XenServer as virtualization platform for new control software

The Lower Saxony tax administration has successfully completed the largest IT changeover in its history in early 2012: In the 67 tax offices in this state the uniform federal tax software CONSENSUS I was introduced for approximately 12,500 users. The technical infrastructure for the operation of specialized procedures server based on the server virtualization solution Citrix XenServer. With the support of Fujitsu Technology Solutions, the IT organization of the Oberfinanzdirektion Lower Saxony has implemented at nearly 80 different sites around 160 XenServer hosts that are now centrally managed from Hannover.

For several years, the 16 German federal states "Coordinated new software development of tax administration" working within the framework of the project (consensus) on a common management software for all tax offices. The aim of the initiative is to unify the process of tax administration to modernize and continually adapt to legislative changes. The state of Lower Saxony has switched to the new system beginning 2012 Design. Since 09 January, the approximately 12,500 employees working in the tax offices of the state with CONSENSUS I, the first stage of the common basic software.

The changeover was preceded by an almost three-year preparation period. "One of the challenges was going to find a suitable platform for the operation of the new administrative procedures in the individual server revenue offices," explains Michael Friday, team leader of the workspace, Unix backend 'the Oberfinanzdirektion (OFD) Niedersachsen. "CONSENSUS I was originally developed for the 32-bit version of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 9 - on the existing servers in our tax offices, however, was already running the 64-bit version of SLES 9. We could use therefore not in our implement existing infrastructure. "

Price-performance ratio speaks for Citrix XenServer

As a solution presented itself in this situation, the virtualization of the new software. The process server CONSENSUS I should therefore no longer be installed directly on physical hardware, but to run as a virtual machine on a hypervisor. Those responsible for OFD initially probed the market for appropriate solutions and ultimately considered especially server virtualization products from Citrix and VMware, which 9 still supported both the 32-bit version of SLES. When deciding on XenServer addition to the features available primarily cost and licensing aspects played an important role.

The next challenge for the IT organization of the OFD Niedersachsen was now to bring the new solution architecture in the area. Together with server and virtualization specialists at Fujitsu Technology Solutions, the detailed concept and the roll-out plan for the approximately 80 locations of 67 tax offices have been developed. Per site was provided to install two physical XenServer hosts, which together form a fail-safe resource pool for the operation of the process server. For this purpose it was necessary to also provide a shared-storage system for the two host servers. The OFD decided that existing NetApp filer in the tax offices in the course of the project to be replaced by more recent NetApp FAS2040 storage systems and to connect via NFS to the XenServer pool. As server hardware for XenServer hosts Fujitsu PRIMERGY RX300 S6 servers were ordered with two quad-core processors and 48 GB RAM.

The factory pre-configured server and storage systems were initially supplied to a Fujitsu subsidiary in Paderborn and prepared there for the rollout. After one developed by Citrix XenServer installation procedure OFD project staff played Fujitsu virtualization platform XenServer 5.6 and the agent for the management suite Fujitsu ServerView on the servers a. The prepared hardware packages were then delivered over a period of several weeks in the individual tax offices and connected there locally by Fujitsu employees and colleagues of the OFD and put into operation.

Launch deadline of CONSENSUS I in all tax offices

Shortly after the infrastructure for the new tax administration software in the tax was ready, put the developers of CONSENSUS I an updated version available. The new software release that the OFD comprehensively rolled out before the start, was no longer designed for SLES 9, but for the operation with SLES 11th Just in time for 09 January 2012, all IT companies were then converted into the Lower Saxony tax offices consensus I. The approximately 12,500 users had previously coached extensively in dealing with the new software - therefore the changeover went smoothly and the control processing could be continued without a major interruption.

The XenServer infrastructure, on which the new solution is based runs, in January also completely trouble-free. The OFD Niedersachsen is particularly fond of the simple management of environment and functions as the delegation of administration rights, are clearly separated by the different tasks in everyday life. "If you have to manage a complex infrastructure with a relatively small team, one has to rely on standardized processes and clean sophisticated solutions," says Michael Freitag. "XenServer is for us today the strategic basis to ensure the stable and reliable operation of consensus on all of Lower Saxony tax offices."

The OFD is therefore planning to use the Citrix platform for further projects: In the next step, systems for authorization management, e-mail communication and data backup that still run in the tax on dedicated servers, migrated into the virtual infrastructure become.

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XenServer is for us today the strategic basis to ensure the stable and reliable operation of consensus on all of Lower Saxony tax offices.
- Michael Freitag

Lower Saxony Tax Administration

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