4-page Partner Case Study
Posted: 11/30/2011
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Progel IT IT Firm Uses Cloud Management Solution to Boost Agility, Customer Service

Progel IT, a managed services provider in Italy, wanted better management tools to build private clouds in its virtualized development environment and to automate management of its production server cluster running Hyper-V technology in Windows Server 2008 R2. It also wanted to simplify service for customers using diverse hypervisors. Progel upgraded to Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012. IT staff are 80 percent faster when provisioning virtual machines with application service templates in order to boost agility in its development environment and respond quickly to customers. Progel can use automated updates to reduce maintenance on its production cluster, minimizing service interruptions. Also, Progel can build its business by managing more customers with multiple hypervisors and by creating new cloud computing solutions based on System Center data center products.

Situation
Progel IT is a privately-owned company founded in Bologna, Italy, in 1988 and a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold competencies in Virtualization, Identity, and Security and Silver competencies in Systems Management. It differentiates itself from competitors by merging traditional infrastructure deployments with software development and training: all delivered as fixed price services. For the past several years, Progel has been helping more and more of its customers understand the business value of a Microsoft virtualization solution.

A Focus on Virtualization Technology
The IT infrastructure at Progel is 100 percent based on Microsoft technologies. For years, the company’s own virtualization initiatives have stayed at the forefront of evolving Microsoft virtualization technology, including Microsoft System Center data center products. Progel gains the benefits of virtualization—reduced hardware costs, simplified data center administration, improved efficiencies in its research and development (R&D) environment—while refining its experience with the products, which it can then pass on to customers.

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* System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 makes it easy to sell the Microsoft virtualization solution story: it’s all about interoperable, open technologies that simplify cloud computing across all platforms. *

Daniele Grandini
Executive, Progel IT

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Progel has standardized on Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise with Service Pack 1 at its data centers, one in the Bologna headquarters and one in a satellite office in Reggio Emilia, about 130 kilometers from Milan. Its production environment is almost 90 percent virtualized and is based on a four-host cluster running the Hyper-V virtualization technology in the Windows Server 2008 operating system and supporting 50 virtual machines. Except for Microsoft SQL Server data management software, Progel has virtualized all its key production workloads, including Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft Lync Server 2010, and Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 email messaging and collaboration software.

Within its R&D environment, Progel has 10 servers running Hyper-V and 100 virtual machines. Progel also stays current on all the Microsoft System Center data center products, which offer a complete, interoperable set of management tools for a virtualized environment. “System Center is necessary to achieve the goals we set for ourselves and our customers: we don’t deploy a virtualized environment without it,” says Daniele Grandini, Executive, Progel IT and a Microsoft Most Valued Professional in System Center products.

Servers Administered Manually
As its R&D environment became increasingly complex, Progel IT found it needed more a more robust tool for fabric management, which includes the management of physical hypervisors, storage, and networking environments. The company develops and tests its services, such as customized SharePoint Server, or System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 solutions, in the R&D environment. “We have several local area networks that we need to keep isolated because we are continually setting up and tearing down test environments that replicate our customers’ environments,” says Grandini. “With System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, we could provision the operating system on a virtual machine, but we still had to manually configure everything else: the roles, the database tier, the application tier, and the web tier.”

For Progel, keeping the R&D environment running at peak efficiency is one way it can bring its services to market ahead of competitors. Yet staff members were still performing many tasks manually, such as creating logical network definitions for IP address pools and deploying Gateway and Domain Name System (DNS) for IP address pools. “The less we have to do manually, the quicker we can provision our virtual machines and the more efficiently we can test, develop, and market new services,” says Grandini. ”Also, we wanted more flexibility in creating storage environments for different local area networks that we set up for testing. In the R&D environment, we needed the elasticity, flexibility, and increased control over allocating computing resources that you get with a private cloud model.”

In the production environment, Progel staff members still updated the Hyper-V cluster manually, a time-consuming process that could potentially impact customer service. Twice a month, it took several hours to remove the virtual machines from each node, perform the update, and then restore them. “With our production environment we are delivering services to customers,” says Grandini. “The Hyper-V cluster also hosts SharePoint sites that are designated for individual customers, so it’s very important that we have the most reliable environment possible. We wanted to minimize the potential for impacting our service level agreements through unacceptable downtime.”

Growing Interest in Private Clouds
According to Grandini, the growing interest in private cloud computing in Italy is a topic of interest for many of its customers and a huge business opportunity for Progel. Most of its customers are highly virtualized, with at least 50 percent of their workloads running on hypervisors. “Customers are talking about moving to private cloud computing and we want to help them,” says Grandini. “The challenge for us is that we focus on Microsoft virtualization technologies, yet any one of our customers could be deploying any one of the available hypervisors, such as VMware ESX or Citrix XenServer. While we can manage these customers today with a combination of System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2, it would be nice to have one tool that could do it all for us.”

Solution
In February 2012, Progel IT was invited to participate in the Technology Adoption Program for Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012. Progel immediately saw the potential of using the latest version of the System Center product. System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 introduces several new features that Progel could use to configure and manage virtualized hosts and networking and storage resources. It also offers improved tools to quickly provision and deploy virtual machines in cloud environments.

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* System Center is necessary to achieve the goals we set for ourselves and our customers: we don’t deploy a virtualized environment without it. *

Daniele Grandini
Executive, Progel IT

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“Our main interest was to gain in-depth knowledge of the System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 private cloud creation and management tools that we could pass along to our customers,” says Grandini. “The fact that System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 offers improved management of different types of hypervisors and operating systems was very exciting. However, for our own data centers, we also wanted to take advantage of the new fabric management functionalities it offers.”

Task Automation in Production and R&D
In October 2011, Progel deployed System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 in its production and R&D environments. It plans to use the latest Hyper-V cluster management capabilities to automate the update process for its Hyper-V cluster in the production environment. “We also plan to use the Dynamic Optimization feature that automatically moves virtual machines among the host servers in order to optimize resources and the Power Optimization settings in order to potentially shut down underutilized hosts,” says Grandini. Using Power Optimization settings, the company can consolidate virtual machines on fewer hosts to further reduce its carbon footprint and save on energy costs.

In the R&D environment, Progel will use the fabric management capabilities in System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to define and allocate network and storage resources for private clouds that replicate real-world scenarios for testing purposes. Progel staff can use the System Center Virtual Machine Manager console to configure logical networks—without having to include Gateway and DNS in the definition of that network—and to create IP and mandatory access control address pools that will be used to deploy virtual machines. Progel staff can also use the console to assign storage resources and manage storage pools to be used by its Hyper-V hosts.

Progel is excited about a new concept within System Center Virtual Machine Manager called “services.” A service is a set of virtual machines that are configured and deployed together (for example, a multitier business application) and managed as a unit through service templates. A service template contains information about the virtual machines that constitute the different tiers that make up the service. This information could include which applications to install on which virtual machines and the networking configuration needed for the service.

“A key differentiator between System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 and version 2008 is the broad adoption of templates for virtual machine provisioning,” says Grandini. “Before, we used templates to provision the operating system on a virtual machine, now we can create service templates to provision the entire application. Each workload in our R&D environment will have its own template, so when we need to deploy, for example, a SharePoint test environment, the virtual machine will be ready to go with all the tiers and resources needed.”

Easy-to-Build Cloud Environments for Customers
Progel also plans to use System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to improve how it builds private clouds for customers, whatever hypervisor they are using. Progel can better manage third-party virtualization platforms, easily adding and monitoring Citrix XenServer or VMware ESX hosts from a single console. Progel also plans to use the console for bare metal provisioning on servers that do not have an operating system installed, and for deploying a Hyper-V cluster that can be managed with System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 with just a few clicks.

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* We want to serve all customers equally efficiently and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 is the one tool that we need. *

Daniele Grandini
Executive, Progel IT

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In addition to the Technology Adoption Program for System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, Progel is also testing the release candidate of Microsoft System Center Orchestrator 2012, another component of the Microsoft System Center 2012 cloud and data center management solutions. System Center Orchestrator 2012 provides process automation that helps to standardize multidisciplinary data center processes and to integrate heterogeneous environments and tools. “We are building a new solution with a distributed security update system using System Center Orchestrator 2012,” says Grandini. “When the product is released, we think it will get into the mainstream: we have four customers that want to deploy the solution next year to automate manual processes and to reduce human errors.”

Expanded Product Offerings
System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 is the first of the next iteration of System Center products that Progel will bring to its customers; however, the company expects that the rest of the System Center data center solutions will provide rich ground for developing new products and solutions to take to market. In addition to the plans it has for System Center Orchestrator 2012, Progel is already working on a new outsourced data protection service based on System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 and a client management solution based on System Center Configuration Manager 2012, as well as a massive upgrade of the remotely operated System Center Operations Manager 2012 service. All these services will complete the “management as a service” Progel offering.

Benefits
For Progel IT, the release of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 represents the latest step forward in a continuously evolving Microsoft virtualization solution. “System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 makes it easy to sell the Microsoft virtualization solution story: it’s all about interoperable, open technologies that simplify cloud computing across all platforms,” says Grandini. “Our customers want to deploy private clouds so they can deliver the business applications they need. With System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, we are ready to take them there.”

Progel expects to use the fabric management capabilities and specialized cloud management tools within System Center Virtualization Machine Manager 2012 to automate manual tasks in its data centers and simplify the creation of private clouds for itself and its customers. The company believes that the Technology Adoption Program will raise its profile and solidify its reputation for staying at the forefront of virtualization technology expertise. “We will be delivering System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to customers as soon as it released to manufacturing. And we will have a deep understanding of the product’s business value because we will have experienced it ourselves,” says Grandini.

Simplify Management of Diverse Hypervisors
Progel can use System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to more easily manage customer environments running multiple hypervisors, operating systems, networks, and storage solutions. Because the company offers its services at a fixed price, it’s
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* Progel benefits because we can use the products in a Microsoft virtualization solution to create new managed services that help us stay at the forefront of virtualization and management solutions in Italy. *

Daniele Grandini
Executive, Progel IT

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important to standardize services for everyone. “We want to serve all customers equally efficiently and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 is the one tool that we need,” says Grandini. “It will be just as easy to manage a VMware or Citrix-based virtualized environment or any combination of hypervisors, as it is to manage clusters running Hyper-V.”

Increase Business Agility
With System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, Progel gains a fabric management solution that simplifies network, storage, and physical hypervisor management. It can use the solution to create private clouds in its R&D environment with just a few clicks. On average, Progel has been able to cut human labor needed to create an isolated R&D environment by 80 percent. Progel can use service templates to create on-demand, standardized application services and shared resources that are ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, which boosts its business agility. The faster the company can provision virtual machines to test its products and services, the faster it can serve its customers and bring new products ahead of competitors.

“Without virtualization, it’s very expensive to build new lab environments,” says Grandini. “Virtualization brought us to a different level, and service templates will take us another step forward. We want to focus on the real R&D work, not the preparation work: now we can build and move our workloads around in our lab automatically, with virtually no human interaction and much less room for error.”

Improve Customer Service
Progel no longer worries about the potential of incurring downtime for customer-facing services. That is because staff can use System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to automate security updates for the Hyper-V cluster in production, reducing the time it takes to complete this task from hours to just a few minutes. “We can improve our service level agreements because we can expand our operating hours and make ourselves available to our customers for more hours during the day,” says Grandini. “We used to stop our main operations at six in the evening to allow us two or three hours for maintenance duties, like updating our Hyper-V cluster. Now we can set System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to do that maintenance work late at night, so we can give those three hours back to our customers.”

For customers running Hyper-V clusters, Progel can use System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to more quickly set up and manage new clusters. “In the early days of virtualization, customers chose VMware, but recently, we are seeing more and more customers deploying a Microsoft virtualization solution,” he continues. “A four-node cluster took three to four days to build before, now it can be deployed in a few hours. Being able to quickly provision new Hyper-V clusters for these customers will be a benefit.”

Reduce Power Consumption
Looking to the future, Progel plans to take advantage of the Dynamic Optimization and Power Optimization capabilities in System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to take steps toward instituting “green IT” policies to reduce its carbon footprint. “We are talking about going green, and we are going to investigate using the Power Optimization feature during the night shift,” says Grandini. “If we could turn off underutilized servers at night, we could reduce power consumption and save on electricity. We have already reduced our energy consumption for our virtualized environment by 25 percent.”

The latest version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 reaffirms what Progel has been saying for years—a Microsoft virtualization solution should always include System Center products. “Customers get compelling business value with the combination of an enterprise-class hypervisor and comprehensive fabric management tools. With System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, that value now extends to building private clouds,” says Grandini. “And Progel benefits because we can use the products in a Microsoft virtualization solution to create new managed services that help us stay at the forefront of virtualization and management solutions in Italy.”

Microsoft System Center 2012
Microsoft System Center 2012 helps your organization achieve IT as a service by enabling productive infrastructure, predictable applications, and cloud computing on your terms. With System Center 2012, use a self-service model to deliver flexible and cost-effective private cloud infrastructure to your business units while capitalizing on existing data center investments. Applications run your business, so System Center 2012 is designed to offer deep application insight combined with a service-centric approach to help you deliver predictable application services. Finally, by using System Center 2012, you can deliver and consume private and public cloud computing on your terms, with common management experiences across both.

For more information about Microsoft System Center 2012, go to:
www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/system-center/2012.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 Progel IT products and services, call (39) 051663 9411 or visit the website at:
www.progel.it

Solution Overview




Partner Profile

Progel IT is headquartered in Bologna, Italy. It provides traditional infrastructure deployment with software development, delivering customized solutions at a fixed price. It employs 50 people.


Business Situation

Progel wanted to automate data center tasks. It needed more efficient tools to build private clouds in its production and test environments as well as for customers who use a variety of hypervisors.


Solution

Progel upgraded to Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 in order to automate fabric management tasks and to simplify the creation and management of private clouds.


Benefits

  • Simplify management of diverse hypervisors
  • Increase business agility
  • Improve customer service
  • Reduce power consumption by 25 percent


Hardware
  • Servers: HP Proliant
  • Desktop: HP EliteBook and Pavilion

Third Party Software


Software and Services
  • Microsoft System Center 2012
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2
  • Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2007
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1

Vertical Industries
IT Services

Country/Region
Italy

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
  • Cloud Services
  • Private Cloud

Languages
English

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