Berlin-based web hosting provider STRATO—the second-largest web hosting firm in Europe—wanted to give customers a service on virtualised Windows-based servers to make its pricing more competitive. Previously, STRATO was only able to provision virtualised Linux servers, but demand for a cost-effective Windows-hosted solution was growing. STRATO chose Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V virtualisation technology and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 for manageability. Hyper-V guaranteed STRATO fast time to market—using a different solution would have taken three to six months longer. The company is now offering its 1.5 million customers a virtualised Windows Server operating system for half the price of a dedicated server. Hyper-V and Microsoft System Center technology deliver a virtual server on pre-provisioned hardware within minutes of a customer’s payment.Situation
Deutsche Telekom subsidiary STRATO specialises in web hosting, having 4 million domains, and corporate and home-use customers spread across Europe. Its two state-of-the-art data centres are ISO 27001 certified and located in Berlin and Karlsruhe. Using innovative tools, STRATO clients can take advantage of easy-to-use web packages for blogs, photographs, and multimedia albums.
Business users can access hosted Windows applications and enterprise software from STRATO. The company prides itself on its high standards of customer service and is committed to environmental sustainability. It has more than 40,000 servers at its data centres in Germany—both operating on renewable energy since 2008, which has made the company carbon neutral.
||With Hyper-V, we’re covering a whole new market segment that we weren’t able to serve before. We’re winning new customers.
Senior Product Manager
Until 2010, STRATO had dedicated servers equipped with Windows and Linux technology, while its virtualised servers ran only Linux. Julien Ardisson, Executive Director of Product Management at STRATO, says: “We made a commercial decision to offer virtualised Windows-based servers as well as Linux. Many of our customers wanted such a solution for business or home use but didn’t want to pay the price for a dedicated Windows-based server.”
STRATO defined strict criteria to assess which vendor platform would be most suitable for the shared virtualised Windows-based server. These covered the technology roadmap for the product, whether customers could run operating system updates themselves, and also the licensing costs. “Fast deployment was also important to us, as was scalability and flexibility in configuring individual virtual servers,” says Ardisson.Solution
In the second quarter of 2010, STRATO carried out a proof of concept with several virtual servers running with different virtualisation technologies. The company eventually chose the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system with Hyper-V virtualisation technology. Microsoft offered a total packaged solution, including automated operational management with Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2.
Ardisson says: “In the proof of concept, we wanted to test the degree of automation. The interfaces were important to us and the addition of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 made Hyper-V highly competitive.”
Development started in the third quarter of 2010 and took four months, with six weeks of intensive quality assurance. The solution went live at the start of 2011. Within six months, it had already reached its target for 2011, with several thousand virtual Windows-based servers provisioned.
Ardisson says: “With Hyper-V, we have native integration of virtual servers into the base system. We have one supplier—Microsoft—and we know there won’t be any compatibility issues between the host and the guest operating system. This was one of the main deciding factors.”
||A dedicated server is double the price of a comparable shared virtual server with Hyper-V. For most purposes, the scope of benefits of a virtual server is more than sufficient.
Senior Product Manager
Another consideration was the Microsoft commitment to a virtualisation technology roadmap. In addition, the Hyper-V licensing costs are included in Windows Server 2008 R2 licences so no extra expenditure is required.
STRATO also valued the automated management functionality provided by System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2. “Provisioning through a tool has to be quite fast,” says Ardisson. “System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 relieved us of a lot of work. If we’d used a different solution, we estimate that the provisioning would have taken three to six months longer.”
Customer service has also improved through the virtualised data centre solution. Ardisson says: “Our clients receive a web interface—a control centre—through which they can manage the virtual machine. Customers can access data and are the administrators for the virtual machine. They can install it, reboot it, or load a recovery manager. Within the virtual machine, customers can access the server through a remote desktop and install their programs on a self-service basis.”Benefits
The virtualised Windows-based server solution with Hyper-V software offered to customers through a shared server is half the cost of a dedicated server, making it highly competitive on price. Hyper-V provides a highly stable and environmentally sustainable service that delivers a virtual server on pre-provisioned hardware within minutes of a customer’s verified payment. The virtualised environment is much easier and more cost effective for STRATO to maintain.
Virtualised Machine Halves the Price of a Dedicated Server
Since Hyper-V went live, STRATO has won many customers for Windows-based servers due to the strength of the Microsoft brand and competitive pricing, which includes a one-month option. STRATO estimates that with System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2, the virtualised solution can be available to customers within minutes of a verified payment on pre-provisioned hardware.
Sandro Malinowski, Senior Product Manager, STRATO, says: “A dedicated server is double the price of a comparable shared virtual server with Hyper-V. For most purposes, the scope of benefits of a virtual server is more than sufficient. That’s why many customers would prefer benefitting from the low price of a virtual server solution. With Hyper-V, we’re covering a whole new market segment that we weren’t able to serve before. We’re winning new customers.”
Virtualisation Helps Lower Costs
The virtualisation solution, with Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2, is much easier for STRATO to maintain than before, lowering costs. Malinowski says: “Our customers are very satisfied with the performance of the virtual machines. In addition, we’ve consolidated many virtual machines onto a physical server. This means less hardware diversity than in the past. Previously, different hardware was acquired, which meant a lot of time spent on maintenance and testing.”
Customers Receive a Flexible Service
Virtual machines can respond more flexibly to the changing needs of the customer and carry less risk than dedicated servers. Malinowski says: “Previously, a customer would need to change from one dedicated machine to another, which required data migration. The virtual server with Hyper-V will help the customer to upgrade or downgrade much more easily.”
Microsoft Brand Boosts Customer Confidence
STRATO believes that its new customers owe a great deal to the reputation of Microsoft technology. “It is perceived as a solid solution by our customers, and therefore fits very well with our concept,” says Ardisson. “Microsoft has stood for highly stable cloud computing solutions in recent years, which gives us a competitive advantage. In future, we will move further towards cloud-based solutions.”Windows Server 2008 R2
The Windows Server 2008 R2 family helps organisations do more with less. Now you can run your IT infrastructure more efficiently, build better applications faster, and deliver the best infrastructure for enhancing user productivity. And you can do all this faster, more securely, and at lower cost.
For more information about Windows Server 2008 R2, please visit:
www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008 For More Information
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