4-page Case Study
Posted: 11/14/2011
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Kroll Factual Data Firm Adopts Advanced Virtualization Solution to Boost IT Efficiency, Cloud Readiness

Kroll Factual Data, which provides credit reports and related services to more than 25,000 customers, has a history as an early adopter and pioneer of data center virtualization technology. In 2008, the company used the Hyper-V technology in Windows Server 2008, together with Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, to reduce its server holdings from 650 to 22. Kroll wanted to build on the massive efficiency gains from this initiative by increasing automation and introducing cloud management principles into its virtualized environment. The company chose to join an early adoption program for System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, which combines resource optimization enhancements with innovative fabric and cloud management capabilities. Now, Kroll Factual Data anticipates continued cost savings and greater IT productivity in managing its virtualized assets.

Situation
Kroll Factual Data is a leading provider of independent verification services to financial institutions, property management firms, and other businesses. Serving more than 25,000 customers, the company handles more than 300,000 transactions a day. Kroll Factual Data is a subsidiary of Kroll, the world’s leading risk consulting company, and has 300 employees.

Kroll Factual Data, which operates in the highly competitive information services market, is always looking for ways to differentiate its offerings. “One of the ways we’ve successfully done this through the years is by guaranteeing as close to 100 percent availability for customer-facing products as possible,” says Chris Steffen, Principal Technical Architect for Kroll Factual Data. To support this goal, the company maintains a network operations center that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To ensure high availability of its network infrastructure, Kroll Factual Data needs the ability to expand its data center capacity at a moment’s notice. Because it serves the mortgage industry, the company regularly experiences increased demand for its services following changes to interest rates or federal lending policies. “We can see upwards of a 15 percent jump in transaction volume immediately after the federal government makes an announcement about lowering interest rates,” says Steffen.

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* We’re working toward a fully automated production environment that runs at the exact resource capacity needed. System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 will play a big part in making that happen. *

Chris Steffen
Principal Technical Architect, Kroll Factual Data

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In 2003, executives at Kroll Factual Data began to explore the potential benefits offered by server virtualization technology, which makes it possible to configure individual virtual machines within a single physical or host server. They identified a number of goals for this early virtualization initiative. These included using the technology to gain on-demand capacity, to enhance business continuity through greater system redundancy, and to pare down the company’s IT operating costs.

After closely monitoring the virtualization software market for several years, the company ultimately decided to deploy the Hyper-V technology included with the Windows Server 2008 operating system. Kroll Factual Data then used Windows Server 2008 Datacenter with Hyper-V to dramatically reduce the number of physical servers in its production environment from 652 1U Rackmount computers to 22 Dell PowerEdge servers. Each host server runs approximately 30 virtual machines.

Kroll Factual Data used Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 to monitor its 22 physical servers. And it implemented Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 to configure, deploy, and manage its virtual machines. After virtualizing 85 percent of its infrastructure, Kroll Factual Data enjoyed substantial benefits, including a 90 percent reduction in energy usage and an improvement in its response time to increased business volume. “We went from needing two weeks to acquire, update, and deploy physical servers in our data center to deploying new compute resources in less than 15 minutes,” says Steffen.

The company wanted to build on its remarkable success by taking advantage of continued advancements in virtualization technology. “When we saw how much we could achieve by using the Microsoft virtualization solution to shift to a much more efficient infrastructure model, we immediately started asking ourselves: what’s next?” says Steffen. As a way of boosting time and cost savings, executives envisioned a dynamic data center that could automatically adjust to meet precise capacity needs based on fluctuations in demand. And they wanted to explore the advantages of applying private cloud principles to the company’s data center environment to reach this goal. The IT team also hoped to gain flexibility in rapidly provisioning new capacity and extending new self-service capabilities to the business—while retaining the necessary control over its cloud architecture to meet regulatory requirements.

Solution
Based on the outstanding results it achieved with Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Manager 2008, Kroll Factual Data was committed to working with Microsoft to take the next step in implementing its enterprise virtualization strategy. “We initially looked at several other cloud management solutions, including VMware,” says Steffen. “Beyond the cost savings, which were significant, we’d already experienced firsthand the maturity and the stability of Microsoft virtualization technology,” says Steffen. “We knew we could use our team’s familiarity with existing infrastructure management tools from Microsoft to start bringing the benefits of private cloud to our organization right away.”

Early Adoption: A Straightforward Decision
As executives evaluated the enhancements offered in Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, they were eager to participate in an early adoption program for the technology. “We’ve taken advantage of the power of System Center Virtual Machine Manager for many years now,” says Steffen. “So when we learned about all of the updates to the technology, adoption was as natural for us as a fish taking to water.” In addition to prerelease access to the software, the company valued the chance to provide feedback to product engineers from Microsoft to help shape the direction of the technology. “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to help guide the roadmap for a product that continues to be at the forefront of the data center virtualization movement,” says Steffen.

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* Each time VMware comes out with a new virtualization product, I give it a very close look. And each time, I reach the same conclusion: there’s simply no better value on the market than Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager. *

Chris Steffen
Principal Technical Architect, Kroll Factual Data

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Simplified Provisioning and Management

To save time and effort, administrators at Kroll Factual Data can now use Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to provision bare metal machines—servers that do not have an operating system installed—for use in a virtualized cluster. “We can handle the entire process of provisioning Hyper-V host clusters directly from within the Administrator Console in System Center Virtual Machine Manager, instead of using multiple tools like we did before,” says Steffen.

Kroll Factual Data also appreciates the innovative features in Virtual Machine Manager 2012 for optimizing host clusters to support improved application performance and reduced power consumption. By using the Dynamic Optimization feature, Kroll administrators now have more granular control in defining the utilization threshold for moving virtual machines from one cluster to another. And, with the Power Optimization settings, the company can consolidate virtual machines on fewer hosts to further reduce its carbon footprint and save on energy costs.

Administrators can also configure automated distribution of updates to clustered hosts to minimize service disruptions to virtual machines. “In the past, updating virtual machine clusters required a lot of planning and manual intervention,” says Steffen. “Now, we can use Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to orchestrate and automate the entire update process for us.”

Flexible Tools for Deploying Cloud Infrastructure
By using System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, Kroll Factual Data can more easily configure and manage the infrastructure that supports virtualized systems to create on-premises private clouds. Staff can use the network and storage management features in the solution to quickly discover, model, and allocate these resources as abstracted components of a cloud. Self-service users can then create virtual machines and deploy and manage their applications in the private cloud without worrying about the underlying infrastructure.

Kroll Factual Data plans to use the new service lifecycle management capabilities in Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to accelerate development of distributed applications. Administrators currently use the Service Template Designer to streamline coordination between the IT organization and the company’s business application development and quality assurance teams. By using this tool set, which incorporates an intuitive contextual interface, IT staff can quickly create templates that define all of the fabric resources associated with a service, including compute, storage, and network components. Administrators can then provide these templates to application developers for use throughout the development and quality assurance testing processes.

Fine-Tuned Performance Management
Kroll Factual Data is also eager to use the expanded performance management capabilities in Virtual Machine Manager 2012. With access to the Windows PowerShell 2.0 command-line interface and scripting language in Windows Server 2008, the company gains improved visibility into the health of its virtualized environment—from the hypervisor to the application that runs on it. “With Virtual Machine Manager 2012, we have unparalleled access to performance data—from the virtual machine level up to the application,” says Steffen. “In particular, with the new Windows PowerShell scripts in the latest release, we have more fine-tuned control over our virtualized environment than ever.”

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* With Virtual Machine Manager 2012, we have unparalleled access to performance data—from the virtual machine level up to the application. *

Chris Steffen
Principal Technical Architect, Kroll Factual Data

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Benefits

By adopting Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, Kroll Factual Data is able to advance toward its vision of a fully automated, cloud-enabled data center. As a result, the company expects continued improvement in IT productivity and lower operating costs. And, in choosing the Microsoft virtualization solution over competing technologies, the company estimates a substantial cost savings in capital expenditure, which it can reinvest in continued innovation.

Smarter, More Nimble Data Center Management
Kroll Factual Data can now access a number of innovative features that either simplify or completely automate fabric management tasks, such as provisioning and updating virtual machines and configuring network and storage resources for new service deployments. In addition, the company is looking to take advantage of new resource optimization capabilities to maximize network availability while minimizing its data center footprint. “We’re working toward a fully automated production environment that runs at the exact resource capacity needed,” says Steffen. “System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 will play a big part in making that happen.”

Accelerated Path to the Cloud
By upgrading to System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012, Kroll Factual Data can start applying cloud principles in its operations to gain greater resource flexibility and efficiency—while gradually transitioning its applications for delivery in a cloud environment. By using cloud management techniques, such as service modeling, the IT team can minimize time spent on essential administrative tasks and better support rapid application development and service delivery. “Because administrators spend less time searching for and allocating infrastructure resources, they can help developers respond faster to the changing needs of the business,” says Steffen.

Lower Cost, High-Value Virtualization Solution
Kroll Factual Data estimates that it would have needed to spend five times the amount on a VMware virtualization solution to obtain the same set of capabilities that it gains through its Microsoft virtualization solution. “Each time VMware comes out with a new virtualization product, I give it a very close look,” says Steffen. “And each time, I reach the same conclusion: there’s simply no better value on the market than Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager.”

Microsoft System Center 2012
Microsoft System Center 2012 helps your organization achieve IT as a service by enabling productive infrastructure, predictable applications, and cloud computing on your terms. With System Center 2012, use a self-service model to deliver flexible and cost-effective private cloud infrastructure to your business units while capitalizing on existing data center investments. Applications run your business, so System Center 2012 is designed to offer deep application insight combined with a service-centric approach to help you deliver predictable application services. Finally, by using System Center 2012, you can deliver and consume private and public cloud computing on your terms, with common management experiences across both.

For more information about Microsoft System Center 2012, go to:
www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/system-center/2012.aspx

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:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Kroll Factual Data products and services, call (800) 929-3400 or visit the website at:
www.krollfactualdata.com

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 300 employees

Organization Profile

Kroll Factual Data provides business information to mortgage lenders, consumer lenders, property management firms, and other businesses. The Loveland, Colorado–based firm has 300 employees.


Business Situation

To strengthen its competitive edge and continue to trim operating costs, Kroll Factual Data looked to expand the server virtualization initiative that it had begun several years earlier.


Solution

The company adopted Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 to take advantage of innovative fabric and cloud management capabilities offered in the technology.


Benefits

  • More agile data center management
  • Accelerated path to the cloud
  • Lower virtualization costs


Hardware


Third Party Software


Software and Services
  • Microsoft System Center 2012
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Windows Server 2008 Datacenter

Vertical Industries
Professional Services

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Business Productivity
  • Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
  • Private Cloud
  • Cloud Services

Languages
English

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