normally running as a VM on the NSMS blade hardware but this hardware was going to be powered down during the shutdown period. The following plan was devised to provide continuity for the Status service:
  • A small server, able to be powered from the auxiliary supply, was set aside to support the temporary service.
  • Windows 2003 was already installed on this server and VMware Server (free software) was installed on this.
  • The live VM that was running on the blade system was copied to a file on the temporary server.
  • Although the production blade system runs VMware ESX, the VM files for that system are compatible with the VMware Server program so the VM file of the status system was immediately able to run on the temporary server.
  • Before the main power down, the blade system was powered down. As soon as the Status Service VM was powered down, the copy installed on the temporary server was started. The temporary server was connected to the same network domain as the blade system so no DNS changes were required; the status service was immediately available.
  • After the safety inspection was completed, the temporary Status service VM was powered down and the service was restarted on the blade system.

Case Study: Building An Enterprise Infrastructure Without An Enterprise Budget

When the Oxford University Language Centre had to renew their IT infrastructure, they harnessed the power of virtualisation to provide a robust, scalable, and cost-effective IT infrastructure that punches far above the economic weight of the department. Through this technology, they have been able to implement unprecedented flexibility, reliability and responsiveness in their IT resources. It has also allowed them to introduce other services that would not otherwise have been affordable.

The details of this project are described in a paper Building An Enterprise Infrastructure Without An Enterprise Budget - A Case Study On Virtualisation written by Mike Sloane, the IT support officer for the Language Centre. It introduces virtualisation, available products, the possible approaches, and describes how they exploited the capabilities of virtualisation to build an infrastructure that is more capable than would have been possible by traditional methods. The benefits experienced are so extensive that they are now planning to implement a Virtual Desktop solution based around VMware ACE for their teaching needs.