Running a “datacenter”

It has been way too long since my last post.

In my spare time, along with two other partners, I run a virtualization datacenter in a collocation facility. In addition to generating income, it also serves as an excellent test lab for open source products. It is my conviction that the small business market can seriously benefit from open source applications.

Pfsense, for example, will match up to any mid-level commercial router/firewall for a fraction of the cost (hardware needed to run pf). Virtualization further reduces this expense. Much of the current server hardware in use today will run VMware ESXi (not open source, but no charge). VMware estimates that most desktop and server hardware is only in use 5-15% of the time. Server virtulization reduces physical storage space, cooling requirements, energy consumption, all part of total cost of ownership. VMware certainly is not the only server virtualization host available. Check out offerings from MS, Citrix or Ubuntu. There are others as well.

Note: yes, ESXi is 100% $FREE. There is no requirement to purchase support.

For data storage, we have successfully proven (many times over) that linux (Ubuntu server) NFS is a solid, valid option for shared storage. Production MS Windows and *nix-based virtual machines run flawlessly. MS Windows Server 2008 (all versions) runs particularly well in a virtual environment.

Note: MS Enterprise license allows four instances of server to be installed on a virtual host. Further reduction of expense.

Virtualization is also excellent as a test platform. Windows or *nix servers and desktops can be spun up very rapidly on a single host. I will frequently load a server to install an application evaluation. There is no fear of corrupting existing production servers. If I choose not to use the app, I simply delete the vm and resources are recovered.

I am also successfully using an open source VoIP PBX. Various distributions based on asterisk are very strong and offer all of the common phone system features found in key systems and even pbx.

Today’s take-away: check out virtualization. Check out open source. The benefits will  be clear. The savings will be immediate.