Endeavour International Corporation is an oil and gas company with operations in the United Kingdom and the United States. When the company’s Aberdeen, Scotland, office tripled its employee base in 2009, Endeavour needed to scale its IT infrastructure to accommodate the growth. However, it was challenged by limited space and IT resources: just one IT staff member, who was based in London, England, supported the environment. Using Windows Server 2008 Enterprise with Hyper-V virtualization technology and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, Endeavour reduced the time needed to provision servers from one month to hours and enabled simple, remote management of the Aberdeen computers. The company created a reliable, highly available environment that can scale within its existing data center, without requiring additional hardware or space.
Endeavour International Corporation was founded in 2004 as an oil and gas exploration company, which partnered with other organizations that ran its production operations. The company generated U.S.$260 million in revenue in 2008. Today, Endeavour owns interests in eight oil and gas fields, and it manages the reserves itself. The company’s United Kingdom operations are expanding rapidly, with three new developments underway in the North Sea and an Aberdeen, Scotland, office that grew from four to 14 employees in 2009. Endeavour’s IT infrastructure is critical to supporting the growing Aberdeen business. However, with one IT professional managing the entire environment from an office in London, England, it was difficult to provide the efficient, responsive support that Endeavour required.
“Our IT environment is the backbone of our company. It needs to be highly flexible, reliable, and easy to manage so that Endeavour can quickly implement the changes needed to support our growth. But this kind of agility just wasn’t possible with our physical infrastructure,” says Tom Dinnis, United Kingdom IT Manager for Endeavour.
Provisioning a new server computer was time-consuming and laborious, and it could be disruptive to ongoing IT operations. First, Dinnis had to acquire the hardware, which could take up to three weeks. The computer would be sent to the Endeavour London office, where Dinnis would spend two to three days configuring the operating system, installing applications, and testing to make sure everything worked properly. Then he would ship the device to the Aberdeen office. At that point, Dinnis would either travel to Aberdeen to install the computer—and hire a contractor to cover his day-to-day responsibilities while he was away—or would engage with Indigo Technologies, an Aberdeen-based IT services company and Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, to do the installation. The entire process could easily take up to a month.
||Microsoft virtualization provided everything we needed: high availability, live migration, centralized management, comprehensive and reliable product support, and a compelling price point.
United Kingdom IT Manager, Endeavour International Corporation
The Endeavour infrastructure was also at risk of failing. “We had no redundancy built into our system. Although we were lucky because our computers never went down, it became increasingly critical to ensure reliability as we grew—particularly because there is no on-site IT staff to fix things if problems arise,” Dinnis says. “We can’t afford any downtime.”
Data center capacity was also an issue for Endeavour. “We have a very small communications area that has room for just one rack. We needed to add four more server computers to support our expanding operations but simply didn’t have the space,” says Dinnis.
The company also lacked an efficient storage solution, which made it difficult to back up its growing environment. “Our storage was rapidly being consumed, and adding storage was difficult. We’d either have to buy extra storage and attach it locally, or back up existing data and then remove it from the computer to make room for new data. And because nothing was centralized, everything had to be done manually,” Dinnis says.
Endeavour needed a way to scale its infrastructure without adding computers, simplify IT management, and create a highly flexible, reliable environment.
A company development in June 2009 spurred Endeavour International Corporation to take action. Executives approved a plan for operating new oil and gas assets, and the Aberdeen office began hiring more employees to handle the additional work. Endeavour turned to Indigo Technologies for help in building out its infrastructure to support growth.
“We have been helping small and midsize businesses virtualize their environments for years and are very familiar with the scalability, flexibility, and business continuity benefits that virtualization technology can provide. We knew that virtualization would be a great fit for Endeavour,” says Sean Thomson, Director of Indigo Technologies.
After deciding to move ahead with virtualization, the companies had to select a vendor. “We were planning to virtualize our entire infrastructure, so we had to make sure that our solution would be highly reliable and easy to manage,” Dinnis says.
The companies explored products from Microsoft and VMware. According to Thomson, “Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization technology had matured very quickly and, when paired with the management capabilities in Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, it offered all the capabilities that Endeavour required.”
Adds Dinnis, “Microsoft virtualization provided everything we needed: high availability, live migration, centralized management, comprehensive and reliable product support, and a compelling price point.”
During the first weekend in October 2009, Indigo implemented the solution, which includes the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system with Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2. Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise provides the rights to run four virtual instances of Windows Server per licensed physical server. System Center Virtual Machine Manager supports clustered shared volumes, which will enable Endeavour to store all of the virtual machines on one logical unit number and easily move the virtual machines from one node to another with no downtime. Endeavour uses Symantec Backup Exec 12.5 for Windows Servers for backup and recovery of its virtual machines.
Endeavour currently runs six Hyper-V virtual machines on two physical computers: one HP ProLiant DL360 G5 and one HP ProLiant DL380 G5. It has virtualized a number of workloads, including Microsoft Office Project Server 2007, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Enterprise data management software, and Microsoft Remote Desktop Services, the latter of which enables Endeavour to provide efficient access to key management and reporting applications for employees in its Houston, Texas, office.
Using Hyper-V virtualization technology and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, Endeavour International Corporation transformed its entire server infrastructure into a virtual environment. As a result, the company speeds server provisioning and accommodates growth without the need for additional hardware and space, while streamlining IT management and creating a reliable, resilient environment. “Not only can I provide the responsive service that our expanding business demands, I can manage everything with much less time and effort,” says Dinnis.
Accelerated Server Provisioning, Expanded Environment without Adding Space
Instead of taking up to a month to provision a new server—including acquiring the hardware and spending a week configuring the computer, shipping it to the Aberdeen office, and installing it—it now takes Endeavour just a few hours.
Using templates in System Center Virtual Machine Manager, Indigo Technologies built a repository of server images that Dinnis uses to create new virtual machines. “Bringing on a new virtual machine is incredibly fast and easy. I just point to the image in the repository and click, and it’s ready to go,” says Dinnis.
||Every aspect of implementing and managing a server environment is easier. The whole laborious process of acquiring and physically setting up computers is gone, and I can manage everything remotely from my London office.
United Kingdom IT Manager, Endeavour International Corporation
The speed and simplicity of creating virtual servers was evident right away. When Endeavour originally scoped out the virtualization project, it planned to add four virtual machines. But just as it was about to start the implementation, the company realized that it needed two more servers to accommodate the needs of newly hired employees. “We were able to add the virtual machines with no extra effort, in the same timeframe. There is no way we could have done this with our physical environment,” Dinnis says.
Transforming to an entirely virtual environment also alleviated space issues. “We couldn’t have added computers to our data center without making major changes that would have cost about 10,000 British pounds (U.S.$15,940) and taken room away from our employees. Now we can expand our environment virtually in the space we already have, and we still have room for growth,” Dinnis notes.
Simplified IT Management
Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager helped Endeavour to streamline server management. “Every aspect of implementing and managing a server environment is easier. The whole laborious process of acquiring and physically setting up computers is gone, and I can manage everything remotely from my London office,” says Dinnis.
Testing new software is easier. According to Dinnis, “If an employee calls me to request a new application to trial, I can provide a virtual machine to run that software without having to provision hardware or do any complicated procedures. I can get the virtual server up and running in just a few hours—whereas in the past, it would have taken up to a month.”
Because Dinnis does not have to travel to the Aberdeen office for computer installations, Endeavour saves about $4,000 that would have been spent several times a year on travel and an on-call contractor to handle any IT-related needs that occurred in his absence. “Not only do we save money by eliminating the need for me to take these trips, I gain time back by not having to leave the office. Because I’m the only IT staff person for the whole United Kingdom operation, any efficiencies I can realize makes my job much easier,” Dinnis says.
Endeavour is no longer at risk from failed computers because redundancy is now built into its IT environment. Using the Windows Server 2008 Enterprise failover clustering capability and Symantec Backup Exec for Windows Servers, Endeavour created a resilient, highly available environment with centralized backup. “We completely changed the dynamic of how we can recover from a disaster and gained a lot of peace of mind,” says Dinnis.
By virtualizing key workloads, such as Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Endeavour can guarantee reliability of business-critical applications. “One of our key solutions, Halliburton ARIES Reserves Management System, which runs on SQL Server, calculates oil and gas reserves for our assets. It’s a critical component for the financial reporting that we have to do at the end of our fiscal year. If it failed, the extra time that our employees would have to expend crunching numbers would be exorbitant. By running it in a clustered environment, we can ensure that employees will be able to access it—and meet their deadline—without worry,” Dinnis says.
Endeavour also benefitted from an improved storage approach. “The Microsoft solution requires shared storage, and that has been a great byproduct of our implementation,” says Dinnis. “Rather than having a lot of tape drives, we now keep all of our data on one tape library that can be accessed by all of our servers. And, whereas in the past we had capacity for just 1 terabyte of storage, we now have room for 6 terabytes—which leaves plenty of space for growth.”
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.
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