Building on smart savings in the public sector

October 22, 2015
Building on smart savings in the public sector

Tim Hearn, Director, UK Government and Public Services, VMware

When VMware brought its hypervisor to the UK market in 2003, the message to both the government and public sector organisations was clear: by virtualizing servers with VMware, customers could make one server do the job of as many as ten, and in doing so make enormous savings in Capex and Opex. This came with the guarantee that these new servers would require just a fraction of the space, power and cooling of their predecessors.

At the time this was an extremely disruptive message, and many sat up and took notice. Consequently, VMware is now used widely across the public sector as the hypervisor of choice, helping many to realise significant cost savings.

Public sector spending cuts have been high on the agenda for many years and will continue to be more the foreseeable future. The Conservative Party manifesto includes a commitment to cut total public spending in real terms by 1% a year in 2016–17 and 2017–18. The impact of this is likely to be cuts in public services, but there are more efficiency savings which could be made which could greatly contribute towards these figures.

If public sector organisations had fully embraced virtualization in the past twelve years, we have calculated that the cost of public sector IT could have been reduced by more than half a billion pounds each year. Yet twelve years later, we expect that less than 30% of the UK government’s server estate is now virtualized, with potentially more than 150,000 servers remaining in physical environments.

What’s more, this density varies significantly according to each subsector, with healthcare and higher education deriving the most return from their server estates. In both these departments and elsewhere though, there are still significant benefits yet to be realised which could help meet spending cut targets.

One of the ways in which the Cabinet Office could drive significant efficiencies and cost savings would be to mandate a minimum virtualization ratio for any server purchases through Crown Commercial Services. This would result in not only a degree of rationalisation of VMware estates, but also enable the full potential of VMware technology to be realised, which is something we fully endorse.

As stated recently by Magnus Falk, CTO of the Government Digital Service, virtualization is a fundamental building block in creating effective digital services which sit across the enterprise and the cloud. Therefore it’s in both VMware and the government’s interests to drive adoption and maximise the number of ‘VMs’ per server. It’s also worth remembering that Crown Hosting Services and other co-location providers charge users based on a combination of physical units, space, power and cooling, so virtualization helps minimize these costs. Clearly, the task of virtualizing public sector compute is a huge undertaking, and is currently only partially complete. As such, it will continue to represent a significant focus for VMware in its engagement in the sector over the coming months.

But the virtualization story goes far beyond just servers and as such, VMware is now driving similarly fundamental changes within the data centre to help cut costs and increase efficiencies, whilst providing faster, more innovative computing for the public sector. Across two further blog posts, I am going to explore these cost savings in more detail.

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