Web Developer Seneca Virtualises Hosting via LeaseWeb

Migration of hosting customers: from 50 Physical Servers to 10

Seneca, a leading Dutch web developer with 125 employees, is virtualising its hosting environment at hosting provider LeaseWeb (www.leaseweb.com) with VMware. Seneca hopes to complete the full hosting migration of all its customers within a year. ¡®By that time, the current 50 physical servers will have made way for a maximum of 10 physical servers.¡¯

¡®LeaseWeb has offered us the opportunity to set up a VMware-based virtualisation platform at the modern, CO2-neutral Dutch data centre EvoSwitch,¡¯ says Jeroen Bezemer, who is responsible for Seneca¡¯s hosting department. ¡®LeaseWeb has supplied the facilities at the data centre and helped us conceive and build the hosting solution. This collaboration resulted in a virtualised hosting environment based on VMware¡¯s ESX platform. Once all of our customers have been transferred, we will need a maximum of 10 physical dedicated servers, whereas in the past, we needed 50!'

Hosting CMS
Seneca supplies the hosting service as part of a total solution for the ¡®Smartsite¡¯ product, a content management system built by Seneca that is being marketed via resellers, among other channels. About 80 of the company¡¯s customers are small and medium-sized townships like Hengelo, Leidschendam-Voorburg and Hoorn. ¡®Hosting is not a core operation for us, but we do want to offer our customers a total picture for their CMS. This is why LeaseWeb handles the hosting of the web applications for us.¡¯

Dedicated server
Until recently, Seneca used a physical dedicated server for each customer. Smaller customers could share a physical server via co-location. ¡®We found that this situation resulted in problems more and more often,¡¯ says Bezemer, ¡®because we were unable to allocate the available server space to customers in a flexible manner.¡¯

Seneca considers virtualisation to be the future of hosting. ¡®We will be extremely versatile via virtualisation,¡¯ asserts Bezemer. We can roll out new servers ourselves very quickly, and shift the available space around. Virtualisation also makes it easier to accommodate server failures. At this point, we have migrated about half of our customers. As soon as the contracts of the remaining physical servers expire, we will also transfer them to a virtual environment. We expect that process to be complete within the year.¡¯

Server hosting
In actuality, the existing hardware for Seneca will be reduced from 50 dedicated servers to about 6 physical dedicated servers. ¡®But we do need other servers to keep an eye on the virtual platform. Monitoring servers, in other words. And not all of our servers can be migrated to virtual servers, such as database servers. We prefer to keep those physical because we would have to adapt the entire hosting infrastructure and change interfaces.'

Virtual hosting
Initially, Seneca felt that the investment needed for the VMware platform was rather steep. ¡®Two years ago, we felt that we would not be able to implement virtualisation due to the licensing fees and the costs for heavier hardware,' explains Bezemer. ¡®But the investment in virtualisation resulted in savings with respect to hardware. We were able to convert those savings into higher availability for customers by building in more redundancy and making higher SLAs. So it has improved our service. Once we have migrated completely, we will have done more than reduce the physical server pool significantly. VMware also means that we do not need a licence for every processor. A data-centre licence suffices, which means that we also make a return on the investment costs.'