Salford City Council

Salford City Council is one of 10 metropolitan district councils within Greater Manchester in the northwest of England. Covering an area of 9957 hectares and with a population of 230,000, Salford includes inner city, residential, and rural areas.

The Council is an eager adopter of new technology and is keen to put its technological expertise at the service of employees and citizens. It was one of the first government organizations in Europe to use Cisco voice over IP (VoIP) technology on a large scale, creating the continent’s biggest public sector VoIP deployment in 2003.

Salford has highly advanced data facilities by public sector standards. However, capacity constraints were beginning to appear. “We put a lot of virtual servers in there,” says Jonathan Burt, corporate infrastructure architect at Salford City Council, “with 32 hosts on top of one storage array, effectively forming a single point of failure.

A lot of network cables ran from the individual servers, each of which had four network, two fibre channel, and two power connections. That was a lot of infrastructure to support and manage. Also, we had multiple back-up platforms with different arrays, so it was a very complex design indeed.”

A 12:1 consolidation ratio, going from almost 400 physical servers down to 32 hosts, had been accomplished. This was a major achievement, but the infrastructure’s power, cooling, cabling, and switch port requirements were still considerable.

Also, employees were consuming IT in new and different ways. Increasingly, devolved Council departments and subsidiaries were deploying their own IT equipment and operating independently.

As well as duplicating effort, this fragmentation led to security and compliance problems. In response, the Council wanted to offer IT services in a more controlled and cost effective way, both internally and for other organizations in Greater Manchester. Salford would need to stop thinking about building a private cloud for its own users and instead move to a multitenant community cloud model.

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We believe session virtualization is the biggest enabler of what we want to do moving forward. You can achieve far greater economies of scale with this approach. We’re hoping to drive energy costs down even further. We’ve gone from 32 hosts controlling 400 VMs down to 10 Cisco UCS blades that run the entire environment. We’re on track to achieve a 40-to-one consolidation ratio with potential scope to go up to 50-to-one. Jonathan Burt, Corporate Infrastructure Architect, Salford City Council
  • UCS XML API takes administration to the next level and helps automate UCS operations.

  • Taking advantage of the fact that the UCS brought together the ability to manage all components in one Management interface.
  • Wide range of programmability options, from resource pooling and perception of infinite capacity to continuous availability and drive predictability.
  • Unified Fabric for ‘wire-once’ logically-defined network and storage connectivity with northbound programmability.
  • Virtualized Multiservice Data Center reference architecture for cloud environments using flexible, validated designs in an integrated model that adapts easily to public sector needs.
  • Cisco Data Center Interconnect technologies that transparently extend LAN and SAN connectivity.
  • Provide accelerated, highly-secure data replication, server and clustering.and workload mobility between geographically dispersed data centers.
  • Although FlexPod is set up to support VDI.

  • The Council for the time being is more concerned with using the data center platform to deliver session virtualization, with terminal services providing remote applications to traditional desktops.
  • Salford is working on a proof-of-concept in which applications will be separated from operating systems and devices.
  • Users will then be able to choose which applications they want, and these will be presented with a standard user interface irrespective of device.
  • To make this transition, Salford will most likely use Citrix and Microsoft hypervisors to virtualize the applications, combined with Citrix presentation technologies to stream them to multiple device types.
  • Virtualization rates are currently at 95% and are targeted to increase to 99 % by the second half of 2013.
  • In total, 450 virtual machines run Exchange, SQL, SAP, Active Directory, and line-of-business applications.
  • The Council is in the process of migrating SAP applications from Solaris and Oracle to Linux86 with an Oracle back-end as part of the move from physical to virtual infrastructures.
  • Microsoft System Center is used for VM management and orchestration.
  • Following the move to FlexPod, processor utilization has dropped from 90% to between 40 and 50%, leading to a noticeable improvement in the speed and response of applications.
  • Also improved deduplication rates contributed towards an estimated 30 percent reduction in storage requirements.
  • Improvements to the computing architecture and cooling systems have helped the Council reduce its energy bill by more than 50 percent over the last four years.
  • The number of racks in the data center has been cut from five to two, releasing valuable space that Salford can rent out to other organizations.
  • Manchester City Council, for example, has taken six racks, and other partners are looking to move in.

Features and Benefits

With the UCS and Nexus integration in FlexPod, the Council is able to use 10Gbps Ethernet Cisco Unified Fabric (including Fibre Channel over Ethernet and Data Center Bridging) and Fabric Extender Technology. These technologies reduced cabling, network interface cards, access and aggregation network layer switch port requirements, and power consumption while also allowing for future scalability which adheres to data center fabric design best practices.

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