TechSoup's Extreme IT 'Shorty' Makeover


TechSoup had thrived by providing nonprofits much needed technology help. And now it needed its own Extreme IT makeover. It's data center was a hot house running in the mid 80s with the IT department using portable air conditioners and fans to take the temperature down.

The trusted source for all things technology for nonprofits, including donated and discounted technology products, came up with a recipe for getting out of the IT soup with an Extreme IT makeover courtesy of computer giant Hewlett Packard. The main ingredients: two HP c3000 servers, referred to as 'Shortys' because of their space and power saving functionality packed into a sleek compact package, combined with a big blast of VMWare's virtualization software.

The Shorty-VMWare combo allowed Techsoup to consolidate 60 servers to four Shorty blades. That resulted in a whopping 72 percent reduction in power usage, according to Tim Suttle, director of IS infrastructure for TechSoup.

Suttle detailed TechSoup's miracle makeover as part of an HP presentation at the Midsize Enterprise Summit at Gaylord, Texas on Monday. The Midsize Enterprise Summit is owned by ChannelWeb parent Everything Channel.

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Suttle said the Shorty's saved a data center HVAC upgrade that would have cost some $40,000 on top of an additional $25,000 investment that would have been needed for remote management of the servers. That capability featuring remote power-on and off, KVM and virtual media, is built right into the Shortys, said Suttle.

Not only that, but the Shorty-VMWare combo has helped drive significant improvements in application performance, said Suttle. "In almost every instance we have seen an improvement in application performance," he said. "I think what is remarkable about this is we have seen an increase in performance while allocating fewer resources to those systems."

This from an organization whose IT staff was struggling before the makeover to keep up with server sprawl despite using a mere five percent of CPU resources it had available on systems. That infrastructure included development and test servers that were running on desktop machines stuck under cubicles, said Suttle.

The makeover has also made TechSoup's IT staff more productive. "That was one of the other objectives of the project," said Suttle. "Now that we have made this shift in our infrastructure, server deployments are 99 perfcent faster. We are talking about days instead of weeks now to get servers into any of our environments."

So an IT staff that used to spend more time looking at procuring hardware, installing it and cabling it is now focused on more critical IT issues. In fact, Suttle estimates that the organization saved some 220 hours of IT staff time with two projects in the first three months of the Shorty deployment.

"And we are continuing to see the time savings as we go forward," said Suttle. "IT has been almost a year since we have implemented these new Shortys and we are definitely in love with this new infrastructure."