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Virtualizing at the Application Layer for Dell

Since Release 8, Blackboard’s Performance Engineering team has executed more than 4,000 hours of regression testing and benchmarking of Blackboard Learn using virtualization technologies such as VMware ESX, Citrix XenServer, and Red Hat Xen. The Performance Engineering team has written two papers with Dell promoting deployments in a virtual manner:

Many customers have made virtualization part of their deployment approach.

Virtualization enables multiple instances of Guest OS to be deployed on each physical server. Server processor, memory, storage, and networking resources are shared across multiple virtual machines, yet each virtual machine (VM) and OS instance can have direct control over specific system resources. Blackboard Learn can then be installed and operated on each VM in much the same way as running each instance on a separate physical server.

Following are the two key reasons exist for implementing virtualization in the application tier:

  • Modern CPUs such as the Intel 5500 series processors are so powerful that a single instance of the OS and its application software components typically cannot fully utilize the CPU. It is more cost-effective to add additional memory to a server and divide the server resources into multiple virtual machines than it is to buy more servers.
  • Virtualization greatly simplifies provisioning and management of the Blackboard Learn environment.

Most of the virtualization packages deployed in Blackboard production environments include software tools to enable administrators to quickly and easily clone an image of a VM, including the OS and all application instances. This cloned VM image can then be quickly provisioned to a new VM when, for example, greater capacity is needed. Cloning also helps to ensure that all instances of the application are deployed in identical configurations, greatly simplifying ongoing maintenance of the environment.