Parallels virtualisation boosts BlueCrest

Servers

by Steve Evans| 30 June 2009

Cost, performance and manageability key

BlueCrest Capital Management, an alternative asset management company based in London, has used virtualisation software from Parallels to reduce costs and increase productivity.

The firm was looking to consolidate HP Proliant servers and use the extra space to install new hardware. The company also wanted to reduce the amount of time its developers and IT staff spent on management and maintaining systems to enable them to concentrate on mission-critical tasks.

“Management was a key driver behind the implementation,” Andy Roberts, co-head of IT at the firm, told CBR. “We have a team of six guys delivering technology to the company, we don’t want their time to be taken up with management tasks. We want them to focus on the future state of the company.”

BlueCrest looked at other virtualisation offerings, including those from VMware and Citrix. The company settled on Parallels Virtuozzo Containers, with costs as well as management a key factor behind the decision.

Roberts said: “The other solutions would no doubt help us with server consolidation but when we looked at the additional numbers around management, we just weren’t confident about the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of these products. With Parallels Virtuozzo Containers it was that much clearer.”

“The 64 bit Windows and Linux solutions were relatively easy to implement and extremely stable. They had powerful management tools, performed excellently and the pricing was straightforward,” he said.

Unlike the traditional hypervisor, which virtualises at the hardware level, Parallels Virtuozzo Containers works on the operating system (OS). According to Parallels, this means that it can partition a single Windows or Linux OS instance into simultaneously running, isolated virtual environments or ‘containers’.

These containers can utilise resources of the host OS, rather than needing its own complete instance. Parallels says this means it offers higher consolidation ratios with greater speed and flexibility than hypervisor-based platforms.

Roberts added that one of the benefits of virtualising on the OS was that patches only need to be applied to the core OS and then pushed out to all the ‘containers’, rather than requiring a reboot of all virtual machines once a patch is applied.

BlueCrest began implementation of the Parallels platform in July 2007. “We didn’t have a set target about where we would go with virtualisation in the company,” Roberts told CBR. “It’s being done on a case by case basis, but we’re very happy with the performance and there has been no issue with reliability.”

The firm now uses the Parallels platform to run its back office applications, disaster recovery and the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) environment for its market aggregations applications.

Developers can now focus on mission-critical tasks, such as customising applications for traders and enabling them to self provision the servers, improving productivity at the company.

“Parallels Virtuozzo Containers has also allowed us to implement more effective disaster recovery systems. If a virtual server experiences problems and goes down then it is much easier to get it back up and running than it would be with a physical server, saving time and money in the process,” said Roberts.

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