Servers with a smile at Midwest unicameral

Officials in the Nebraska Legislature said they could work more efficiently in 1937 when they became the nation's only single-chamber legislative body. Now the "unicameral" has boosted the efficiency of its information systems by adopting virtual server software.

Daren Gillespie, network administrator for the unicameral, is responsible for about 350 clients connected to a Dell PowerEdge 8450 server.

The server runs Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional and Server as well as Windows NT 4.0 Workstation and Server, Gillespie said. It can use both versions of the operating system'and could use Linux'because the server runs GSX Server 2.0 from VMWare Inc. of Palo Alto, Calif.

Installing the partitioning software let the Legislature reduce its server count from nine to one by creating nine virtual servers inside the Dell PowerEdge, Gillespie said.

Operating the virtual servers has accelerated the process of installing Microsoft service packs, which the company issues regularly.

The potential is always there for such a fix to cause a problem that might force rebuilding the server file structure, which takes hours, Gillespie said.

But the partitioning lets operators take down the virtual servers and test them without having to rebuild, he said. "Then, if it works, you just bring it back up," Gillespie said.

GSX Server also speeds the configuration of clients, he said. Without it, "if you try to move Windows from one [PC] to another, there could be a discrepancy if the machines aren't identical," Gillespie said.

"With VMWare, it doesn't matter."

The virtual configuration also speeds the process of backing up the servers and recovering data, he said. "It's just like moving a file, rather than rebuilding a whole server from scratch," Gillespie said.

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