Many companies have implemented virtualization to reduce their physical server infrastructure, free up precious datacenter space, reduce power requirements, and make server management more flexible, but few adopted virtualization as early -- or pushed the technology as far -- as Qualcomm.
Back in 2003, when Qualcomm's IT group had filled the company's datacenter to capacity and still needed to grow, it turned to VMware to consolidate their Windows environment. It wasn't looking for cost savings necessarily, but the group knew it could show management big results -- and get the nimbler, next-generation datacenter the company needed.
"We just said, 'Hey, give us $250,000 in seed money, and we'll give you back $1 million in a year,'" Matthew Clark, director of IT, remembers. "Four years later, I think we've saved more than $25 million."
These are what Clark calls "hard" savings: savings from not having to build new datacenters, as well as significantly reducing purchases of new server hardware, network cards, HBAs, and so on.
Today, the benefits of server virtualization stretch across a dozen Qualcomm datacenters. Server virtualization is the catalyst for automating server provisioning, deprovisioning, and other administrative tasks, and it drives down the cost of scaling while ensuring high availability. Three out of four Windows servers are now virtualized; doing so has enabled Qualcomm to scale up its Windows operations without increasing its hardware footprint over the past five years, Clark says.
With the virtualization of the Windows environment under the group's belt, Clark and team have moved on to Linux, Solaris, and end-user desktops. Desktop virtualization at Qualcomm is taking many forms, from VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) and thin clients to application virtualization and streaming.
The goal, Clark says, is "thin mobile computing," where nothing is stored on the client. "That way," he explains, "if the laptop is ever stolen, we don't care. There's no proprietary data on there."
Brian Baker, Qualcomm's VP of IT Infrastructure, is eyeing the possibilities a little further down the road.
"We really want to move the desktop piece towards managing employee profiles versus managing their devices," Baker says. "As that technology moves forward, we're taking advantage of it as fast as we can."
The idea, of course, is to deliver the applications and data from the cloud so that the user experience isn't tied to a specific device.
For Baker and Clark, virtualization is key to moving Qualcomm's datacenters to a "next-generation, on-premises cloud architecture." It allows them to stretch the capabilities of a smaller hardware footprint, to be more efficient operationally, to scale applications more quickly to meet demand, and to make necessary changes to the environment on the fly. In short, it's providing the necessary ingredients for Qualcomm to deliver more advanced and scalable cloud services to customers around the globe.