4-page Case Study
Posted: 2/19/2014
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ABM Facilities Solutions Firm Automates Datacenter to Deliver Global IT Services

ABM is one of the largest facility solutions providers in the United States, with more than 350 offices and tens of thousands of customers. With the company growing rapidly and globally, the ABM IT staff was challenged to deliver and manage IT services everywhere they were needed, as quickly as they were needed. ABM upgraded to the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system and Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 to gain more automation in managing its VMware virtualization infrastructure and to begin migrating VMware workloads to the Hyper-V technology in Windows Server 2012 R2. ABM is also using Windows Azure to increase its reach and deliver IT services globally. By using Microsoft cloud software, ABM is able to deliver IT services much faster to the rapidly growing business and manage the growing infrastructure without expanding its IT staff.

Situation
ABM is a provider of facility solutions. Thousands of commercial, industrial, government, and retail organizations outsource their facility services to ABM, which provides energy solutions, commercial cleaning, maintenance and repair, HVAC, electrical, landscaping, parking, and security services. The company has more than 100,000 employees across the United States and multiple international locations and US$4.8 billion in revenues.

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* Our vision is to implement all the System Center 2012 R2 components and get our team to the point where … all the pieces are connected and managed through a single pane of glass. That will be nirvana. *

Andre Garcia
Assistant Vice President, Global Infrastructure Services, ABM

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ABM has grown rapidly since 2000, mainly by acquisition, a strategy that has introduced a huge variety of technology into the company’s IT assets. The small IT team, located in various locations throughout the United States, has struggled to deploy and manage IT services abroad. As more IT services were demanded in more locations, the IT team simply did not have the staff to manage them or the budget to hire more people. Due to cost-cutting strategies, the ABM IT team had actually shrunk by about half, from 36 to 19 people, while its server count had soared—from a few hundred to nearly 1,500. “We needed to figure out how to provision services globally wherever our customers and business partners operated,” says Andre Garcia, Assistant Vice President of Global Infrastructure Services for ABM.

While ABM had virtualized its server estate using VMware virtualization software, it did not have the level of datacenter automation that it needed to help its staff keep up with the growth in the company’s business and IT infrastructure. “It took too long to deliver servers to the business,” Garcia says. “We needed more automation to amplify the talents of our small staff. The number of projects continues to grow while our IT staffing stays flat.”

Solution
ABM joined the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) for the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system and Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 datacenter solutions to evaluate the possibility of managing its virtual infrastructure by using Microsoft System Center 2012 R2. It also looked at shifting some or all of its virtualized workloads from VMware to the Hyper-V virtualization technology in Windows Server 2012 R2. By taking advantage of its Microsoft Enterprise Agreement license, ABM was able to quickly upgrade to the latest versions of the Microsoft products.

Value of Early Adopter Programs
“We are always interested in participating in Microsoft RDPs because we want to stay on the cutting edge of technology, and we want to work closely with Microsoft as it develops new versions of the products we depend on,” Garcia says. “Windows Server 2012 R2 represents a tipping point in new technology; Microsoft is finally on par with or ahead of VMware capabilities. The fact that we are already licensed for this technology makes us, and companies everywhere, wonder why they need anything but Hyper-V.”

Garcia also feels that gaining early access to Microsoft technology gives ABM a distinct competitive advantage. “We can use new technology to provide new services to our customers that the competition cannot,” Garcia says. “Also, exposing our staff to the latest technology is a staff-retention tool. Engineers want to learn, grow, and work on the latest innovations. Technology laggards have a much harder time keeping good people.”

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* Windows Server 2012 R2 represents a tipping point in new technology; Microsoft is finally on par with or ahead of VMware capabilities. *

Andre Garcia
Assistant Vice President, Global Infrastructure Services, ABM

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Better Manage Virtualized Environment
ABM had already used System Center 2012 to install and manage applications on desktop and server computers. With System Center 2012 R2, the ABM IT staff gained a single management console for provisioning and managing across VMware and Hyper-V hypervisors, Windows Server and Linux operating systems, and on-premises and public cloud environments.

“System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager is better than VMware in providing complete application management templates,” says Chris Boynton, Cloud Services Manager at ABM. “We can more easily create entire environments such as application, web, and database servers needed for a particular workload.”

During the RDP, ABM worked with Microsoft Services Consulting to connect System Center 2012 R2 to its VMware environment so that it could manage its VMware virtual machines using the Virtual Machine Manager component of System Center 2012 R2. By using Virtual Machine Manager, the ABM IT staff gained more complete control over the virtual machine life cycle, from provisioning to configuration, deployment, and deprovisioning. “System Center 2012 R2 provides a much richer tool set than VMware does,” Boynton says.

ABM also explored running virtual machines on the Hyper-V virtualization technology in Windows Server 2012 R2 and found Hyper-V to be on par with or better than VMware capabilities. ABM’s strategy is to deploy certain production workloads, such as Microsoft Lync Server 2013, on Hyper-V hosts and to continue to build on its experience with Hyper-V and educate its staff. “When we do decide to migrate workloads from VMware to Hyper-V, it will be straightforward because of all the V2V [virtual to virtual] migration tools that we have,” Boynton says.

ABM is implementing System Center 2012 R2 components one by one. Its IT staff is currently going through Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) training and working with Microsoft to understand the System Center 2012 R2 Service Manager component so that it can correctly implement ITIL and improve its change management workflows. ITIL is a set of practices for IT service management that focuses on aligning IT services with the needs of business. “We’re looking forward to the day when change management is as flexible as many of our other processes,” Garcia says.

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* Windows Azure gives us tremendous elasticity and flexibility. *

Andre Garcia
Assistant Vice President, Global Infrastructure Services, ABM

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Augment On-Premises Resources with Public Cloud
In addition to simplifying datacenter management by using System Center 2012 R2, ABM is using Windows Azure to expand its datacenter footprint globally. Windows Azure provides on-demand compute, storage, content delivery, and networking capabilities from Microsoft datacenters.

“Windows Azure gives us tremendous elasticity and flexibility,” Garcia says. “We’re currently using a Windows Azure Virtual Machine to scan all our external-facing applications and their IP addresses to make sure that all external points of entry to our network are secure. Our development team also has Windows Azure subscriptions so that they can access servers for development and test if they need them.”

ABM is using Windows Azure to deliver IT services into markets where it has no datacenter. For example, using Windows Azure “infrastructure-as-a-service” resources hosted in Microsoft northern and western European datacenters, ABM deployed an application that it uses to provide services at London’s Heathrow Airport, which is a customer. Windows Azure uses the same virtual hard drive format as Windows Server Hyper-V virtual machines, which makes it easy to extend on-premises workloads into the cloud. “Without Windows Azure, we would have had to use a third-party hosting provider in the UK or build a server infrastructure onsite at Heathrow,” Garcia says. ABM can manage those Windows Azure resources from Virtual Machine Manager.

Benefits
With Microsoft on-premises and public cloud software, ABM can deliver IT services faster and more efficiently, and deliver them globally, wherever the business needs them. By using extensive automation capabilities in System Center 2012 R2, the IT team can deploy servers in minutes rather than days and can handle the growing workload without adding staff.

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* System Center 2012 R2 has been a game-changer for us. We can achieve with a team of 19 what we needed a team of 36 for just a few years ago. *

Andre Garcia
Assistant Vice President, Global Infrastructure Services, ABM

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Deliver IT Services Faster to Rapidly Growing Business
By using Microsoft cloud software, ABM can continue to grow while maintaining a consistent, globally available IT infrastructure. “Our vision is to implement all the System Center 2012 R2 components and get our team to the point where consolidating platforms becomes easier, managing multiple platforms becomes easier, and all the pieces are connected and managed through a single pane of glass,” Garcia says. “That will be nirvana.”

Greater IT efficiency translates into greater business agility. The IT organization can deliver servers to the business in minutes rather than days. It can integrate an acquisition’s IT assets in six months rather than two to three years.

Deploy IT Services Globally
Further, by augmenting its on-premises datacenter resources with those in Windows Azure, ABM can extend IT services anywhere in the world, without expensive datacenter outlays. “By using Windows Azure, we have the ability to help the business grow all over the world,” Garcia says. “We can deploy IT services in a new country within days rather than months. This helps us handle current growth and accommodate future growth in new areas.”

Manage Growing Infrastructure with Existing Staff
Another major benefit is the fact that ABM can manage rapid global growth with the staff it has. “System Center 2012 R2 has been a game-changer for us,” Garcia says. “We can achieve with a team of 19 what we needed a team of 36 for just a few years ago.” With System Center 2012 R2, ABM can automate a wide range of functions, from change management to asset management, workflow orchestration, performance tracking, IT process automation, and more. All the System Center components interoperate with one another and are accessible through a single console.

“Because all the System Center components integrate so well, we can manage a hybrid environment through one console, which cuts down on the number of tools that we need to purchase and learn, makes us more efficient, and gives us better visibility into how our infrastructure is performing,” Garcia says. ABM will also realize significant savings in VMware licensing costs by switching to Hyper-V.

“By being more responsive to the business, IT is a more valued, strategic partner to the business,” Garcia says. “We’ve earned more respect as an IT organization due to our ability to provide services so quickly.”

Transform the datacenter
The hybrid cloud from Microsoft transforms the datacenter 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 datacenter, go to:
www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/cloud-os/modern-data-center.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 ABM products and services, visit the website at:
www.abm.com

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 100000 employees

Organization Profile

ABM is a leading provider of facility solutions, which include energy, commercial cleaning, maintenance and repair, HVAC, electrical, landscaping, parking, and security services across a wide range of markets. ABM has more than 100,000 employees.


Business Situation

Although the business was growing by leaps and bounds, the IT budget was not. ABM needed to find ways to deploy IT services faster, anywhere in the world, for less money.


Solution

ABM upgraded to Windows Server 2012 R2, manages its VMware infrastructure using Microsoft System Center 2012 R2, and is starting to replace VMware with Hyper-V technology. It is extending its datacenter globally with Windows Azure.


Benefits

  • Deliver IT services faster to its rapidly growing business
  • Deploy IT services globally
  • Manage growing infrastructure with existing staff


Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Microsoft System Center 2012 R2
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft Consulting Services
  • Datacenter
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter

Vertical Industries
Professional Services

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Cloud & Server Platform
  • Service Delivery

IT Issue
Cloud Services

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Microsoft Services

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