4-page Case Study
Posted: 4/16/2012
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EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services Chauffeur Firm Uses Cloud Computing to Trim Operating Costs 30 Percent, Grow Business

For EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services, technology is a key competitive differentiator. Even after virtualizing its data center, EmpireCLS sought even greater data center efficiency and automation. Using Microsoft System Center 2012, EmpireCLS transformed its virtualized data center into a private cloud environment. It also created a public cloud for offering software as a service to other transportation firms. By moving to cloud computing, EmpireCLS has reduced its data center footprint by a factor of seven and trimmed power and cooling costs by 50 percent. It has reduced IT and operating costs by 30 percent during a period when the business grew 30 percent. The IT staff has boosted service availability from four nines to six nines and reduced service tickets by 75 percent. Perhaps most exciting, EmpireCLS is now poised to become not only a transportation but a software provider.

Situation
EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services gets Hollywood celebrities to and from the red carpet, executives to their private jets, and dignitaries to their destinations—on time and in unmatched style. Beginning in 1981, EmpireCLS perfected the art of transporting media, entertainment, and business elite with luxury, privacy, security, and personal attention. Today, EmpireCLS offers chauffeur service in more than 700 cities around the world.

Behind the polished appearance of the chauffeur, however, are more than 1,000 employees who work behind the scenes to manage reservations, global itineraries, and customer accounts. In addition to a luxurious ride, customers enjoy many concierge services and tools so that their interactions with EmpireCLS are easy, secure, consistent, and comfortable. “Empire is a premier brand within the industry due to its core strengths: people, technology, systems, service logistics, and fleet quality,” says David Seelinger, Chief Executive Officer at EmpireCLS.

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* We’ve reduced our IT and operating spend by 30 percent over three years while… growing the business by 30 percent. We couldn’t have done that without Microsoft virtualization and cloud software.
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Alan Bourassa
Chief Information Officer, EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services
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Technology has always been a key competitive differentiator for EmpireCLS, and Chief Information Officer Alan Bourassa is always watching for innovations that can help the company provide service that is superior to the competition’s. Beginning in 2008, EmpireCLS standardized its data center on the Windows Server 2008 operating system. In 2009, it upgraded to the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system and used the Hyper-V technology in that software to virtualize its data center. It also took advantage of the live migration and Cluster Shared Volumes features in Windows Server 2008 R2 to provide high availability of running workloads. The company deployed Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 to speed the creation of virtual machines and simplify the management of its newly virtualized environment.

EmpireCLS used Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2008 R2 to implement a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) desktop computing model, which employees use to access virtual desktop environments that run on data center servers. When Windows Server 2008 R2 with Service Pack 1 came out, EmpireCLS quickly deployed it to take advantage of Hyper-V memory management improvements and RemoteFX, a feature that delivers an improved experience to VDI users.

Yet Bourassa pushed for still greater technology-based efficiencies. “Even with our cutting-edge data center, it was still difficult for us to easily and holistically manage our IT infrastructure,” Bourassa says. “Provisioning storage and virtual machines was still too manual; we didn’t have a way to centrally orchestrate tasks. The company was growing, but we were not adding IT staff or support people. Anything we could do to streamline and automate IT tasks and eliminate human effort would make us more successful and speed up our service to the business.”

Solution
Cloud computing was the natural next step for EmpireCLS. Cloud computing refers to the pooling of virtualized compute and storage resources into a single computing “fabric” that is dynamically reconfigurable on demand in an automated fashion. However, getting into cloud computing requires software tools that can perform the many automated steps required to dynamically provision and deprovision virtual machines, monitor workloads, identify and resolve problems, and request human intervention when needed.

That enabling toolset, for Bourassa, was Microsoft System Center 2012. “We had been using System Center tools for a long time, but System Center 2012 represents a complete and seamless integration of all those tools into one product,” Bourassa says. “Microsoft did a very good job of creating one integrated toolset to help medium-size companies deploy a private cloud infrastructure with automated, orchestrated processes.”

Create Scalable Private Cloud Infrastructure
With the help of Microsoft Services, EmpireCLS upgraded to System Center 2012 and built a mixed private-public cloud infrastructure. A private cloud environment is one that is dedicated to a single organization’s use, in contrast to the shared, or multitenant, nature of a public cloud environment.

“Microsoft Services brought a lot of expertise to the table and was instrumental in creating an infrastructure that met our business needs,” Bourassa says. “Microsoft consultants helped with both strategic planning and deployment consulting. We’re also longtime users of Premier Support, which helps us resolve problems quickly by giving us immediate access to Microsoft resources.”

In its private cloud environment—which runs on HP ProLiant blade servers—EmpireCLS runs its core chauffeur service business. “We’ve virtualized all the workloads that can be virtualized, including database servers,” Bourassa says. “With recent improvements in System Center and Hyper-V, we’re much more comfortable deploying all our workloads as virtual machines.”

The company’s biggest workloads are its Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 collaboration environment, databases running Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software, web farms, the company’s proprietary reservation and dispatch applications, and its Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 customer relationship management system and Microsoft Dynamics SL 2011 accounting system.

When configured as a private cloud environment, the company’s Hyper-V virtual machines became a fluid computing commodity rather than a set of discrete servers that had to be managed individually. It was the same with storage: rather than having to painstakingly plan out and assign storage to various workloads, the IT staff was able to view storage as a pooled cloud asset that was simply there when needed. “We didn’t want to deal with individual servers, storage, and networking components; we wanted to abstract those resources, and with cloud computing, we were able to do that,” Bourassa says.

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* Anything we could do to streamline and automate IT tasks and eliminate human effort would make us more successful and speed up our service to the business.
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Alan Bourassa
Chief Information Officer, EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services
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Create Public Cloud Environment to Host New Business Services
Once its private cloud environment was in place, EmpireCLS carved off a portion of it to use as a public cloud environment for launching a whole new business—offering its proprietary dispatch and reservation system to other ground transportation companies using a software as a service (SaaS) model.

It also launched another new SaaS business called BeTransported.com, which is an online rate-shopping ground transportation service used by more than 500 chauffeur service providers. “These new services are enabling us to grow our business and would not have been possible without a cloud environment,” Bourassa says.

Currently, about 90 percent of the EmpireCLS cloud environment is assigned as a private cloud for running EmpireCLS, and 10 percent is the public cloud that runs the budding SaaS businesses. However, EmpireCLS is rapidly growing its SaaS business and expects the split to be 50-50 within two years.

One Management Console for Entire Cloud Environment
EmpireCLS manages its entire cloud environment, public and private, using the same System Center console. It uses the Virtual Machine Manager component of System Center 2012 to automatically create virtual machines and allocate storage to workloads on the fly. The IT staff can designate these resources for specific developers or applications, and System Center can expand or shrink them as needed.

Using System Center App Controller, Empire CLS developers and IT administrators can more easily configure, deploy, and manage virtual machines and services across both private and public clouds. The IT staff uses the Service Template Designer in Virtual Machine Manager to deploy applications approximately 75 percent faster than was previously possible. “Because they no longer have to stitch the System Center products together, our application developers spend less time integrating pieces and more time generating service templates and performing other higher value work,” Bourassa says.

Another key System Center 2012 feature that EmpireCLS uses is AVIcode, a Microsoft .NET application monitoring tool that provides detailed information about application health. “We use AVIcode extensively,” Bourassa says. “Our CEO sometimes gets calls from customers who complain that it took them up to three minutes to get a quote on our website. With AVIcode, we can analyze the code behind that specific quote and see precisely how long it took for a screen to flip, a credit card to be validated, and a rate to be returned. With this level of data, we can solve performance problems and address customer concerns faster and with more detail. It’s a huge capability for us, and we didn’t have to buy or build an application to get it; it’s part of System Center.”

The Service Manager component of System Center is critical to EmpireCLS in managing IT service tickets. If the Operations Manager component of System Center detects a problem with a server, application, or network connection in the company’s cloud environment, it sends an alert to Service Manager, which creates a service ticket and communicates the needed remediation to the Orchestrator component. Orchestrator then kicks off a workflow to execute the tasks needed to make the repair, notifying and requesting approvals from appropriate business and IT staff along the way.

The automated cloud environment does not only solve IT problems but also speeds routine business processes that touch the IT infrastructure. For example, when EmpireCLS hires a new employee, the IT staff needs to assign a desktop computer to him or her. This involves creating a VDI image for that user in a data center server and assigning a PC. The human resources department completes an online form requesting the PC. Service Manager picks up the request and passes it to Virtual Machine Manager, which builds the virtual machine for the VDI. When this is complete, Service Manager notifies the new employee’s manager that the VDI is ready. “We can be more hands-off about all of our IT tasks,” Bourassa says. “There’s no longer a need to send a flurry of emails about every process. System Center takes care of everything automatically.”

EmpireCLS uses the Data Protection Manager of System Center 2012 to back up its public and private cloud environments. If a backup stalls or fails, Operations Manager detects this and automatically restarts the failed backup.

The IT staff uses the Configuration Manager component of System Center to deploy client desktop software and monitor security issues in its data center and in PCs. It uses Microsoft Forefront software to protect its desktop PCs, its SharePoint Server environment, and its Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 messaging environment.

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* We didn’t want to deal with individual servers, storage, and networking components; we wanted to abstract those resources, and with cloud computing, we were able to do that. *
Alan Bourassa
Chief Information Officer, EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services
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Value of Licensing
EmpireCLS licenses all of its Microsoft software using a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, which provides substantial savings over standard license pricing for Windows operating systems, System Center, Microsoft Office, and other server products. “With our Enterprise Agreement, we get more value from the entire System Center suite,” Bourassa says. “Microsoft licensing also simplifies license management, which is particularly important in a cloud environment where you need to be able to load software onto virtual machines on the fly without worrying about licensing permissions. This helps us deliver IT services faster without paying more fees.”

EmpireCLS also has Microsoft Software Assurance for Volume Licensing. “Without Software Assurance, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do every year with Microsoft. We pay a flat price through our Enterprise Agreement and automatically get upgrades to all Microsoft software,” Bourassa says.

In addition, EmpireCLS has a Premier Support Agreement in place, which provides phone support, consulting services and training on an as-needed basis, 24 x 7. “Microsoft has us covered,” says Bourassa.

Benefits
By transforming its virtualized data center into a cloud environment, EmpireCLS has been able to shrink its data center footprint, dramatically reduce IT costs even in the face of business growth, improve service availability, and break into new markets.

Reduced Data Center Costs by 50 Percent
EmpireCLS has decreased its data center footprint by a factor of seven due to the efficiencies of its new blade server infrastructure, the virtualization capabilities of Hyper-V, and the cloud management capabilities of System Center 2012.

“Over the last 18 months, we’ve gotten a seven-fold increase in capacity per Hyper-V host server, thanks to greater hardware efficiencies,” Bourassa says. “At same time, we’ve gotten a 7:1 increase in virtual machine space due to greater Hyper-V efficiency coupled with the HP blade servers. The more virtual machines you can pack into your cloud, the more revenue you produce per square foot of data center real estate. Additionally, power and cooling costs are down by 50 percent. Shrinking data center floor space is a big deal and the name of the game in cloud computing.”

Drove IT and Operating Costs Down 30 Percent During 30 Percent Business Growth
IT operating costs are also down since moving to cloud computing. “We have not had to increase our staff to greatly expand our infrastructure and move into new businesses,” says Bourassa. “We’ve reduced our IT and operating spend by 30 percent over three years while adding 500 external vendors to our infrastructure and growing the business by 30 percent. We couldn’t have done that without Microsoft virtualization and cloud software.”

Bourassa observes that Microsoft is investing heavily in private and public cloud computing and making the move to cloud computing easy for companies like EmpireCLS. “Microsoft is doing a great job providing packaged solutions for companies looking for a private cloud solution that may migrate to the public cloud,” Bourassa says. “Because you can manage both public and private cloud environments from the same System Center console, it’s easier for companies to not think of public versus private cloud but to move applications back and forth between the two as the business demands. Microsoft makes the public and private cloud transition seamless.”

Because the EmpireCLS IT staff can manage the entire environment holistically, it takes much less time, freeing staff members to spend more time attending to other critical tasks and developing new solutions. “I’d say that 80 percent of our work in IT is going into building out our public cloud and bringing on new BeTransported.com vendors,” Bourassa says. “We would not have been able to shift so much of our efforts to new business development without System Center 2012.”

Achieved Six Nines Availability, 75 Percent Reduction in Service Tickets
The availability of business applications continues to rise as EmpireCLS moved from a virtualized to a cloud environment. Since implementing System Center 2012, availability has risen from four nines (99.99) to six nines (99.9999). If a server fails, System Center automatically migrates workloads to other virtual machines in the cloud infrastructure.

Not only is availability up, but IT problem tickets are down. “Even with all the additional workloads that we now have from expanding our business, our service ticket volume has gone down by 75 percent because of the alerting we get from System Center,” Bourassa says. “We’re proactive in addressing issues before they become problems.”

Enabled New Business Growth
EmpireCLS management recognizes that the changes in its data center directly impact business success. “Our outstanding customer service levels exist because of our technology,” Bourassa says. “Our technology gives us considerable leverage when pitching large corporate accounts, no question about it. But our cloud environment had done something more—it’s allowed us to break into completely new types of business and revenue streams. Our IT staff has more time to sit down with the business and strategize new products and services. When the business asks, ‘Do we have capacity for a new business like BeTransported.com,’ we can unequivocally say ‘Yes!’”

EmpireCLS is pursuing more SaaS ideas. In fact, in three to four years, the company expects to be more of a software provider than a ground transportation company. “This business redirection and expansion just wouldn’t be possible without our Microsoft cloud infrastructure,” Bourassa says.

Windows Server 2008 R2
Windows Server 2008 R2 is a multipurpose operating system designed to increase the reliability and flexibility of your server and private cloud infrastructure, helping you to save time and reduce costs. It provides you with powerful tools to react to business needs faster than ever before with greater control and confidence. For more information, visit:

www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-server

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 EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services products and services, call (800) 451-5466 or visit the website at:
www.empirecls.com

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 1000 employees

Organization Profile

EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services is one of the largest chauffeured transportation companies in the world. Based in Secaucus, New Jersey, it operates in more than 700 cities around the world.


Business Situation

Even after virtualizing its data center, EmpireCLS wanted more automation and task orchestration to help the IT staff better respond to business needs.


Solution

EmpireCLS used Microsoft System Center 2012 to create a private cloud infrastructure on which it runs its core business and also a public cloud environment for offering its software as a service to other companies.


Benefits

  • Reduced data center costs by 50 percent
  • Reduced operating costs 30 percent
  • Achieved six nines in availability
  • Reduced service tickets 75 percent
  • Enabled new business growth


Hardware
  • HP ProLiant BL460 G7 blade servers with Intel Xeon processors
  • HP EVA storage area network

Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Microsoft System Center 2012
  • Microsoft Consulting Services
  • Datacenter

Vertical Industries
Transportation

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Cloud & Server Platform
  • Cost Containment

IT Issue
  • Cloud Services
  • Private Cloud
  • Virtualization

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Microsoft Services

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