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Can Continental keep up this performance consistently? 
It’s not easy, given fluctuating fuel prices and 
challenging economic conditions around the world. 
Technology needs to provide a major boost, according 
to the Go Forward Plan. Its role at Continental is to cut 
costs—and enhance service levels.
Headwinds: lack of power
Server virtualization became a possibility just in time, 
says Richard Wilson, manager, enterprise engineering 
at Continental Airlines. 
The problem was that the airline’s main data center 
in Houston had 1,100 servers and “has maxed out 
on power available for servers,” Wilson explains. 
“Adding to our power capacity would cost the airline 
in the high six or low seven figures. Building out the 
data center or migrating to a co-located facility would 
cost millions of dollars. Meanwhile, almost all our 
physical servers had a CPU utilization of less than 
5 percent.”
That’s expensive. Research shows that a typical x86 
server consumes 30 to 40 percent of maximum power 
even when it’s producing no work at all.
Virtualization: 50 percent off
The team responded by virtualizing servers. Two 
years ago Continental chose Hyper-V technology from 
Microsoft as a virtualization platform over VMware. 
One reason is that the airline is a close partner and 
Technology Adoption Program (TAP) participant 
with Microsoft. 
“As a result,” Wilson explains, “our help desk and the 
rest of the IT staff have deep expertise in Microsoft 
solutions. We want a single source for support. 
Because Microsoft owns the hypervisor OS software 
and all the other pieces on it, things are simplified.”
Hyper-V also delivers roughly 50 percent lower 
licensing costs than VMware, Wilson projects. Hyper-V 
technology can be freely deployed when purchasing 
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Datacenter Edition. 
“That’s three to four times the cost of the Standard 
Edition, without Hyper-V. But I can easily put 10 or 
more VMs on the Datacenter Edition without additional 
licenses. If we were to use VMware, we would have to 
license each VM, and its operating system.”
Streamlining management with HP BladeSystem
To host Hyper-V, the team has standardized on 
HP BladeSystem. “We looked at blades from other 
vendors,” Wilson says. “None had anywhere near 
the features we found with the HP BladeSystem c7000 
Enclosure and the ProLiant BL460c server blades that 
go in it.”
One of those features is the HP Onboard 
Administrator. “We can see everything that’s going 
on with the server, from power to thermal to the serial 
number on the BIOS,” Wilson notes. “We can pretty 
much manage everything from one central location, 
and get a deep-level view into all aspects of our 
infrastructure and even our software.”
Using predefined images or scripts, the team 
provisions HP server blades faster. “With HP Rapid 
Deployment Pack (RDP), a component of the HP Insight 
Control Environment for BladeSystem, we can install 
a physical server OS in about 30 minutes,” says 
Wilson. “Doing that manually would probably take 
three hours. RDP also ensures that our standards and 
settings are implemented across the board, for a 
higher level of accuracy in the build process.”
The migration to virtualized servers is occurring in 
phases. “Our plan is to virtualize everything we 
possibly can,” Wilson says. “We’ve reduced the 
number of physical servers by about 40. We’ve been 
able to add 60 more servers and they fit in the space 
of three physical servers. Our CPU utilization has 
increased 10-fold from 5 percent to over 50 percent. 
With Hyper-V on HP BladeSystem, we’re now able to 
stay in our current data center, avoiding millions of 
dollars in capital investments, and getting much more 
return on our existing power infrastructure.”
Compute capacity has been expanded 10-fold without 
a corresponding increase in power. 
Continental is using HP Thermal Logic, which is the 
ability to monitor, pool, share, and match power 
use to demand; balance performance, power, and 
cooling according to the task at hand; and cap power 
and cooling levels at the most efficient level for the 
required level of performance. 
  AllBusiness, a D&B Company. “10 Ways to Save Energy in Your Data 
Center”, by Chris Loeffler, May 1, 2008. 
About Continental 
Continental Airlines  
(www.continental.com) is 
the fifth largest airline in the 
world. With more than 42,000 
employees operating 2,800 
daily departures throughout the 
Americas, Europe, and Asia, 
Continental carries approximately 
67 million passengers per year 
and consistently earns awards 
and critical acclaim for its 
operations and corporate culture.
“With virtualization on HP BladeSystem, we 
have the flexibility to perform maintenance 
without downtime and begin projects we 
wouldn’t otherwise have the funding to start.”
Richard Wilson, Manager, Enterprise 
Engineering, Continental Airlines