British fashion designer Paul Smith has a global network of retail outlets managed by 15 IT staff members in two data centers in the United Kingdom. It wanted to expand its virtualized environment and embrace cloud computing to further increase
efficiencies and contain costs. It used Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V to virtualize business-critical applications—and achieved a 10 percent improvement in their performance. Data center administrators can run almost triple the amount of virtual machines
per server and provision new servers in a day, instead of four weeks. Paul Smith expects to virtualize 30 percent more of its servers by the end of 2012 and to save more than £840,000 (US$1.8 million) a year in IT costs. It can also transfer one full-time
equivalent from data center administration to work on IT projects that drive innovation in the business.
Nottingham-based designer Paul Smith showed his first menswear collection in Paris under the Paul Smith label in 1976. Today, there are 14 different collections—produced in England and Italy—under the Paul Smith brand. In addition to the company’s 17
shops in England, Paul Smith shops are found in fashion capitals around the world, including 200 locations in Japan. Each one is a showcase for diverse objects that complement the clothing collections with a selection of jewelry, books, art, and antiques.
The Paul Smith IT department consists of 15 people who support the business on a global scale from the Nottingham head office. The centralized IT model works on a three-tier structure, with head office and the company’s UK-based data centers as Tier 1; branch
offices in fashion capitals such as Paris, Milan, New York, and Tokyo as Tier 2; and the company’s 35 retail stores as Tier 3.
||We are using Windows Server 2012 to gain a high-density, scalable environment that’s easier to manage. Now we can save time in the data center and focus on supporting strategic business goals.
| Lee Bingham
Head of IT, Paul Smith
“Our core business has more than 1,200 employees and from an IT perspective our team is relatively small for the services we provide to the business,” says Lee Bingham, Head of IT at Paul Smith. “We have two primary data centers in Nottingham and a satellite
data center in London.”
From its inception, Paul Smith has worked with Risual, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold competencies, to build a cost-effective, interoperable IT infrastructure that delivers real business value. To that end, the company has standardized
on Microsoft technologies. “Aligning our business with Microsoft and working with Risual has been an extremely successful strategy,” says Bingham. “While we have made great progress with optimizing our data centers, and the level of service that IT delivers
to the business is already high, we are always interested in the latest technologies to improve efficiency, lower costs, and better serve the business.”
In April 2008, to provide highly available applications and services to the business and to boost disaster recovery capabilities, Paul Smith deployed a geographically redundant virtualized environment in its primary and secondary data centers. The IT
teams from Risual and Paul Smith used the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system and Hyper-V virtualization technology, configuring eight HP ProLiant DL 580 servers in a high-availability cluster replicated at both sites and hosting 225 virtual machines,
for an average of 28 virtual machines per host. At Tier 2 locations, the company used Hyper-V running on a single server to host on average 15 virtual machines to satisfy local IT requirements. To replicate business data back to the data centers in the United
Kingdom, the company uses Distributed File System (DFS) Replication, a component of the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system. DFS Replication is a multiple-master replication engine that administrators can use to keep folders synchronized between servers
across limited bandwidth network connections.
By 2011, Paul Smith had virtualized approximately 50 percent of its servers. “We had an HP EVA 6100 storage architecture that allowed us to failover virtual machine workloads between our geographically dispersed clusters within a five-second window, and
we used Microsoft System Center data center solutions to administer both physical and virtual servers,” says Bingham. “We had come a long way, but we wanted to drive down costs even more—the physical servers, the power, the hardware maintenance—by virtualizing
up to 80 percent of all our servers.”
However, Paul Smith was unable to virtualize applications that were based on Microsoft SQL Server data management software and certain important line-of-business applications, such as Cognos, the company’s business intelligence solution, because of their
criticality and performance requirements. “We had to keep some applications running in a physical environment because Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008 R2 supports virtual machines with a maximum of four virtual processors and 64 gigabytes of memory,” says Bingham.
“We needed a more scalable virtualization solution so we could reach that 80 percent benchmark of virtualized servers in our data centers.”
Achieving that goal would help Paul Smith IT staff respond more quickly to business needs and save the company money required to procure and manually build physical servers. ”With physical workloads, additional capacity requires additional hardware,” says
Bingham. “By the time we source the hardware, wait for delivery, and provision a server for service it could take four weeks. And every new machine costs approximately £5,000 [US$8,000]. We also pay for administration labor. We wanted to minimize these costs
by virtualizing more servers, even those hosting applications that run on 16 or more processors.”
Paul Smith also wanted the performance and reliability of technologies such as network interface card (NIC) teaming. This is the process of combining two or more physical NICs into one single logical NIC, which can be used for network fault tolerance and
load balancing. “Paul Smith used a mixture of NIC vendors and there were time-consuming compatibility issues that forced us to segment network configuration among cluster hosts,” says Richard Proud, Director at Risual. “Instead, Paul Smith wanted to converge
networks for better bandwidth and manageability.”
Plans for Private Cloud
Once it moves its non-virtualized workloads into a virtual environment, Paul Smith plans to exploit the additional agility and automation benefits that it would get by building private clouds. IT staff can enable a more responsive, on-demand allocation
of pooled IT resources—such as applications, networks, servers, storage, and services—for employees to use when and where they are needed.
“We see private cloud as the next step in our virtualization journey,” says Bingham. “Building a private cloud infrastructure will enable us to be more agile in responding to business and end-user requirements, through self-service capabilities and automation.
We wanted the best technology in place to make that a reality.”
In March 2012, Paul Smith joined the Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) for the Windows Server 2012 operating system. The company wanted to use the more flexible and powerful virtualization technologies within Windows Server 2012 to improve IT service to
the business, realize cost savings, and boost operational efficiencies. Paul Smith IT staff members worked with Risual to evaluate Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 and work out a strategy to transform the data centers into a cloud platform capable of supporting
large, high-performance virtual machines.
||We wanted to drive down costs even more—the physical servers, the power, the hardware maintenance—by virtualizing up to 80 percent of all our servers.
| Lee Bingham
Head of IT, Paul Smith
“The RDP was a perfect way for Paul Smith to see how the latest version of Windows Server could help them take their virtualization plans to the next level,” says Proud. “The new version of Hyper-V has capabilities and features that Paul Smith can use to increase
the density and performance of virtual machines per server. It also has better memory management capabilities and efficient tools to further optimize their data centers and reduce administration overhead.”
Paul Smith can use Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012, which supports up to 64 virtual processors and 1 terabyte of memory for each virtual machine, to virtualize Cognos and other processing-intensive applications. The teams from Paul Smith and Risual began
by building a proof-of-concept (POC) environment that included a 4-node, HP ProLiant DL 580 server cluster across the two data centers and hosting 1,000 test virtual machines. The environment included a Cisco Catalyst 6500 core network with 3750 access layer
switches over a CAT-7 infrastructure configured in a hub and spoke design in which all network traffic moves along spokes connected to the hub at the center. The IT teams built the virtual machines to test stability and compatibility issues and to make sure
that the clusters could interoperate with Active Directory Domain Services (the directory service that is an integral feature of the Windows operating system) and with its HP EVA 6100 centralized storage area network (SAN) architecture.
“HP provides high quality computing devices at competitive pricing and has been our trusted vendor of choice for the last eight years,” says Bingham. “It was a simple choice to move forwards with Windows Server 2012 on HP hardware.”
Both the Risual and Paul Smith teams found deployment straightforward. “Right from the start, Windows Server 2012 was extremely reliable and feature rich,” recalls Proud. “We had a trouble-free deployment of the different POC environments across the different
builds. And it immediately worked with the HP SAN and with Active Directory; there were no application compatibility issues.”
In July 2012, Paul Smith upgraded the 4-node, geographically dispersed cluster to a release preview build of Windows Server 2012 and ran 1,000 test virtual machines on it. Then IT staffers moved the cluster into production, confident that they had more than
enough scalability to achieve the company’s server virtualization goals.
In the production environment, the IT team virtualized Cognos, the beta version of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013, and other line-of-business applications running on Microsoft SQL Server 2012. Paul Smith is upgrading the eight existing Hyper-V host servers
to Windows Server 2012 and, together with the four from the RDP, it will have 12 host servers running Windows Server 2012.
||With Windows Server 2012, Paul Smith has all the virtual cores, virtual memory, and storage interaction it needs, which is why they can virtualize those more intensive workloads.
| Richard Proud
“Right now, we have 200 virtual machines in our production environment, but that production environment is now capable of hosting 1,000 virtual machines,” says Bingham. “We still have 500 physical servers in our data centers. By the end of 2012, we’ll have
virtualized 40 of them that we have identified as high priority and then we will continue on with virtualization through the rest of 2013 to achieve our 80 percent virtualization benchmark.”
Paul Smith also plans to use the NIC Teaming feature in Windows Server 2012. “We created different networks for the services coming into the physical servers and used NIC Teaming to aggregate each of those services,” says Proud. “There are six networks that
we present to each server host and, with 12 NICs in each server, we can use the logic built into the operating system to simplify management and boost performance.”
The IT teams at Paul Smith and Risual will use Hyper-V Replica at all Tier 2 sites. This feature of Windows Server 2012 provides a storage-agnostic and workload-agnostic solution that replicates virtual machines between two locations for business continuity.
The teams plan to upgrade the hypervisors at Tier 2 sites to Windows Server 2012 and use Hyper-V Replica to replicate copies of business-critical virtual machines back to the data centers in the United Kingdom.
System administrators at Paul Smith are also interested in using the live migration and storage migration capabilities in Hyper-V to move multiple active virtual machines and virtual hard disks between physical hosts or storage locations with no downtime.
“One of the six networks dedicated to the Windows Server 2012 environment is a live migration network,” says Proud. “So if we need to deploy a security update or perform some management tasks on a server host, we can failover all the virtual machines running
on that host. Before this would all have to be scripted and would have taken 30 minutes per server, requiring manual intervention for planning, execution, and testing.”
Paul Smith also plans to deploy Microsoft System Center 2012 to further automate and help manage its virtual and physical environments as it moves toward building a private cloud. “With System Center and Windows Server 2012, we have a cohesive strategy for
delivering a private cloud infrastructure,” says Bingham. “In our vision, System Center 2012 will be used to deliver IT services in a dynamic, proactive way: lots of self service and automation to further reduce the costs of the data center after we have virtualized
as many servers as we can.”
With Windows Server 2012, Paul Smith has a complete virtualization solution to introduce cloud computing in its data centers, including the high-density and performance capabilities required to expand its virtualized environment, contain costs, and drive
business agility. “We are using Windows Server 2012 to gain a high-density, scalable environment that’s easier to manage,” says Bingham. “Now we can save time in the data center and focus on supporting strategic business goals.”
Created Scalable Virtualization Platform
Paul Smith is using Windows Server 2012 to achieve its goal of virtualizing up to 80 percent of its servers. “With Windows Server 2012, Paul Smith has all the virtual cores, virtual memory, and storage interaction it needs, which is why they can virtualize
those more intensive workloads,” says Proud. “Cognos is running on a virtual machine with 16 virtual cores for the SQL Server tier and 12 cores serving the application layer. This is representative of how that system runs on its physical servers.”
||By moving Cognos into the Windows Server 2012 virtual environment, current benchmark figures show an increase of 10 percent for compute and storage performance compared to running on a physical server.
| Lee Bingham
Head of IT, Paul Smith
By the end of 2012, Paul Smith will have a virtualized production environment configured to handle any expected workloads well into the future. ”Paul Smith is finally achieving its virtualization strategy, which is the foundation for cost savings and business
agility,” says Bingham. “The company will have room for more than 1,000 virtual machines, which means we have future-proofed the data center for the next three years.”
Increased Performance by 10 Percent
Not only is Paul Smith virtualizing its business-critical applications such as Cognos, but with Windows Server 2012, it is also improving the performance of these applications. The IT staff used NIC Teaming to aggregate bandwidth into the physical servers,
going from a 2-gigabyte aggregated network into the guest operating system to a 4-gigabyte aggregated network.
“NIC Teaming operates seamlessly with our HP servers connected to our Cisco Catalyst network,” says Bingham. “All Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V server hosts connect via fibre channel to our HP SAN solution using a multi-tiered storage architecture. By moving
Cognos into the Windows Server 2012 virtual environment, current benchmark figures show an increase of 10 percent for compute and storage performance compared to running on a physical server. That’s a great achievement.”
Increased Density by Almost 200 Percent
Prior to deploying Windows Server 2012, each Hyper-V server hosted 28 virtual machines. This scenario changed significantly during the RDP when IT staff members tested 1,000 virtual machines running on a 4-node cluster. Since adding that 4-node cluster
to the existing eight host servers in the production environment, they now have 12 servers running Windows Server 2012 and configured to host 1,000 virtual machines.
“Paul Smith can use Hyper-V to increase virtual machine density and derive more value from hardware by running more workloads faster,” says Proud. “The company can now increase density by almost 200 percent, from 28 virtual machines per host server to 83
virtual machines per host server.”
Reduced Costs by $1.8 Million in First Year
As a result of increasing the density and computing power of virtual machines, Paul Smith was able to reduce hardware acquisition and maintenance costs. By the end of 2012, it will have virtualized 40 servers and migrated them to the Windows Server 2012
virtualization environment. “We will be able to take 40 physical servers off the maintenance contract and save £800,000 [US$1.2 million] a year,” says Bingham. “We’ll also be saving £40,000 [US$64,000] in annual power costs.”
The company also expects to avoid significant costs at the Tier 2 sites, even while it improves business continuity from its global offices. Paul Smith will use Hyper-V Replica to replicate the data back to its data centers and improve its ability to architect
enhanced disaster recovery for Tier 2 sites.
“Hyper-V provides a more seamless way to protect data and return services across geographies,” says Bingham. “We don’t need to build high-availability architecture at the branch sites; instead we can get the same level of availability and maximize service
quality by using Hyper-V Replica at 50 percent of the cost. This is especially important in New York, which acts as a host and provides services for the rest of the United States, so high availability is very important. We can deliver that now without asking
the business for six more servers and flying two administrators over to set it up and look after it.”
Improved Business Agility, Innovation
By working with Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012, the Paul Smith IT staff expects to build a dynamic data center and cloud infrastructure with more flexible workloads and automated processes. They can use features in Hyper-V that promote virtual
machine mobility, such as simultaneous live migration to speed up server maintenance and reduce down time.
“Now we have the capability of moving hundreds of virtual machines at one time, so we can move more quickly in response to business needs. We expect to save approximately 24 hours if we need to migrate an entire set of virtual machines from one data center
to the other,” says Bingham. “And compared to the physical environment, when we virtualize our servers, we expect to save four weeks in provisioning time. That’s great for business agility. Once a server goes live in our virtualized environment, we can use
System Center 2012 to manage that application in an automated way.”
Paul Smith plans to use System Center 2012 to automate and simplify data center management, which will enable the company to reposition one full-time equivalent from server administration to IT projects that promise more immediate business value.
“We are using Windows Server 2012 to build a cloud infrastructure so that we can spend less time managing servers in the data center and more time working for the business and driving innovation in the retail and online space,” concludes Bingham.
Windows Server 2012
For More Information
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
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