2 page Case Study
Posted: 1/16/2013
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PwC Exordia Hosting Firm Eyes Latest Server Software as Path to Lower Costs, More Scalable Service

PwC Exordia has hundreds of existing virtual servers, but there are certain limitations with the various existing technologies used. PwC Exordia was looking for a way to more efficiently deliver hosting services in response to growing market demand for faster, bigger, and more efficient systems. After testing several capabilities in Windows Server 2012, PwC Exordia has deployed the first nodes of the Windows Server 2012 technology in its production environment. This has proven to enable simpler IT management, higher efficiency, and better scaled service delivery capabilities.

Business Needs
With its head office in Johannesburg, South Africa, PwC Exordia offers fully managed, end-to-end IT services. These include specializing in the implementation, hosting, and support of the full range of Microsoft technologies, from Enterprise Collaboration (Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SharePoint Server, and Microsoft Lync Server) to the Microsoft Dynamics group of products (Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Microsoft Dynamics GP).

PwC Exordia provides services to approximately 125 customers throughout Africa—from growing businesses with fewer than 10 employees to large corporations of up to 7,000 employees. Since it was formed in 2000, PwC Exordia has offered multitenant hosting services to its customers. “We pride ourselves on being an early adopter of a cloud-based hosting model,” says Mark O’Flaherty, CEO of PwC Exordia, “And we’ve seen rapidly growing demand from companies throughout Africa for access to centralized data storage and processing capacity and the ability to provide workers with remote network connectivity, which we’re well-positioned to handle.”

PwC Exordia is constantly on the lookout for ways to more efficiently support existing customer environments and seize opportunities to scale its hosting business, and they recognized the importance of using server infrastructure designed to meet these goals. Specifically, it wanted to evaluate new server technology that offered simplified management, more flexible storage and networking capabilities, and better support for continuous availability requirements.

As a long-time member of the Microsoft Partner Network, the company closely tracks the development of Microsoft technologies and is part of various Technology Adoption Programs. “We’re always very interested to see what’s next from Microsoft and how we might be able to incorporate the latest product enhancements to better serve our customers,” says O’Flaherty.

Solution
When PwC Exordia learned of an opportunity to join the Technology Adoption Program for the Windows Server 2012 operating system, executives were excited to participate. “We had been hearing a lot about how Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V offered better support for cloud environments through improved resource pooling, new self-service capabilities, and low-overhead management,” says O’Flaherty. “And we were thrilled to have the chance to take a closer look at these features in our environment.”

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* With Windows Server 2012, we are better equipped to provide all of the benefits of a cloud environment to our customers—even as we bring down our cost to provide these services. *

Mark O’Flaherty
CEO, PwC Exordia

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With help from a team of experts from Microsoft, PwC Exordia initially configured its test environment, running a beta version of Windows Server 2012. Each host server supported six virtual machines powered by Hyper-V, the virtualization technology in Windows Server. The company also focused early testing on evaluating improvements to the Active Directory service and Remote Desktop Services.

Specifically, PwC Exordia tested Active Directory–Based Activation, a capability introduced in Windows Server 2012 that lets organizations automatically authenticate remote computers and the software running on them. To take advantage of this feature, the computers need to be running the Windows 8 operating system and be authorized to connect to the corporate domain. To validate this functionality, the company had members of its four-person pilot deployment team, using computers that were connected to a secondary domain, join the corporate network to automatically activate Microsoft Office applications.

The company also evaluated Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2012. Administrators from PwC Exordia noted how much easier it was to deploy Remote Desktop Services and related server components through the Server Manager interface. And they were eager to run more extensive lab-based trials to assess improvements in delivering a high-fidelity virtual desktop experience—even over wide area network connections.

In the coming months, PwC Exordia plans to evaluate features in Windows Server 2012 that support continuous availability. These include the ability to use file-server storage to support virtualized workloads, including Microsoft SQL Server databases, as well as simplified setup and management of failover cluster environments.

Benefits
By upgrading to Windows Server 2012, PwC looks forward to expanding its virtualization initiative. Specifically, the company anticipates the following benefits:

Simplified IT Management
IT staff at PwC Exordia will take advantage of the Server Manager interface in Windows Server 2012 to make administering the company’s complex environment easier. For example, they will use this tool to accelerate deployment of capabilities like Remote Desktop Services and simplify management of multiple installations of the server operating system from a single console. Also, the company plans to use Active Directory–Based Activation to ease management of licensing and authentication.

Greater Flexibility and Efficiency
By taking advantage of greater flexibility in assigning storage and networking resources to virtual machines through Windows Server 2012, the company expects to gain agility in the way that it administers its virtual environment. For example, the IT staff will be able to respond more quickly to requests from internal and external customers to scale server capacity. “We’ll be able to reduce the number of staff dedicated to maintaining and provisioning virtual machines,” says O’Flaherty. “At the same time, we can now offer more self-service capabilities to customers, so they can provision their own computing resources.”

Faster Delivery and Deployment
PwC Exordia fully expects to be able translate the management efficiencies that it will gain through its use of Windows Server 2012 into time savings. “One of our chief aims in investing in virtualization is to scale our hosting services in the most cost-efficient way possible,” says O’Flaherty. “With Windows Server 2012, we are better equipped to provide all of the benefits of a cloud environment to our customers—even as we bring down our cost to provide these services.”

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Solution Overview




Organization Profile

A member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold competencies, PwC Exordia provides IT consulting and hosting services to businesses throughout Africa. PwC Exordia is a division of PwC Inc., the Southern Africa member firm of the PwC network.


Hardware

  • Test environment:
      HP Proliant DL360 G5,
      Dual Quad-Core Intel
      Xeon Processor 5400
  • Production environment:
      HP BL460c Blade Enclosure with
      HP Proliant G8 10Gb FLB Blades


Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Windows Server Remote Desktop Services

Vertical Industries
IT Services

Country/Region
South Africa

Business Need
Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
Cloud Services

Languages
English

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