4-page Case Study
Posted: 11/2/2012
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Edgenet Data Services Provider Uses Private Cloud to Speed IT Services by 30 Percent

To manage its data-intensive infrastructure more effectively, Edgenet virtualized its IT environment. That helped, but it didn’t give the company the level of agility, reliability, and cost-effectiveness that it sought. For that, Edgenet built a private cloud based on Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V, and Microsoft System Center 2012 to monitor and manage its data center. As a result, Edgenet has virtualized its largest and most demanding workloads, saved 30 to 40 percent of IT staff time, boosted reliability, and reduced hardware costs by 50 percent.

Situation
Edgenet bases its business model on the idea that organizations and individuals can’t possibly sort through all the product information available on the Internet. That’s where the company’s Ezeedata Optimization technology comes in, providing shopping feed management and data to suppliers and retailers, search and shopping engines, and other influential points throughout the web. The technology supports guided selling services, product configuration solutions, and others.

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* We’re using Windows Server 2012 to handle our heaviest workloads with greater flexibility. Virtualizing them reduces both risk and cost in our most business-critical operations.” *

Steven Murawski
Senior Windows System Engineer, Edgenet

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A data-intensive business needs a data-intensive infrastructure to support it. Edgenet’s data infrastructure was traditionally based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012 data management software running on the Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 (SP1) operating system. The company hosted 180 SQL Server databases, as large as 600 million rows, and 100 massive Internet Information Services web servers. In all, the hardware for this infrastructure included about 350 servers.

That was a lot for the four-person IT staff to manage. As the company continued to grow, Edgenet began to mitigate that burden by adopting the Hyper-V virtualization technology in Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. It migrated about 100 servers to virtual machines running on 12 physical hosts, yielding a density of about eight virtual machines per host.

By virtualizing its infrastructure, Edgenet reduced the number of physical servers and, hence, the amount of time and money needed to manage them. But given the distinctive demands of Edgenet’s business and infrastructure, it wasn’t enough. The largest databases couldn’t be virtualized because the workloads were too heavy for virtual machines, which were limited in size to four processors. Similarly, the company’s public-facing websites received too much traffic to be serviced by virtual machines. Those limitations narrowed the options—and the flexibility, or agility—available to Edgenet IT staff in responding to the needs of internal and external customers.

Adding to the challenge, Edgenet maintained four environments—development, quality assurance, user acceptance, and production—for each of its software-as-a-service offerings for external customers. And those environments had to have consistent configurations for software to run consistently across them. So, while a quality assurance environment might have only a tiny fraction of the users for a production environment, it needed much of the same hardware.

“We had a lot of underused hardware tied up in our various environments,” says Michael Steineke, Vice President of IT at Edgenet. “We wanted to use it in a smarter manner, rather than continuing to buy more.”

Solution
Steineke and his colleagues decided to take the next step down the path of virtualization by creating a private cloud. That would do more than just virtualize workloads: it would enable Edgenet to manage its virtual machines and workloads far more effectively, deploying resources such as virtual machines, memory, and storage when and where they were needed, instead of having to let them sit idle. It would streamline management tasks, so the IT staff could shift its time from reactive maintenance to proactive management. These advantages, in turn, would contribute to greater availability and reliability.

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* We had a lot of underused hardware tied up in our various environments. We wanted to use it in a smarter manner, rather than continuing to buy more. *

Michael Steineke
Vice President of IT, Edgenet

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That was the goal. To achieve it, Edgenet needed more powerful virtualization technology matched with equally powerful management technology. Steineke and his colleagues saw what they wanted in Windows Server 2012 and Microsoft System Center 2012. Their interest in the software was so great that they joined the Microsoft Technology Adoption Program (TAP), giving them access to the technologies a year before their general release.

By participating in the TAP and adopting Microsoft private-cloud technology, the company was able to accelerate its migration from physical to virtual machines. It now hosts about 400 virtual machines on 20 physical hosts, for a density of 20 to 1. Those hosts range from Dell PowerEdge R610 servers with 96 gigabytes of RAM to NEC Express 5800/1080a computers with 64 cores and 1 terabyte of RAM, for Edgenet’s largest SQL Server workloads.

“The Dell computers are a great combination of performance and price, and NEC, our longtime provider, is working with us to support virtual workloads that weren’t previously sustainable,” says Steven Murawski, Senior Windows System Engineer at Edgenet.

Edgenet’s virtualized environment is hosted across five locations: three offices and two data centers. Each office hosts three two-or-three node failover clusters, which support local infrastructure (domain controllers, Active Directory services), applications (custom and commercial), and data (file servers). The primary data center hosts three five-node clusters for centralized data and services, and the secondary data center hosts another five-node cluster used for business continuity and disaster recovery.

The company plans to follow its implementation of Windows Server 2012 with an implementation of System Center 2012. It plans to use System Center 2012 to monitor and manage the Hyper-V environment: for example, to rapidly create and decommission virtual machines, to apply memory and other resources where needed, and to automate management processes.

Some of the features of Windows Server 2012 that Edgenet uses or plans to use include:

  • Windows PowerShell 3.0. Edgenet uses the newly enhanced Windows PowerShell command-line interface to automate the management of Hyper-V, virtual machines, network, and storage. In its initial deployment, it used a workflow based on Windows PowerShell to simplify and streamline both the creation of new virtual machines and the migration of virtual machines from the prior Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 environment.

  • NIC Teaming. Edgenet uses NIC Teaming to improve fault tolerance and increase bandwidth. By abstracting the physical network interface card (NIC) with NIC Teaming, Edgenet can manage hardware more easily, moving NICs as needed to perform maintenance without failures or a potential loss of configuration data.

  • Hyper-V Extensible Switch. Edgenet uses Extensible Switch to adopt additional functionality, such as traffic monitoring. It monitors and troubleshoots virtual machines without the need to install a performance-degrading troubleshooting application on its production servers.

  • “Shared Nothing” Live Migration. Edgenet uses the enhanced live migration capability to migrate virtual machines not only within a cluster, but across clusters, and also between its data center and office environments—even across virtual machine hosts that share no storage and have only a common gigabit Ethernet connection. Edgenet uses the feature for greater flexibility in managing Hyper-V hosts.

  • Hyper-V Replica. Edgenet has tested and plans to use Hyper-V Replica to replicate virtualized workloads between its primary and secondary data centers, freeing up hardware that it can repurpose as needed.

In addition to using Windows Server 2012 as a basis for its private cloud, Edgenet uses the technology to support its branch offices, mobile workers, and file storage systems, among others. “Windows Server 2012 is a revolution in our environment,” says Steineke. “We’re using at least 80 percent of the new features.”

Benefits
Edgenet is using Windows Server 2012 to virtualize larger workloads, boost management effectiveness, reduce hardware costs, and meet service level agreements (SLAs) more easily.

Increase in Processors per Virtual Machine Supports Larger Workloads
Edgenet uses Windows Server 2012 to do what it couldn’t do previously: virtualize its largest and most demanding workloads. The move multiplies the benefits of virtualization—greater agility, more effective management, and higher availability—for Edgenet by expanding those benefits to include the core of the company’s operations.

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* Windows Server 2012 is a revolution in our environment. We’re using at least 80 percent of the new features. *

Michael Steineke
Vice President of IT, Edgenet

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In virtualizing its database and web server workloads, Edgenet is taking advantage of a range of performance enhancements in Windows Server 2012, including an increase in virtual processors per virtual machine from 4 to 32 compared with Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. The new software also supports 64 nodes per cluster, 1 terabyte of memory per virtual machine, and 64 terabytes of memory per virtual hard disk.

“We’re using Windows Server 2012 to handle our heaviest workloads with greater flexibility,” says Murawski. “Virtualizing them reduces both risk and cost in our most business-critical operations.”

Greater Agility Saves 30–40 Percent of IT Management Time
Edgenet can quickly respond to both internal and external customers because the virtualized environment is faster and easier to manage. “I’m loving the deployment story with Windows Server 2012,” Murawski says. “There’s not much customization needed for the base image, scripting joins a cluster to the network, and it’s hands-off once the workflow starts.”

Murawski has migrated 40 virtual machines to the new environment in just 15 minutes. “Processes that used to take me hours now take minutes with Windows Server 2012,” he says. “I figure I save one hour per machine—and I’ve moved 200 machines this year. That’s the equivalent of five weeks of my time.”

Steineke estimates that the four-person IT staff saves about 30 to 40 percent of its time by using the management enhancements in Windows Server 2012. “We have a larger and clearer window into what’s happening in the environment, and the ability to manage more machines at once over a range of locations,” he says. “We’re doing things in multiples now, things that used to be tougher to do before Windows Server 2012.”

Customers—both internal and external—are the ultimate beneficiaries of this higher level of agility. “Our customers are seeing faster turnaround time to start new projects,” says Steineke. “Creating servers for development, quality assurance, acceptance test, and production environments used to take from days to weeks, depending on hardware availability. With Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V, it takes hours.”

Reduces Hardware Needs by 50 Percent, Saving $3,250 per Server
By moving to Windows Server 2012, Edgenet has more than doubled virtual machine density on its hardware servers, from 8 virtual machines per host to 20. “Greater virtual machine density means we can make more effective use of our hardware and lower the cost of operations,” says Steineke. “We free up hardware—from our disaster recovery site and our non-production environments, for example—that can be redeployed where needed. We manage more virtual machines on fewer hosts, so we can reduce operating costs, too.”

As it migrates fully to Windows Server 2012, Edgenet will need only 50 percent of its current hardware to manage its current workload, according to Steineke. With a variety of physical servers, ranging in price from US$12,000 to $50,000 each, the company expects to save $3,250 per server over the course of its hardware replacement cycle, with some of that savings being reinvested in additional servers for expanded operations.

Greater Reliability Provides Better Support for SLAs
Virtualizing more and larger workloads, and managing them more quickly and effectively, ultimately translates into higher reliability and availability. Steineke says that, as a result, his IT department can meet customer SLAs more readily. “Everyone benefits when we increase our ability to meet SLAs,” he says. “Our customers have a more dependable and predictable environment, and we meet our contractual obligations, avoiding additional expense. We’re using Windows Server 2012 to help make that happen.”

Windows Server 2012
Windows Server drives many of the world’s largest data centers, empowers small businesses around the world, and delivers value to organizations of all sizes in between. Building on this legacy, Windows Server 2012 redefines the category, delivering hundreds of new features and enhancements that span virtualization, networking, storage, user experience, cloud computing, automation, and more. Simply put, Windows Server 2012 helps you transform your IT operations to reduce costs and deliver a whole new level of business value.

For more information, visit
www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-server/2012-default.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 Edgenet products and services, call 1 (877) EDGENET or visit the website at:
www.edgenet.com

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 200 employees

Organization Profile

Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Edgenet collects, organizes, and optimizes product data, providing shopping feed management and optimized data to suppliers, retailers, and search and shopping engines.


Business Situation

Edgenet needed a more efficient way to manage its IT environment because virtualization alone didn’t provide the agility, reliability, and cost-effectiveness that it sought.


Solution

The company went beyond virtualization, creating a private cloud based on Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V and Microsoft System Center 2012.


Benefits

  • Increase in processors per virtual machine supports larger workloads
  • Greater agility saves 30–40 percent of IT management time
  • Hardware reduction of 50 percent saves US$3,250 per server
  • Improved reliability supports service level agreements


Hardware
  • Dell PowerEdge R610 servers
  • NEC Express 5800/A1080a servers

Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Microsoft System Center 2012

Vertical Industries
IT Services

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Cost Containment
  • Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
  • Virtualization
  • Private Cloud

Languages
English

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