GMG Radio wanted to virtualise its servers to reduce network costs and improve the speed of application testing. It deployed a solution based on Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V virtualisation technology and Windows 7 Enterprise. As a result,
the radio operator has cut its costs and the development team can now test software and new releases quickly. In addition, Windows 7 Enterprise is helping to reduce calls to the IT support team, which now has around 30 per cent more time for strategic development
GMG Radio is a British radio business owned by the Guardian Media Group. The organisation owns three radio brands, including Smooth Radio, Real Radio, and sister network Real Radio XS, which broadcasts on analogue and digital radio platforms in the United
Kingdom (U.K.). All GMG Radio operations—from the customer relationship management (CRM) system supporting the advertising sales team, to the audio software that streams live radio—rely on the company’s IT infrastructure to work seamlessly.
GMG Radio employs several IT and
development teams to support these diverse operations through efficient management of the group’s network and applications. As part of an infrastructure refresh project, the radio operator planned to virtualise its network to reduce costs, improve service
continuity, and simplify IT development and management. Robbie Jackson, Technology Engineer, GMG Radio, says: “Before any content or applications go live in our environment, we need to test them to make sure they work. We wanted to introduce virtualization
to help us streamline our testing environment and ensure business continuity.”
Another goal of the refresh was to update the GMG Radio desktop computer fleet to run on the Windows 7 Enterprise operating system. “All organisations are under pressure to improve productivity and be as efficient as possible. We wanted to take advantage
of Windows 7 features to support staff productivity, and also to reduce the time engineers spend on helpdesk calls,” says Jackson.
To achieve its goals, GMG Radio deployed Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V technology, Windows 7 Enterprise, and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007. Hyper-V is included as part of Windows Server 2008 R2 functionality, so GMG Radio gained
a virtualisation solution without having to invest in specific virtualisation licensing.
Hyper-V virtualises critical business solutions—such as the audio software used for live broadcasting—and key solutions such as the Microsoft Dynamics GP enterprise resource planning software, and the customer relationship management software used by the
advertising sales team. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007—on which the company’s intranet is based—is also hosted on the Hyper-V platform.
To streamline software updates and testing, the GMG Radio team can create machine snapshots with Hyper-V before modifying applications and operating systems in the virtual environment. “With snapshots, we reduce the risk of system downtime if the testing
environment fails,” says Jackson.
System Center Configuration Manager supports the team to simplify and automate operating system deployments, including the company-wide rollout of Windows 7 Enterprise. “We use System Center Configuration Manager for asset inventories and fixing problems
remotely,” says Jackson. To minimise the time spent on rollout, GMG Radio used zero-touch installation, creating an operating system image and then deploying it to the appropriate device. From the management console, the IT team can optimise desktop computers
to use power in the most efficient way.
With Hyper-V virtualisation technology, GMG Radio has simplified application testing, improved productivity, and reduced IT overheads for power and cooling by around 20 per cent a year.
IT is simplified. Employees can diagnose and resolve many routine computer issues themselves with the Troubleshooting feature in Windows 7. Jackson says: “We’ve reduced the number of calls to the IT team and cut the time employees spend
waiting for support—as a result, we’re around 30 per cent more productive.” With server snapshots, the business also has an excellent plan for disaster recovery. “In the unlikely event of a disaster, everything is backed up and redeployed,” says Jackson.
Employees spend more time on strategic work. By creating server snapshots, the team spends less time deploying and upgrading applications for new users and removing inappropriate software downloaded by employees. They also have more time
for strategic projects that aim to further increase efficiency—for example, a planned unified communications deployment involving Microsoft Lync Server 2010.
Testing environment is streamlined. IT staff can quickly set up and remove test environments. Jackson says: “Testing software updates to our audio play-out machines is vital. If we have a failed update on a live machine we risk going off
air. With Hyper-V, we can test application upgrades to ensure they’ll work in their correct environments.”
Power and cooling costs are reduced. With Hyper-V, GMG Radio has reduced its power and cooling costs by 20 per cent across the radio network. The IT team is making further savings by taking advantage of
performance optimisation technology in Windows 7 to reduce power consumption on idle and running desktop computers. Jackson estimates this will help cut power consumption by around 35 per cent a year.
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