The Royal College of Physicians has completed a server virtualisation project aimed at improving member services and simplifying its control over systems.

In June 2006, the college began a 12 month programme, based on the VMware Infrastructure platform, to consolidate its server estate from multiple locations to one central datacentre containing HP blades. It also established a disaster recovery site.

A complete examination portal for its members has been implemented based on the virtual infrastructure, including a payments portal, enabling doctors to enrol and train for exams. It said that by virtualising its servers, it had been easier to partition data and become PCI compliant for payments.

The college, which runs most of its desktop and enterprise systems on Microsoft, said that without virtualisation, it would have required five times the amount of physical equipment that it runs today for the portal.

Under the next phase of the project, the college will implement desktop virtualisation for its 160 staff using Wyse thin clients, which will connect to virtual machines running on VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Each virtual machine runs as a standard Microsoft Windows environment for the user, but provides centralised management for the IT team, the college said.

Desktop virtualisation will also cut its energy consumption by almost a third each year, it predicted. Some 45 desktops have been virtualised so far, and the college aims to reach 160 by the end of the year.

Christopher Venning, network and support manager at the college, said: “Using virtual desktops and thin clients to replace our ageing PCs not only gives us greater control over our desktop strategy, it helps the IT team to meet our part of the College's objectives and reduce the amount of power we use."

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