4-page Partner Case Study
Posted: 12/13/2011
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Link Development Developer Simplifies Private Cloud Management, Speeds Services by 60 Percent

LINK Development of Cairo, Egypt, had already virtualized its data center servers, but it wanted even more flexibility and speed in developing and testing customer solutions. It created a private cloud infrastructure that runs both the Hyper-V technology included in the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system and VMware virtualization software. To simplify the management of this complex environment, LINK Development upgraded to Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to take advantage of improvements in managing multiple hypervisors, creating private clouds, and deploying applications as services. LINK Development now manages its mixed private cloud environment from a single console. It has increased service availability and can also provision new IT resources 60 percent more quickly, which leads to faster delivery of solutions to customers.

Situation
LINK Development is a software and services company in the Middle East, headquartered in Cairo. Through its offices in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Italy, and Canada, LINK Development helps Fortune 500 companies, enterprise companies, and governments create cost-effective, innovative IT solutions. LINK Development is a subsidiary of OTVentures and also serves as the development arm for its parent and sister companies. With more than 400 employees, LINK Development is one of the larger IT software and solutions development firms in the region and is also a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold certification in six competency areas.

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* Having the ability to manage all of our cloud environments—Hyper-V and VMware, Windows and Linux—from one console is very important. [It] leads to faster development and delivery of customer solutions. *

George Fouad
Infrastructure Services Manager, LINK Development

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LINK Development provides solutions based on multiple Microsoft technologies—namely, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft Dynamics solutions, mobile applications, the Microsoft .NET Framework, and infrastructure services. To reduce data center costs and to speed the delivery of IT resources to its many specialists using different development environments, LINK Development had already virtualized the servers in its Cairo data center using both the Hyper-V technology included in the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system and VMware virtualization technology. However, increased competitive pressures and customer demand forced the company to look for ways to move even faster and reduce costs further.

“As one of the largest Microsoft partners in the region, we are eager to provide our customers with world-class solutions to help them achieve their business goals,” says George Fouad, Infrastructure Services Manager at LINK Development. “This demands that we continuously look for ways to help our specialists work faster and more efficiently.”

To gain this greater business agility, LINK Development decided to move to a private cloud infrastructure. A private cloud environment is a pool of virtualized computing resources dedicated to the use of a single organization. These pooled resources can be dynamically provisioned on demand, which means that organizations can deliver IT infrastructure as a service rather than as discrete servers and applications.

However, LINK Development was concerned that moving to a dynamic private cloud environment would increase complexity and management work and costs, especially because the firm would need to maintain both Hyper-V and VMware virtualization technologies in its cloud environment. “We knew that cloud computing would increase the number and density of our virtual machine holdings and would require even more dynamic provisioning, deprovisioning, tracking, and monitoring of virtual machine resources among host servers,” Fouad says. “We were worried that we would have to increase our staff to keep up with the increased scale in computing resources. We already had two different staffs and two different sets of management tools managing our Hyper-V and VMware environments and did not want to compound the management costs by moving into cloud computing.”

Solution
In September 2011, LINK Development created three private cloud computing environments: one for developers to use in developing customer solutions, one for testing prerelease software from Microsoft and other vendors, and one for testing finished customer solutions. The three environments collectively consist of 18 host servers (all HP ProLiant G6 servers): one-half runs Hyper-V and one-half runs VMware. The Hyper-V hosts run either Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter with Service Pack 1 (SP1) or Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise with SP1.

On these host servers, LINK Development has created about 170 virtual machines, but because it is using only about 30 percent of the host server capacity, it has plenty of room to grow. The majority of the virtual machines run a version of the Windows Server operating system, but a handful run the Ubuntu distribution of the Linux operating system.

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* We were worried that we would have to increase our staff to keep up with the increased scale in computing resources. *

George Fouad
Infrastructure Services Manager, LINK Development

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In its private cloud development and test environment, LINK runs a wide variety of production applications: Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 messaging software, a large Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 implementation, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software, the Active Directory directory system, Internet Information Services, and others.

One Management Console for Everything
LINK Development had already used Microsoft System Center data center solutions to manage its virtualized environment and, in September 2011, began to explore using System Center 2012, a release focused on managing cloud computing environments. LINK Development uses the Microsoft System Center Server Management Suite Enterprise (SMSE) to license the entire System Center suite. “By using the SMSE, we are able to get all the System Center programs at the best price,” says Mohamed Fawzi Emam, Infrastructure Consultant at LINK Development.

For LINK Development, the most exciting thing in the System Center 2012 release was Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, which offers simplified private cloud creation, the management of multiple hypervisors and operating systems, and the delivery of applications as services, among other features. After several weeks of testing, LINK deployed Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 in its private cloud development and test production environment.

Since September 2011, LINK has used System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to manage its mixed Hyper-V and VMware private cloud environment. “Virtual Machine Manager 2012 gives us one solution for managing both Hyper-V and VMware environments, so our staff does not have to use multiple consoles to manage the infrastructure,” Emam says. “We can now view what we need to see through a single ‘pane of glass,’ from provisioning to load balancing to deprovisioning virtual machines. One administrator can do everything. Instead of communicating issues across two teams and many people, we can resolve problems much faster, which leads to less downtime and slowdowns, and faster service provisioning.”

By using the private cloud creation tools in Virtual Machine Manager, IT administrators can now create new virtualized compute, storage, and networking resources much faster than they could previously. “We need to provide infrastructure on demand for all of our projects, and now we can quickly provide our developers with virtual machines with just a few mouse-clicks,” Emam says.

LINK developers can use the Service Template Designer in System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to deploy applications such as SQL Server and SharePoint Server as services rather than as individually deployed applications that run on dedicated servers. LINK Development plans to implement self-service resource provisioning, which developers can use to deploy their own data center resources from a straightforward web-based console.

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* Virtual Machine Manager 2012 gives us one solution for managing both Hyper-V and VMware environments, so our staff does not have to use multiple consoles to manage the infrastructure. *

Mohamed Fawzi Emam
Infrastructure Consultant, LINK Development

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LINK Development uses the Dynamic Optimization feature of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to simplify load balancing of private cloud workloads. Using this feature, administrators can migrate virtual machines within a cluster according to user-specified settings. “During daily operations, when many demands are being made on our infrastructure, host servers may get overloaded with virtual machines due to different things—failovers, security upgrades, new application deployments, and so forth,” Emam says. “Any of these activities can trigger automatic virtual machine movement among hosts. We use the Dynamic Optimization feature to monitor hosts and dynamically load-balance the virtual machines across the cluster once certain thresholds are hit. This avoids over-utilizing a specific host and causing a potential host failure.”

LINK Development uses System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 with Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 to gain precise insight into the health of not only virtual machines and host servers but the applications running on them. Administrators can detect any performance slippage in specific applications and take preemptive action before an application slows significantly or fails.

More Management Efficiencies Planned
LINK Development has also been testing Microsoft System Center Service Manager 2012, System Center Operations Manager 2012, and System Center Orchestrator 2012. System Center Service Manager 2012 is a service management solution, System Center Operations Manager a monitoring solution, and System Center Orchestrator a process automation solution.

“By using the new System Center 2012 applications together, we will have a single view of the entire management lifecycle of our entire infrastructure,” Emam says. “With these new capabilities, we can enable IT as a service for the private cloud. From a consistent set of management consoles, we will be able to deploy both hardware and software resources as services; enable developers to provision their own services; document infrastructure changes; and attain our goals for standardization, self-service, automation control, and compliance.”

Benefits
By creating a private cloud infrastructure and using System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to manage it, LINK Development has simplified its management infrastructure and increased new service provisioning by 60 percent, which have led to faster delivery of customer solutions. Because it has improved insight into the health and performance of all infrastructure elements, its development environment availability is also higher.

Manages Cloud Infrastructure More Easily
LINK Development can now manage its complex cloud environment using one management console. “Having the ability to manage all of our cloud environments—Hyper-V and VMware, Windows and Linux—from one console is very important,” Fouad says. “We do not have to waste time opening multiple consoles and connections. This leads to faster development and delivery of customer solutions.”

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* Because System Center Virtual Machine Manager and System Center Operations Manager are linked, we can get insights into the performance of virtual machines, operating systems, and applications. Getting all that in one console is really important for us. *

Mohamed Fawzi Emam
Infrastructure Consultant, LINK Development

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The new efficiency saves money, too. “Having three or four management products adds complexity and costs; you have to hire more people with more skill sets,” Fouad says. “By using System Center programs, we are able to manage a complex cloud environment with a simple management infrastructure. Now we can deliver whatever our customers need without being saddled with the expensive overhead of many people and multiple tools.”

Provisions New Services 60 Percent Faster
By using System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, LINK Development now delivers IT resources to developers much more quickly. “Our time to provision new services has decreased by 60 percent,” Emam says. “We can provide a typical new IT service in four hours versus 10 hours, which means a lot to our organization. Developer time costs us a lot of money.”

LINK Development can also provide infrastructure on demand, even for just a few days, if needed. “Previously, it was not practical to deploy a server for just a day, for example, even in a virtualized environment. But with System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, it is possible, which gives our development team much more flexibility in accessing only the resources they need, when they need them,” says Emam.

Delivers Customer Solutions 50 Percent Faster
Faster delivery of computing resources to developers leads to faster delivery of solutions to customers—up to 50 percent faster, Emam says. “By the time customers come to us, they need their solutions yesterday,” Emam adds. “Meeting customers’ deadlines is always a big challenge. The ability to provision resources so much faster is a huge competitive advantage. We can not only set up the infrastructure faster, but we can keep it running flawlessly thereafter.”

Increases Availability of Entire Infrastructure
Infrastructure reliability and availability adds another dimension to development speed and customer satisfaction. By using System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, LINK Development can do more than just monitor the performance of its host servers and virtual machines; it can also see the status of applications, which increases the availability of the entire infrastructure.

“With System Center Virtual Machine Manager, we have more insight into our applications and infrastructure, so we can prevent problems,” Emam says. “Because System Center Virtual Machine Manager and System Center Operations Manager are linked, we can get insights into the performance of virtual machines, operating systems, and applications. Getting all that in one console is really important for us.”

Microsoft System Center 2012
System Center 2012 helps your organization achieve IT as a Service by enabling productive infrastructure, predictable applications, and cloud computing on your terms. System Center 2012 helps you to deliver flexible and cost-effective private cloud infrastructure to your business units in a self-service model, while carrying forward your existing data center investments. Recognizing that applications run your business, System Center 2012 offers deep application insight combined with a service-centric approach that helps you deliver predictable application services. Finally, System Center 2012 empowers you to deliver and consume private and public cloud computing on your terms with common management experiences across both.

For more information, please visit:
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 LINK Development products and services, call (20) (2) 2768-6500 or visit the website at:
www.linkdev.com

Solution Overview




Partner Profile


Business Situation

LINK Development wanted to create private cloud environments based on Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 R2 and on VMware, but it worried about the increased complexity and costs of managing a mixed-cloud infrastructure.


Solution

LINK Development upgraded to Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to be able to manage multiple hypervisors from a single console and simplify the management of a complex cloud environment.


Benefits

  • Manages a complex infrastructure via a single console
  • Provisions services 60 percent faster
  • Delivers solutions faster


Hardware
  • HP ProLiant G6 servers


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
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1

Vertical Industries
Professional Services

Country/Region
Egypt

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
  • Cloud Services
  • Private Cloud

Languages
English

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