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4-page Case Study - Posted 11/27/2012
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GAD eG

Data Processor Aims for 100 Percent Virtualization and Private Cloud with Upgrade

GAD is a data processor and IT service provider that serves 430 commercial and retail banks in Western Europe. In addition to its centrally located data center, GAD manages on-premises servers at the banks. To improve application access, the company decided to bring all servers into the data center where they would need to be virtualized. However, previous virtualization attempts with domain controllers had proved faulty. GAD joined the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program for Windows Server 2012 and will deploy 560 Hyper-V hosts running 7,000 virtual machines, while moving to a private cloud model. As a result, GAD is improving customer access to critical applications, reducing downtime associated with server maintenance, and increasing revenue opportunities by developing a valuable infrastructure-as-a-service offering.

Situation
In Germany, there are 430 banks that rely on GAD and its 1,700 employees for their data processing and IT service needs. The company provides core infrastructure and services to the banks, which represent more than 70,000 end users—services without which the banks would be unable to operate.

GAD hosts its banking customers’ core server infrastructure in a central location. To support this large customer base, GAD uses 2,500 servers that are primarily running Windows operating systems, including Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V, and manages its server environment by using Microsoft System Center 2007. In addition to the centralized infrastructure, GAD supports servers at each of the 430 bank locations. Specifically, each bank branch has a Linux-based domain controller, as well as an application server.

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* We’ve solved a major problem for our customers by switching to Windows Server 2012, virtualizing domain controllers, and bringing servers into our data center. *

Dennis Klein
Windows System Engineer, GAD

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With this setup, however, GAD experienced some issues authenticating the identity of end users on the Linux servers at the branches. “We run Linux servers at the bank branches, and our client PCs run Windows operating systems,” explains Thomas Buedenbender, Windows System Engineer at GAD. “But there are limitations in mixed environments. In some cases, we couldn’t authenticate users or provide policy-based access on those Linux servers.”

As a result, some banks couldn’t deliver key banking applications to their employees—applications that employees need to access in order to help customers complete transactions and other work-related tasks. Without access to certain applications, some banks might cease to operate. “It is a major problem for our customers when they want to use an application to help their business run but do not have a way to ensure that the right employees get the right access to that application,” says Dennis Klein, Windows System Engineer at GAD.

GAD wanted to switch from Linux to Windows Server so that it could use Active Directory Domain Services and Group Policy to manage user identities. But the company also made a broader, strategic decision about its IT infrastructure: it decided to bring all servers into its data center. “We made a strategic decision to replace Linux on local servers with the Windows Server operating system,” says Buedenbender. “We took it a step further and are going to bring all of those servers into our data center so that we can host all of the IT services that banks need.”

To absorb all of the customer infrastructure while also keeping pace with a steady rate of business expansion, GAD estimated that its server count would grow from 2,500 to 7,000 servers. With that much growth in its infrastructure, the company knew that it needed to rely heavily on virtualization technology. In fact, it would have to virtualize 100 percent of its servers to reach its goals and that meant virtualizing domain controllers—a scenario that the company had previously tested but abandoned when it found that virtual domain controllers in its highly distributed environment could easily be rolled back to an incorrect snapshot. “In the past, we considered virtual domain controllers very high risk,” explains Buedenbender. “If a domain controller is reverted to an incorrect snapshot during a recovery process, it could seriously affect our customers’ operations.”

Solution
When GAD heard about the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) for Windows Server 2012 and learned specifically about new domain controller virtualization enhancements in the operating system, the company could not wait to participate and test the technology. “Our eventual goal is to reach 100 percent virtualization, and moving domain controllers into a virtual environment without the risk of applying inaccurate snapshots is the first step toward reaching our goal,” says Klein.

Safely Virtualizing Domain Controllers
The company worked with Microsoft Services Consulting to set up a test environment that included two hosts running Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V and 12 virtual machines. GAD tested several tasks on its virtualized domain controllers, including taking snapshots and rolling back to a snapshot, which are both enhanced in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V and include fail-safe mechanisms for virtualization. For instance, now when GAD takes a snapshot of an Active Directory domain controller, the values of the snapshot are compared with other virtual machines running on the hypervisor. If any changes are detected on the virtual machines that are not the same as values on the snapshot, the snapshot cannot be applied incorrectly.

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* By using Windows Server 2012, we have centralized control of our domain controllers. We can see all of our domain controllers in one view, quickly and proactively locate any potential issues, and resolve them before they become larger problems. *

Thomas Buedenbender
Windows System Engineer, GAD

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In addition to the enhancements for virtualizing domain controllers, GAD also takes advantage of Hyper-V storage live migration to migrate virtual hard disks when it is performing storage maintenance or redistributing the load in its storage environment—without interrupting service availability.

The company also tested and plans to use Dynamic Access Control, a feature in Windows Server 2012 that helps GAD centrally control and audit access to files. By using this feature, GAD can help its customers, who deal with sensitive information in the heavily regulated banking industry, ensure compliance with regulatory and business standards.

Moving into Production
Pleased with the results in its testing environment, GAD quickly moved its Windows Server 2012 deployment to a production environment with four server clusters with 32 Hyper-V hosts running 250 virtual machines. “We’re adding more and more virtual machines every day,” says Buedenbender. “When we reach 100 percent virtualization and have moved the entire server infrastructure to our central data center, we expect to have 560 Hyper-V hosts and 7,000 virtual machines. This level of scalability is easily achieved with Windows Server 2012.”

The company has historically relied on IBM and HP server hardware, and did so again with its deployment of Windows Server 2012. For its storage environment, the company uses a storage area network solution running on IBM and EMC hardware. It also uses Cisco Nexus 1000V Series switches to scale virtual networking. “Our server hardware worked absolutely perfectly with Windows Server 2012—even before the operating system was released with final bits,” says Klein. “IBM, HP, EMC, and Cisco are all fantastic. There are no compatibility issues with Windows Server 2012 and the performance is top-notch.”

Taking First Steps Toward a Private Cloud
Now that GAD has a sound solution for virtualizing domain controllers and is bringing the server infrastructure at bank branches into its own data center, the company plans to implement a private cloud model. The company will upgrade to Microsoft System Center 2012 to manage its new virtualized environment. Specifically, it will use the Virtual Machine Manager component of System Center 2012 to provision and manage its 7,000 virtual machines. It will also use System Center 2012 Configuration Manager to install Hyper-V hosts, and the Operations Manager component to manage Hyper-V hosts.

To reach a private cloud state with its infrastructure, GAD will implement the Orchestrator component of System Center 2012 to automate workflows, and System Center Self-Service Portal to give bank IT administrators a web-based portal where they can provision their own virtual machines without relying on intervention from GAD. “Our private cloud will be an infrastructure-as-a-service offering,” says Buedenbender.

Benefits
Still early in its deployment, GAD is excited about the future with Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V. The company has a reliable solution for virtualizing its domain controllers; GAD can reach 100 percent virtualization and still deliver the access to critical applications that its bank customers need. GAD also has reduced downtime, thanks to feature enhancements in Windows Server 2012. And the company has increased revenue opportunities by developing a valuable infrastructure-as-a-service offering.

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* With infrastructure as a service, every virtual machine that we provision for a customer is revenue—and we wouldn’t have this opportunity without Windows Server 2012. *

Thomas Buedenbender
Windows System Engineer, GAD

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Improved Access to Critical Applications
By virtualizing its Active Directory Domain Services domain controllers with Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, GAD can safely deliver controlled access to the critical applications that its banking customers rely on. The company can ensure that its customers have identity and access management in place, so that the right users get access to the right applications at the right time. “We’ve solved a major problem for our customers by switching to Windows Server 2012, virtualizing domain controllers, and bringing servers into our data center,” says Klein.

Reduced Downtime
Although GAD did not previously experience significant downtime with its environment, feature enhancements with Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V and Active Directory Domain Services will help the company’s IT department keep a watchful eye over the infrastructure and become even more proactive to avoid issues.

For instance, the company uses a mixed-vendor approach to its storage hardware, which can occasionally lead to downtime when migrating storage servers for maintenance or load balancing. But with Hyper-V storage migration, GAD can seamlessly move virtual machines without interrupting service. “We rely heavily on Hyper-V storage migration in our environment,” explains Buedenbender. “It’s the perfect tool for moving virtual machines from one storage environment to another with zero downtime.”

In addition, with Active Directory Domain Services, GAD can monitor the performance of its domain controllers in a single view. “By using Windows Server 2012, we have centralized control of our domain controllers. We can see all of our domain controllers in one view, quickly and proactively locate any potential issues, and resolve them before they become larger problems,” says Buedenbender.

Increased Revenue Potential
By finding a viable solution for virtualizing its domain controllers, GAD has taken the first step toward a completely virtualized server infrastructure and, eventually, a private cloud model where it can offer infrastructure as a service to its customers. “With a private cloud built on Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012, we can deploy virtual machines in a matter of seconds,” explains Buedenbender. “We expect that banks will order more and more services because they’re happy with what we’re providing and the speed at which we can provide it. With infrastructure as a service, every virtual machine that we provision for a customer is revenue—and we wouldn’t have this opportunity without Windows Server 2012.”

Delivered Value-Added Service to Bank Customers
The customers who use GAD services are thrilled with the company’s virtualization and private cloud strategy, recognizing that the strategy will enable them to focus on their business and not on the technology that supports their business. “Our new strategy relieves our customers of a significant portion of administrative burden,” explains Klein. “Customers want to concentrate on their business, not worry about administering servers. They’re happy that they’ll be able to move all infrastructure to the data center.”

Windows Server 2012
Windows Server drives many of the world’s largest data centers, empowers small businesses around the world, and delivers value to organizations of all sizes in between. Building on this legacy, Windows Server 2012 redefines the category, delivering hundreds of new features and enhancements that span virtualization, networking, storage, user experience, cloud computing, automation, and more. Simply put, Windows Server 2012 helps you transform your IT operations to reduce costs and deliver a whole new level of business value.

For more information, visit
www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-server/2012-default.aspx

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to
www.microsoft.com

For more information about GAD products and services, call (49) 251 713301 or visit the website at:
www.gad.de

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 1700 employees

Organization Profile

GAD is an IT service provider, software development company, and data processor, serving 430 banks throughout Western Europe.


Business Situation

The company wanted to replace Linux servers at its customers’ locations and wanted a 100 percent centralized virtual infrastructure, but first needed a virtualization-safe domain controller solution.


Solution

GAD participated in a Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program and implemented Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V to effectively virtualize domain controllers.


Benefits

  • Improved customer access to critical apps
  • Reduced downtime
  • Increased revenue potential
  • Delivered valuable services


Hardware
  • Cisco Nexus v1000 Series switch
  • HP Bladecenter C700 with HP BL685c G7 Blades
  • IBM nSeries and Storewise Storage Systems
  • IBM Pureflex System x240 Blades

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

Vertical Industries
IT Services

Country / Region
Germany

Business Needs
Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issues
  • Virtualization
  • Private Cloud

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Microsoft Services