Austin City Limits tunes concert venue with new servers

By Brian T. Horowitz, Editor and Contributing Writer

The upcoming July 2015 end to Microsoft’s support for the Windows Server 2003 OS has led to some big IT decisions for Austin City Limits, the legendary music television series that tapes in Austin, Texas.

The question at hand: Should ACL upgrade its operating system on existing servers to Windows Server 2012 or purchase new servers running the newer OS?

ACL has decided to deploy new servers running Windows Server 2012 and virtualize its old mainstream applications on the new hardware, German Garcia, ACL Live’s IT director, told us at the 2,750-seat Moody Theater.

Virtualization options include VMware’s vSphere and Microsoft’s Hyper-V, which is built into Windows Server 2012.

The challenges of old software

ACL has digital signs that display slide shows and concert footage of music legends throughout the venue. The challenge is that older applications provide the power for these HD digital signs.

“The software company does not give us updates,” Garcia said. “That’s just no longer in play.”

Taking inventory of the applications you need to move to Windows Server 2012 is a key part of the migration. Some companies even need to migrate 30 to 50 types of applications, noted Greg Davoll, general manager for the specialized markets division at Dell Software.

“Therein lies the complexity in trying to figure out, OK what am I even starting with before I get to the migration,” Davoll told us at Dell World 2014.

The virtualization route

As organizations like ACL migrate from Windows Server 2003, virtualization will be a common choice.

“We believe the majority of most Windows 2003 migrations are going to move to a virtualized infrastructure,” said Al Gillen, program vice president for servers and system software at IDC.

With virtualization, companies can use a physical-to-virtual conversion utility to deploy Windows Server 2003 systems as virtual machines on a host running Windows Server 2012.

“The idea was to run these old mainstream applications in a virtualized environment, and that will help us where there are no updates available to these apps,” Garcia said.

“There is some software that will basically not work properly on modern equipment,” said Jim Rapoza, senior research analyst and editorial director at Aberdeen Group. “It just doesn’t know what to do with all the storage and the fast CPU, but when you set up the VM, you can basically emulate 2003 server hardware.”

For ACL, a key requirement driving the server refresh is that HD quality audio and video can be processed and displayed, Garcia noted.

By installing new PowerEdge servers and network-attached storage devices, ACL will be able to run its digital signage applications with greater core processing.

“HD quality audio and video are really the wave of the future,” Garcia said. “So the goal at ACL Live is to introduce new hardware and upgrade our infrastructure to meet this demand.”

Download our e-book to learn more about Windows Server migration and watch the following video to see how Austin City Limits tackled its IT challenges.

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