Unilever has been hugely successful in selling personal care, homecare, and food products to billions of customers throughout the world—so successful that it expects to double in size in 10 years. To ensure that its IT organization could support
this growth, Unilever worked with Avanade to migrate from VMware to Hyper-V technology in Windows Server 2008 R2. It then used Hyper-V and Microsoft System Center 2012 to create a private cloud environment that contains 3,175 virtual machines. With its private
cloud, Unilever will deliver IT services 40 percent faster and be more agile in the marketplace. It also expects to achieve its growth goals with no increase in IT costs. By eliminating hundreds of servers, Unilever realized significant savings and became
a better environmental citizen. It is upgrading to Windows Server 2012 to gain even more IT efficiency.
On any given day, 2 billion people use Unilever products to look good, feel good, and get more out of life. Unilever is one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies, with more than 400 brands that include foods, soaps, shampoos, and household
care products. Some of its well-known international brands include Lipton, Knorr, Dove, Lifebuoy, Hellmann’s, and Omo, alongside trusted local names such as Blue Band, Pureit, and Suave. Unilever was established in the 1890s, and today has 171,000 employees
selling products in more than 190 countries.
Unilever has enjoyed significant growth in recent years, with more than half of its revenues coming from emerging markets. Management intends to capitalize on the company’s success in these markets and set an ambitious goal to double the company’s size in
||With a Microsoft private cloud infrastructure, we can provide IT at a lower cost and provide IT capacity faster. In short, we can react faster, which helps the business react faster.
| Mike Royle
Director of Enterprise Computing, Unilever
Every business unit in the company has responded to the growth goal by fostering a culture of continuous improvement, driving for small changes every day to increase speed, improve quality, and reduce costs. The IT organization wanted to devise a way to support
the company’s growth goal without doubling the company’s IT “footprint”—the cost of servers, data center power and cooling costs, and IT staff.
Actually, long before the company announced this growth goal, Mike Royle, Director of Enterprise Computing at Unilever, had made good progress toward trimming server counts and costs. In 2008, Unilever had more than 5,000 servers in its global data centers
and in hundreds of remote locations. Royle and his team began virtualizing servers by using VMware ESX software and reduced its physical servers by 65 percent. However, VMware was too expensive to proceed with.
Meanwhile, Royle and Roland Meier, Strategy and Technology Director for Unilever, closely tracked the progress of Microsoft virtualization software, and in late 2009 engaged Avanade to create a proof of concept around migrating to the Hyper-V technology
in the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. The business case for moving to Hyper-V focused on increasing data center consolidation, extending virtualization to remote office locations, and reducing management costs. “By migrating our VMware estate to
Hyper-V, we estimated a six-figure operational cost savings from lower licensing and support costs, power and cooling savings from fewer physical servers, and IT management savings,” Meier says.
The proof of concept was a success, and between 2009 and 2011, Avanade used its Next Generation Datacenter model and Migration Factory methodology to migrate most Unilever VMware virtual machines to Hyper-V and converted hundreds of physical servers to Hyper-V
virtual machines. In total, Avanade helped Unilever create 2,000 Hyper-V virtual machines.
“Avanade’s people are first rate; they tell it how it is,” says Royle. “They listened and responded to our requirements with a strong balance of ‘skin in the game’ and empathy.”
Even after reducing its physical server count by two-fifths, Unilever wanted to do more. IT costs were still higher than the company wanted and would only increase as the company grew. Additionally, while the IT staff had greatly reduced the time it took
to deploy servers, there were still too many manual steps involved in reacting to business needs.
In developing markets, in particular, where the company’s growth was focused, the IT staff wanted to meet business demands for IT services more efficiently. “Doing business in emerging markets requires customized approaches, more solution diversity, and
often shorter lead times,” Meier says. “Virtualization helped to increase IT efficiency and reduce costs, which are critical to sustainability. But we needed to accelerate overall service provisioning times, which required new system management tools and a
revamping of our operational processes.”
In January 2012, Unilever again engaged Avanade, this time to help it explore private cloud computing—a pool of virtualized server, storage, and networking resources that dynamically flex to accommodate ever-changing business needs, and is dedicated
to the use of a single organization. “When you put Microsoft System Center 2012 and the Windows Server 2012 operating system together, you have a really good story to tell in terms of cloud management,” says Garry Meaburn, Operational Effectiveness and Tooling
Manager, IT Infrastructure Services, at Unilever. “We suddenly saw a way to do rapid deployment, automation, and orchestration of IT services.”
||When you put Microsoft System Center 2012 and the Windows Server 2012 operating system together, you have a really good story to tell in terms of cloud management.
| Garry Meaburn
Operational Effectiveness and Tooling Manager, IT Infrastructure Services, Unilever
Windows Server 2012 is a cloud-optimized operating system, and Microsoft System Center 2012 is a cloud management platform, with virtual server creation, monitoring, and management integrated in one tool set and console.
Begin the Private Cloud Journey
Avanade worked with Unilever to identify scenarios that it might address with private cloud computing, which included automatic physical and virtual-server provisioning, IT service orchestration, and granular cost transparency for individual services.
“At the time, Unilever had a large Hyper-V virtualized environment, so it was placing a pretty big bet on Hyper-V and extending its Hyper-V environment into new frontiers,” says Ian Jordan, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Avanade. “Our
job was to share our expertise on Microsoft cloud solutions and help Unilever get the greatest value from its investment.”
With help from Avanade, Unilever created a private cloud in its global data centers that consisted of 38 eight-node clusters running 3,175 virtual machines. It has another 110 Hyper-V host servers in remote offices running a total of nearly 500 Hyper-V virtual
machines. “The important thing to emphasize is that these numbers will be increasing,” Meier says. “More of our physical servers will shift to virtual machines over time. We are running all our production workloads in the cloud except for failover-clustered
workloads, and we expect to shift those into the cloud when we upgrade to Windows Server 2012.”
Unilever is seeing virtual machine density of between 20 and 22 guests per host, and it expects to increase that as it optimizes memory allocation with Windows Server 2012. The company uses HP ProLiant servers and is currently shifting from rack-mount to
blade servers to be able to preconfigure hardware more easily.
Use a Single Cloud Management Console
Unilever is using System Center 2012 to automate many of the time-consuming manual tasks that previously slowed the delivery of IT services to the business. “The Virtual Machine Manager component of System Center 2012 has fabric management capabilities,
which allow us to manage the network and storage and speed up virtualization deployment,” says Meaburn. “Layered on top of fabric management are service templates, with which we can increase the agility of application deployment. We can use these capabilities
to deliver a public cloud-like experience to the business and rapidly deploy virtual machines and applications.”
In addition to Virtual Machine Manager, Unilever uses the App Controller component in System Center 2012 to automate self-service virtual machine provisioning, the Orchestrator component to create automated IT workflows, and the Operations Manager component
to monitor IT services and the underlying cloud fabric. Unilever has linked System Center 2012 with other applications such as its BMC Remedy help-desk software. When someone in the IT department requests new IT services, System Center works with Remedy and
other programs to process and approve the request, build the necessary virtual machines, configure them with needed software, and alert the requester that the resources are ready.
Improve Virtualization with Latest Software
Unilever is currently in the Windows Server 2012 Rapid Deployment Program, exploring the new features of for enhanced virtualization, scalability, failover clustering, network virtualization, and other capabilities that improve cloud computing.
“The new virtualization capabilities in Hyper-V are very important to us,” Meier says. “Windows Server 2012 closes the functionality gaps related to failover clustering and scalability that we had encountered. One feature that looks very promising is the
network virtualization capability, which will help us when we go from a decentralized to a centralized environment. Windows Server 2012 is the biggest change yet since Windows Server 2003 with regard to maturity, functionality, and maintainability. We’re very
excited about it.”
By switching from VMware to Hyper-V, Unilever was able to go further with virtualization and create a massive private cloud environment that it believes will absorb a doubling of business growth. The IT team can deliver IT services 40 percent faster, which
helps Unilever respond to markets faster. Unilever has eliminated thousands of physical servers, saving money and reducing electrical usage. The company is currently upgrading to Windows Server 2012 and hopes to move to deliver even more flexible IT services
by using a combination of private and public cloud computing.
Speed IT Service Delivery by 40 Percent, Move Faster in the Marketplace
By using private cloud computing, Unilever has been able to reduce server-build and service delivery times by 40 percent. With a more agile and efficient IT infrastructure, Unilever can get to market faster with new brands, products, ad campaigns, and business
initiatives. Unilever can better standardize IT services and offer a service menu that business users can select from and know costs up front.
||Windows Server 2012 is the biggest change yet since Windows Server 2003 with regard to maturity, functionality, and maintainability. We’re very excited about it.
| Roland Meier
Strategy and Technology Director, Unilever
“Reducing operational lead times by 40 percent and accompanying this speedup with a more lightweight and agile process framework will help us deliver to business requirements faster,” Royle says. “With a Microsoft private cloud infrastructure, we can provide
IT at a lower cost and provide IT capacity faster. In short, we can react faster, which helps the business react faster.”
Double Company Size without Increasing IT Costs
Its private cloud also helps Unilever meet its growth goals. With the automated capabilities provided by System Center 2012, Unilever has been able to eliminate manual work and errors and enhance proactive management services. “We can do more with our existing
teams,” Royle says. “The objective is to make us more fit for growth. Our business strategy is to double the company size within 10 years within the existing IT and environmental ‘footprint,’ and we are confident that we can do this. In percentage terms, we
are shrinking IT costs proportional to revenue growth.”
Giving the IT staff more advanced, automated tools also frees them of routine tasks and focuses them on higher-value activities, such as working with business users and evaluating new products. Over time, automated provisioning and cloud technologies will lead
Unilever to a broader, more application-oriented skill profile, rather than to less flexible and often more expensive narrow technical specializations.
Reduce Server Costs and Environmental Consequences
With a private cloud, Unilever has gained higher virtual machine density than was possible with virtualization alone, further reducing server-related costs. Unilever has reduced hardware and server power and cooling costs significantly since switching to Hyper-V.
Reducing its effect on the environment is just as important to Unilever as reducing its costs. Environmental sustainability is a core Unilever business objective, and Unilever has dramatically reduced its electrical consumption by reducing its server count.
Deliver IT Resources as Needed with Hybrid Cloud Model
Unilever is looking into using public cloud computing services, such as Windows Azure, to provide “burst” capacity to complement on-premises capacity. “With Windows Azure being extended to an infrastructure-as-a-service model and a platform-as-a-service model,
there’s the potential for Microsoft to create a true private-public cloud continuum by harmonizing the APIs [application programming interfaces], the runtime environment, and the management tool set so that they truly span the enterprise and the public cloud,”
Meier says. “If that scenario materializes, it will give us much more flexibility to right-size our provisioning model by moving workloads to the public cloud. Microsoft is best positioned to realize that potential.”
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
For more information, visit:
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:
For more information about Avanade services, visit the website at:
For more information about Unilever products and services, visit the website at: