Server Snapshots: Unisys in the Real World

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Nov 9, 2007


Tarrant County is the third-largest county located in north-central Texas. The urban county boasts a population of 1.7 million and more than 5,000 employees. It also support 43 different law enforcement agencies. As large numbers of people moved into the area, Tarrant County found the increased demand for its law enforcement services tended to overwhelm the IT infrastructure.

Tarrant County relies on Unisys servers to deliver justice.

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"We were adding physical servers by leaps and bounds," said Jan Allred, project manager for IT Operations for Tarrant County. "With our staffing situation, we weren't able to support and maintain a sufficient infrastructure."

The county implemented ES7000/one enterprise servers from Unisys (Blue Bell, Penn.) in conjunction with Unisys system planning and implementation services, VMware ESX Server by EMC (Hopkinton, Mass.), and Windows Server 2003 Enterprise edition. This infrastructure supports all e-government and criminal justice functions and agencies, including county clerk, tax assessor, district attorney, family law and vehicle registration.

"We implemented Unisys ES7000/one Enterprise Servers and VMware ESX Server to create a real-time infrastructure that could support a new integrated justice system and then be extended to address other agencies' requirements," said Allred. "We settled on a virtualization strategy to ensure the IT agility, speed, high availability, disaster recovery and business continuity needed to support our key e-government initiatives."

The county now has quite a collection of Unisys servers. This includes two 20-processor ES7000/230 systems for enterprise resource planning (ERP), two clustered 8-processor ES7000/420 Itanium 2 systems supporting SQL, two 4-processor ES7000/one Itanium 2 systems (also supporting SQL), and three 12-processor ES7000/one X64 systems for VMware ESX to support the integrated justice project. Two additional 8-processor ES7000/one servers with x64 Tulsa dual-core Intel CPUs for VMware ESX were also needed due to rapid expansion of the integrated justice project.

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In 2002, the first ES7000's appeared at Tarrant County as part of an SAP ERP implementation project. These two 20-processor units provided scale-up capabilities for SAP. Another two (total of 16 processors) arrived in 2003 for SQL consolidation. In late 2006, the organization added five more ES7000 units, primarily for VMware as part of the ongoing integrated justice project. In essence, these servers virtualize the application/middleware layers. In 2007, the IT organization needed another two ES7000/one 8Xs to virtualize more infrastructure for their fast growing integrated justice system.

"Today, Tarrant County has dozens of virtual servers running in the ES7000/one server environment with near-term plans to add dozens more," said Allred. "The virtualized environment hosts a range of applications spanning the county's development, test and production areas. We found Unisys ES7000/one Enterprise Servers to offer the scalability and the expandability for our justice system that other platforms don't have."

This didn't all happen in a moment, however. Allred explains that Unisys sat down with the IT team and created templates for the various operating systems that would be used for the initial project. That simplified the implementation and made the adoption of a virtualized environment relatively smooth.

"Our virtualization project has been so successful in large part because of the ease of deployment," said Allred. "We can quickly create the environments that our business needs — whether in test, development or production environments. It was this success that led us to add additional Unisys systems in our IT environment so that we could virtualize greater portions of our growing infrastructure."

Within a month of implementing this project — and having its Web servers and test/development systems in place — full-production Web servers were brought online. As the criminal justice system expands, Allred reports that growth can be accommodated easily while maintaining reliability and keeping management simple and straightforward.

The professionals in the legal system are also happy with the implementation.

"All of Tarrant County's business with law enforcement agencies is now done electronically through its case management system," said Assistant Criminal District Attorney for Tarrant County, D. Miles Brissette. "Without the VMware and Unisys backbone, we're out of business. It's that simple."

Overall, Allred lists the primary benefits as the creation of a highly available, redundant environment, and easier, streamlined, less costly infrastructure management via virtualization. In addition, the organization has experienced improved performance of criminal justice and e-government related functions due to greater integration and easier access to more accurate data. This directly translates into enhanced service to residents.

"Tarrant County uses Unisys ES7000/one Enterprise Servers and a VMware ESX Server to improve service delivery for its criminal justice and e-government arenas, while reducing the complexities and costs associated with infrastructure management and improving performance," said Allred. "The county has dozens of virtual servers running on the scalable ES7000/one server platform. New virtual servers can be provisioned in days to support development, test and production activities."

More recently, the county decided to augment its Unisys platform with better management capabilities, courtesy of NetIQ (Houston, Texas). This will heighten server management throughout the enterprise. Note, however, that the organization is still in the early stages of implementing NetIQ software. Once completed, Allred expects benefits will include improved monitoring of server performance, and better reporting and analysis of data trends.

Vendor Trust

Allred concluded by highlighting the importance of working with a vendor that can be trusted to deliver what is promised. Tarrant County has dealt with Unisys for the better part of this decade. As a result of good delivery of hardware, software and services, the relationship has expanded over the years. The establishment of such a bond, she said, helps when it comes to keeping costs down.

"It was critical to find a cost-effective solution that met its evolving needs and helped to reduce spending, while avoiding additional headcount," said Allred. "Our existing relationship with Unisys — along with its proven expertise in creating resilient, agile environments — made a Unisys solution the best choice for Tarrant County's challenges."

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