Umniah is a leading player in the fast-growing Jordanian mobile communications market. To stay ahead of the competition, Umniah needs to roll out new services continually and maintain exceptional service. However, new services require new servers, and new-server deployment was draining Umniah’s small IT staff and budget. Umniah deployed Windows Server® 2008 with Hyper-V™ technology to virtualize its server infrastructure, and Microsoft® System Center solutions to manage its virtual and physical infrastructure. Umniah uses Microsoft application, desktop, and presentation virtualization software to simplify application delivery. With server deployment time reduced by 90 percent, Umniah can roll out new services in as little as 30 minutes. The company has also slashed server downtime by 90 percent, server spending by 60 percent, and anticipates reducing power costs by 60 percent.
With around 1.45 million subscribers, Umniah is considered the fastest growing telecommunications service provider in Jordan. It offers mobile, wired and wireless Internet, and business solutions services to both consumers and businesses. Umniah is based in Amman, has retail offices throughout the country, and employs 400 people.
Jordan’s mobile communications market is highly competitive. To remain successful, Umniah needs to roll out new services quickly and offer uninterrupted service. “The main challenge for us is to grow faster than our competitors and get new services to market quickly,” says Waseem Al Rousan, IT Infrastructure Manager for Umniah. “To do that we have to continually expand our data center infrastructure, which takes time and resources.”
||Using Hyper-V, we reduced by 90 percent the time that our engineers spent deploying servers. Now they can spend more time researching new technologies that we can use to operate more effectively.
||Waseem Al Rousan
IT Infrastructure Manager, Umniah
Umniah’s server holdings grew by more than 40 percent in 2008, to 65 servers that were located in four data centers around Jordan. The rising capital and operational expenses of proliferating servers gouged the young company’s bottom line and consumed inordinate amounts of the IT staff’s time. Just two people managed Umniah’s entire Windows® operating system–based infrastructure of 50 servers, but more servers would be needed to fuel business growth. Deploying, testing, and configuring servers and software consumed at least 30 percent of these staff members’ time, which Rousan preferred to be spent researching and implementing new technologies and services.
The growing arsenal of servers also presented downtime vulnerabilities. “Every time we roll out a new server, we introduce potential hardware issues,” says Samar Shahin, IT Systems Engineer at Umniah. “Each physical server has to be upgraded and repaired regularly. This requires scheduled downtime, which disrupts customer service and hurts our competitiveness. Our goal is to provide new services without degrading the quality of existing services.”
The company’s rapid growth was also impeded by the need to deploy and provide access to line-of-business (LOB) applications in new locations of Umniah headquarters, independent franchisees shops, business partners, and support vendors. Umniah either had to dispatch IT staff members to install the software at remote locations, or the remote office had to access the applications over expensive high-speed connectivity links.
Umniah decided to investigate virtualization as a strategic technology to simplify server and software deployment, lower costs, and expedite business growth. Umniah already ran 50 of its 65 servers on the Windows Server® 2003 operating system and wanted to continue using Microsoft® software wherever it could. “Microsoft has always provided all the technologies we needed to achieve our business goals,” Rousan says. “We were going to look at VMware virtualization software, but when we learned that Microsoft was going to launch a more advanced product, we waited. In general, Microsoft programs are easy to manage, easy to scale, and give us continuity for our business-critical infrastructure.”
Virtualize Server Infrastructure
The “more advanced product” was Hyper-V™ virtualization technology, which Microsoft introduced in early 2008 as part of the Windows Server 2008 operating system. In mid-2008, Umniah worked with Microsoft Services to implement Windows Server 2008 Enterprise and Hyper-V on three HP 460C blade servers. “Microsoft Services worked alongside our staff and provided them with hands-on training,” Rousan says. “It was very successful teamwork.”
Umniah used the Microsoft Assessment and Planning tool to analyze its existing server infrastructure and calculate its physical-to-virtual server migration needs. Using data from this tool, Umniah gained a clear understanding of the host hardware resources needed to migrate its environment to Hyper-V. The company started by creating eight virtual machines on three host servers. The virtual machines run Windows Server 2003 Standard and Enterprise as guest operating systems.
In the first phase of its virtualization efforts, Umniah migrated domain controllers (running Active Directory® Domain Services), its call-center application that runs on Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007, and several Oracle LOB applications. By mid-2009, Umniah plans to move its entire server infrastructure to Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V—around 40 Windows-based infrastructure servers and 15 Linux-based hosting servers.
Next Step: Application and Desktop Virtualization
To further lower costs, remove hardware vulnerabilities, and reduce IT work, Umniah is using other elements of the Microsoft virtualization family to simplify its infrastructure. It uses Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services to give branch-office users access to corporate applications that are published to terminal servers. With Terminal Services presentation virtualization, only screen images are delivered to user desktops, and the users’ computers send keystrokes and mouse movements back to the server.
Umniah is also implementing Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) 4.5 to simplify application access for remote offices and franchise shops. Instead of deploying e-mail, authentication, customer relationship management, point-of-sale, enterprise resource planning, and other LOB applications on branch-office servers, Umniah can now install these applications on servers in its data center and deliver them on demand as streaming services to remote desktop computers.
Umniah is also evaluating Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualization (MED-V) as a way to gain more versatility from its desktop computers. With MED-V, IT staff could create separate virtual machines on a Windows desktop computer and run different operating systems on each one. Umniah could introduce newer, faster hardware and operating systems even though older LOB applications are incompatible with those systems. The older applications could continue to run on the older operating systems in separate virtual machines.
Integrated Monitoring Tools
Umniah was already using Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 to monitor its servers and System Center Configuration Manager 2007 to roll out LOB applications to remote offices. It has added Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 to extend System Center efficiencies to its virtual environment. System Center Virtual Machine Manager provides tools for physical-to-virtual migration, centralized resource tuning, virtual machine optimization, and physical server and virtual machine management. Using System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, Umniah has created standardized templates for each guest operating system and configured the virtual machines.
“Microsoft System Center helped us to dynamically standardize the operating compliance and management in a virtualized IT Infrastructure,” says Alaadin Mustafa, IT Systems Team Leader at Umniah.
By deploying Microsoft virtualization technologies, Umniah has been able to reduce server deployment times by 90 percent and thus introduce new services in as little as 30 minutes. The company has reduced downtime by 90 percent, server spending by 60 percent, and anticipates reducing power costs by 60 percent once its virtualization efforts are complete.
Server Deployment Time Reduced by 90 Percent
Using Hyper-V virtualization, Rousan’s Windows infrastructure staff no longer spends 30 percent of its time deploying and managing servers. Staff members can deploy a virtual machine in minutes, versus the weeks previously required to requisition and deploy physical servers.
||With Hyper-V, we will be able to serve more customers with more services using less hardware, less power, and smaller data centers. That’s a very good return on our investment.
||Waseem Al Rousan
IT Infrastructure Manager, Umniah
“We have hugely reduced the operating investment needed to roll out new services,” Rousan says. “Using Hyper-V, we reduced by 90 percent the time that our engineers spent deploying servers. Now they can spend more time researching new technologies that we can use to operate more effectively.”
Also, using System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, Rousan’s staff can implement best practices for an increasing number of virtual machines, in less time than was previously needed. Umniah can now grow without the capital and operating expense burdens imposed by constant physical server deployment.
Server Spending Reduced by 60 Percent
Umniah has reduced hardware expenses by about 60 percent. When its virtualization effort is complete, the company hopes to achieve a 10:1 or 7:1 server consolidation ratio, reducing 65 physical servers to 7 or 9. Umniah has also realized operating system licensing savings. “Our application performance is just as high in a virtual as in a physical environment, but we are achieving that performance with fewer hardware resources,” Rousan says.
Greater Business Agility
With dramatically faster server deployment, Umniah can provision a new server in minutes rather than hours and a new service in hours rather than weeks. Recently, Umniah had to provide new hardware for a customer application. In the past, if the company did not have the hardware on hand, it took six to eight weeks to order it and another one to three days to deploy the servers. “With Hyper-V, it took us 30 minutes to provide a fully configured and operational server that would deliver the requested service,” Rousan says. “Because we can roll out new services faster, we gain a big competitive advantage. We can also replace servers faster and more transparently to customers.”
Using Microsoft Application Virtualization 4.5, Umniah will be able to centrally publish and update software used by remote employees and customers. “As soon as a user starts up their desktop computer, they will have access to the latest applications,” Rousan says. “Application Virtualization will also reduce our dependency on expensive high-speed links and improve application responsiveness, because users are not dependent on local desktop hardware limitations.” The IT staff will also spend less time managing remote applications.
With server and application virtualization, Umniah can better sustain its rapid growth by freeing it from hardware scalability constraints and lightening inventory needs. “To respond to business needs, we only need to maintain a small buffer of hardware in inventory, and we have much faster response to any business requirement,” Rousan says.
Downtime Reduced by 90 Percent
Umniah no longer has to take down services to upgrade, repair, or add servers. It simply migrates active virtual machines from one host server to another to perform the needed upgrades or repairs, with no interruptions to the applications on those virtual machines. “With Hyper-V, I believe that we will be able to reduce downtime by 90 percent,” Rousan says. “We can also deliver higher service levels to our customers. After migrating our whole production environment to Hyper-V, we will be able to provide nearly five-nines availability; in the past, we provided four-nines availability. We will no longer have hardware interruption issues. The only way to keep our business up and running is to have reliable IT systems running on scalable, available products. With Microsoft virtualization, we can provide highly available services.”
Anticipated Power Savings of 60 Percent
Once Umniah has its entire production infrastructure running in a virtual environment, it foresees big energy savings. “Using Hyper-V and HP blade servers, we will be able to reduce power consumption by over 60 percent,” Rousan says. “We will ultimately be able to reduce the size and maybe the number of data centers. With Hyper-V, we will be able to serve more customers with more services using less hardware, less power, and smaller data centers. That’s a very good return on our investment.”
Microsoft virtualization is an end-to-end strategy that can profoundly affect nearly every aspect of the IT infrastructure management lifecycle. It can drive greater efficiencies, flexibility, and cost effectiveness throughout your organization. From accelerating application deployments; to ensuring systems, applications, and data are always available; to taking the hassle out of rebuilding and shutting down servers and desktops for testing and development; to reducing risk, slashing costs, and improving the agility of your entire environment—virtualization has the power to transform your infrastructure, from the data center to the desktop.
For more information about Microsoft virtualization solutions, go to:
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