NTTX Select regularly puts the latest Microsoft data center software to work to deliver innovative hosting solutions at lower costs. It is upgrading to the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system and Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 data management
solution to deliver unprecedented levels of flexibility with a hybrid-cloud solution. Customers can move applications between their on-premises infrastructures, NTTX data centers, and Windows Azure to gain the best performance, scalability, and cost structure.
NTTX is using Windows Server 2012 R2 storage innovations to reduce storage requirements by 80 percent. It is also helping customers deliver a better user experience by supporting a broad set of client devices with centralized management. With the many new
capabilities included in the Microsoft products, NTTX is able to design better solutions and grow its revenues.
NTTX Select is a service provider that offers managed IT solutions for businesses throughout the United Kingdom. Services include customized virtual desktops; hosted Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SharePoint Server, and Microsoft Lync Server; and
cloud-based storage, backup, and antispam/antivirus solutions.
As more businesses have become interested in cloud computing, NTTX has watched its business grow and its competition increase. More companies are comfortable running key businesses applications off-premises in hosted or public-cloud environments, such as
Windows Azure. Windows Azure provides compute, storage, and IT management services for hosting customer-developed applications and services.
||With its hybrid-cloud software, Microsoft has made it very easy for our customers to stop thinking in terms of on-premises or off-premises and to just think in terms of the solution they need.
| Philip Moss
Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer, NTTX Select
However, NTTX has listened to, and shared, customer frustrations regarding the limitations of the cloud paradigm. “There has been a big gully between on-premises solutions, solutions run by hosting providers, and solutions running in public-cloud environments,”
says Philip Moss, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer of NTTX Select. “There has really been no linkage between them, no compatibility in design, functionality, or management. If customers have applications running in their own data centers
and by one or more cloud providers, they have a big management headache and no ability to move workloads between the different environments. This inflexibility has been a limitation of the whole cloud model.”
As NTTX struggled to advise customers on how to bridge the divides between their own data centers and cloud environments, it worked to out-pace and out-price its hosting competitors. NTTX prides itself on getting new cloud services to market faster than
its competition; after all, that’s why companies move to the cloud, to gain access to new services faster and more cost-effectively than they can create themselves. But NTTX’s new-product development cycle is dependent on that of its hardware and software
partners, notably Dell and Microsoft. NTTX can’t enhance its hosting services until these companies enhance the servers and operating systems on which NTTX services are built.
“Even after our vendors announce new capabilities, it takes us months to integrate multiple hardware, software, and middleware products,” Moss says. “Windows Server 2012 represented a huge leap forward by building into the operating system many capabilities
that we previously had to buy separately. But we still had to wait two to three years for each new version of Windows. Our market is incredibly competitive, and we want to be the first out with the next big thing.” NTTX also needs to offer competitive pricing,
as hosting providers are under tremendous pressure to deliver better services at lower costs.
A last business problem that NTTX and its customers faced is the phenomenon of employees using personal devices at work—often called “the consumerization of IT” or “BYOD” (bring your own device). Moss says that the BYOD phenomenon has created a “Wild West”
environment in businesses. “It’s become a nightmare for IT staffs to manage, control, and secure so many tablets and smartphones,” he says. “Companies often purchase third-party management solutions, but these are complex and expensive and still don’t provide
great endpoint management.”
Because it is a longtime partner of Microsoft, NTTX Select participated in the Rapid Deployment Program for the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system and Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 data management solution—and quickly moved both products into
production. NTTX is taking advantage of a wealth of new features in these products to meet all these customer challenges. It also praises the Microsoft strategy of joining the release cycles of Windows Server and System Center and increasing their release
cadence—from every two to three years to every year.
Enabling Hybrid Cloud
“Microsoft was really thinking of service providers when it designed these products,” Moss says. “Getting System Center releases in lockstep with Windows Server is a huge benefit to service providers, because it allows us to build new services faster.”
||There has been a big gully between on-premises solutions, solutions run by hosting providers, and solutions running in public-cloud environments.
| Philip Moss
Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer, NTTX Select
NTTX is also excited about the Windows Azure Pack for Windows Server, a collection of Windows Azure technologies that NTTX has deployed in its data centers to quickly and easily create virtual guest sessions, track usage, optimize performance, and provide multitenant
management. Windows Azure Pack gives service providers and enterprise companies the very same technologies for creating websites and virtual machines that Microsoft uses in its Windows Azure data centers. It also includes a management portal.
Windows Azure Pack makes it much easier for NTTX and its customers to build private-cloud environments in their data centers that are fully compatible with Windows Azure data centers. A private cloud is a flexible pool of dynamically configurable virtualized
IT resources that are dedicated to a single organization’s use.
Windows Server 2012 introduced a number of storage technologies such as Storage Spaces that NTTX quickly put to use to reduce storage costs and increase flexibility. Windows Server 2012 R2 expanded on these with innovations that further reduce disk utilization
and costs. Storage tiering is one of these; it allows files to move between hard disk drive (HDD) and solid state drive (SSD) tiers within the same volume. Windows tracks data “temperature”—frequency of use—and moves “hot” data to the high-speed SSD tier and
“cold” data to the HDD tier. Storage tiering allows NTTX to optimize storage price-performance.
Equally critical to NTTX is data deduplication improvements in Windows Server 2012 R2, which deliver capacity optimization, scale, performance, and reliability improvements at no additional cost. Hyper-V virtualization technology in Windows Server 2012 introduced
a new version of the virtual hard drive (VHD) format called VHDX, which has a much larger storage capacity than the older VHD format. A Windows Server 2012 R2 feature called remote VHD/VHDX storage deduplication allows for increased virtual desktop infrastructure
(VDI) storage density and read/write speeds, which is important to NTTX because virtual desktops are a big part of its business. Windows Server 2012 R2 also offers shared VHDX files, which NTTX uses to create virtual machine clusters using shared VHDX as storage.
This eliminates the need for expensive iSCSI storage.
Storage QoS (quality of service) is another new feature that NTTX uses to restrict disk throughput for overactive or disruptive virtual machines and can be configured dynamically while the virtual machine is running. NTTX uses it to prevent live migrations
from consuming too much network capacity and affecting the customer experience.
A number of availability-related features in Windows Server 2012 R2 are critical to NTTX being able to deliver high levels of reliability to customers. Live migration has been enhanced to enable workload migration between different versions of Windows
Server. This makes it easier for NTTX to perform in-place system upgrades without taking virtual machines offline and incurring downtime. “We can bring up a new cluster running Windows Server 2012 R2 and migrate Windows Server 2012 clusters to it without affecting
users,” Moss says.
Microsoft enhanced Hyper-V Replica, a virtual machine replication feature, by enabling tertiary site replication and increasing the replication frequency to as frequently as every 30 seconds. These improvements help NTTX protect customer workloads.
Better Client Device Support
A final set of enhancements relate to better support for and management of client devices. Remote Desktop Services (RDS) in Windows Server 2012 R2 supports lower-cost storage options such as SMB-based file shares, which frees NTTX from reliance on expensive
storage area networks for the VDI piece of business. RDS performance is also better, thanks to VHD/VHDX storage deduplication.
In addition to RDS enhancements in Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 provide better client device management in terms of authorizing devices, remotely wiping them in the event of loss or theft, centralizing security
settings across on-premises and cloud environments, and much more. “Microsoft has made people-centric a key pillar of the Windows Server 2012 R2 release,” Moss says. “It understands that it’s about empowering people, not managing devices.”
NTTX has deployed Windows Server 2012 R2 on approximately 50 physical servers, which host nearly 5,000 virtual machines. It uses Dell PowerEdge servers, Dell PowerVault MD1200 storage enclosure for disk storage, and Dell PowerConnect 5500 Series switches.
It runs virtually all its Microsoft workloads on Windows Server 2012 R2: Exchange Server, Lync Server, SQL Server 2012, SharePoint Server 2013, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and VDI.
By upgrading its data centers to Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2, NTTX Select can offer customers a compelling hybrid-cloud solution that lets customers fluidly move workloads between their on-premises infrastructures, NTTX data centers,
and Windows Azure. By taking advantage of Windows Server 2012 R2 storage innovations, NTTX has reduced storage requirements by 80 percent. With the many new capabilities included in the latest Microsoft products, NTTX is able to design better solutions and
grow its revenues. It can also help organizations deliver a better user experience by extending applications and desktops to a variety of client devices.
Hybrid Cloud Increases Choice and Agility
||Getting System Center releases in lockstep with Windows Server is a huge benefit to service providers, because it allows us to build new services faster.
| Philip Moss
Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer, NTTX Select
Moss says that he and his customers are relieved to finally have a “bridge” between the different IT infrastructures available today. Customers can run their solution wherever it makes the most sense strategically and economically and move workloads
to other infrastructures as needs change. Hybrid cloud computing lets customers deploy solutions on-premises using Windows Azure Pack and transparently port those solutions to NTTX as a service provider or to Windows Azure, or to a combination of the two,
which is very attractive.
“With its hybrid-cloud software, Microsoft has made it very easy for our customers to stop thinking in terms of on-premises or off-premises and to just think in terms of the solution they need,” Moss says.
New Services Promote Business Growth
Because Microsoft has accelerated its product refresh cadence and has added so many new technologies to Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2, NTTX can accelerate and enrich its own service delivery. This helps NTTX be more competitive and
puts new solutions in customers’ hands sooner. “These latest Microsoft products help us save money, with technologies such as Storage Spaces and Hyper-V Replica, and they also give us new services that we can use to broaden our market and grow our revenues,”
NTTX has historically focused on small and midmarket companies, because few enterprise companies were interested in moving big workloads to a service provider or into the public cloud. However, with enhancements in Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center
2012 R2, NTTX can now target enterprise companies that may have large line-of-business applications that run on-premises on multiple physical servers. “Customers can now run applications in a private cloud built on Windows Azure Pack and get immediate portability
to a hybrid-cloud model,” says Moss. “The ability to offer hybrid-cloud services to enterprises could represent a £3 million [US$4.8 million] revenue opportunity for us in the next 36 months.”
Storage Innovations Reduce Requirements by 80 Percent
Cost savings for NTTX come from innovations such as Storage Spaces and enhanced data deduplication. “There are really two major places to improve data center efficiency: virtual machine density and storage,” Moss says. “Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V addressed
virtual machine density, and Windows Server 2012 R2 addresses storage. Because we gain VHDX storage deduplication and tiered storage, on our VDI workloads we are seeing an 80 percent disk utilization reduction. If 1,000 virtual machines required 40 terabytes
of storage, they now require 4 terabytes. We save £1.96 [US$3.00] per virtual machine per month; on 1,000 virtual machines, that’s £24,000 [US$37,300] a year.”
The shared VHDX guest clustering feature makes it much easier and less expensive to create virtual machine-based clusters. “If my customer needs a clustered SQL Server configuration, I can use simpler shared VHDX files rather than an expensive iSCSI infrastructure
running on a SAN, at a savings of £12,000 to £31,000 (US$20,000 to $50,000) in maintenance costs,” Moss says.
Better Device Support Delivers Better User Experience
The savings continue in the area of device management. NTTX and its customers can retire third-party device management applications and use the built-in features of Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 to more securely manage an array of
“Far more important than the cost savings here is giving users a great experience,” Moss says. “Companies can finally let employees use the devices of their choice at work, knowing that their corporate data will be safe and that users’ personal data and
settings will not be upset. What IT manager doesn’t want happier, more productive users?”
Transform the data center
The hybrid cloud from Microsoft transforms the data center by extending existing investments in skills and technology with public cloud services and a common set of management tools. With an on-premises infrastructure connected to the Windows Azure platform,
you can deliver services faster and scale up or down quickly to meet changing needs.
For more information about transforming the data center, go to:
For More Information
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For more information about NTTX Select products and services, visit the website at: