Following a number of natural disasters, including the Queensland floods of 2010/2011, Suncorp Group had to send more than 5,000 employees home and others around the country to service claims. This promoted Suncorp to rethink how it delivered
desktops, and it undertook a desktop virtualization project. Suncorp estimates that by adopting Windows Server 2012, it could potentially save more than US$300,000 annually, maintain high availability across data centers, increase agility, and simplify its
Suncorp Group includes leading general insurance, banking, life insurance, and superannuation brands in Australia and New Zealand. The Brisbane, Queensland–based company employs approximately 16,000 people and has relationships with around 9 million
In January 2011, flooding in Queensland submerged whole neighborhoods, including many Suncorp office buildings. “Business continuity and disaster recovery moved front and center as a corporate priority,” says Karen Mac Mahon, Team Leader for Virtualization
at Suncorp Group. “We already had a ‘work from home’ initiative and were consolidating real estate. However, the floods highlighted the opportunity to create more flexible workplaces and empower our people to work from multiple locations. At the same time,
we could reduce operational costs.”
Giving employees virtual desktops—where applications and the client desktop environment run on a remote server and are delivered over the Internet—could also increase the speed at which the company could grow, because new employees would only require an
Internet connection to start working.
Suncorp used several virtual desktop models to facilitate remote work, including Citrix XenApp and VMware. It used Citrix XenApp to provide session virtualization to 5,500 employees who accessed a centralized installation of a generic desktop. For another
set of more than 1,500 employees who needed dedicated, personalized workstations, Suncorp used a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) model from various vendors, which provided custom desktop images hosted in individual virtual machines.
However, Suncorp had already invested in a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement license and wanted to take full advantage of it.
Suncorp joined the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) for Windows Server 2012 to evaluate the Hyper-V virtualization technology included in the operating system. The company had high availability with VMware and wanted to make sure that Hyper-V
could deliver the same levels. “We thought that we could create more business value and reduce costs by using Microsoft technologies,” Mac Mahon says.
||We could potentially save more than $300,000 annually in virtualization software licensing costs by switching to Hyper-V and fully utilizing our Microsoft license. This is a significant saving for any company.
| Karen Mac Mahon
Team Leader for Virtualization, Suncorp Group
Suncorp worked with Microsoft Services Consulting to set up an environment to test the replication of VDI workloads across servers and data centers. “Our Microsoft Services consultant quickly addressed all our questions and provided a direct link to the product
team,” Mac Mahon says.
Suncorp tested the Hyper-V live migration, storage migration, and “shared nothing” live migration features. Live migration supports simultaneous virtual machine migrations with no downtime, in and outside of a cluster. Hyper-V storage migration allows for
transfer of virtual hard disks to a new location without the downtime required to upgrade or migrate storage or perform storage maintenance. “Shared nothing” live migration provides the ability to migrate a virtual machine from one Hyper-V host to another
host that isn’t part of the same cluster, shares no storage, and has only a gigabit Ethernet connection to the first virtual machine. “All these features performed as we’d hoped,” says Bryan Summerhayes, Subject Matter Expert for Virtualization at Suncorp
Group. “The features compare well to VMware vMotion and will be critical to day-to-day hardware and storage maintenance.”
By using the transparent failover feature in Windows Server 2012, which enables file shares to be moved between nodes without interrupting applications, and Hyper-V Network Virtualization, which provides a way to isolate network traffic on a common infrastructure
without using virtual local area networks, Suncorp can further enhance availability. Suncorp will use the Network Interface Card (NIC) Teaming and Hyper-V Extensible Switch features to deliver robust network bandwidth to each server with fewer network adapters.
The company also anticipates that Hyper-V Dynamic Memory in Windows Server 2012 will help it improve virtual machine density. Suncorp is evaluating Microsoft System Center 2012 and likes that there are so many management packs that it can use to centrally
manage all its data center elements.
By switching to Hyper-V for its VDI environment, Suncorp expects to realize the following benefits:
Reduce software licensing costs. The most significant savings will be in eliminating virtualization software licensing costs in its VDI environment. “We could potentially save more than [US]$300,000 annually in virtualization software licensing
costs by switching to Hyper-V and fully utilizing our Microsoft license,” Mac Mahon says. “This is a significant saving for any company.”
Maintain high availability. By using Hyper-V Network Virtualization, Hyper-V live migration, and other features, Suncorp can achieve high levels of availability within and across data centers. This will enable the staff to more easily perform
maintenance on Hyper-V host servers without affecting VDI sessions.
Increase business agility. Because it will have a less expensive VDI infrastructure, Suncorp can expand its use of VDI and realize even greater real estate savings. It will also help the company be more agile in hiring more employees to
support business growth.
Simplify IT infrastructure. Another benefit will come from standardizing on Microsoft software, which will help Suncorp simplify its infrastructure. “Having one vendor simplifies things,” Mac Mahon says. “The hypervisor works more smoothly
with the operating system, troubleshooting problems is easier, and managing licenses is simpler.”
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