4-page Case Study
Posted: 10/3/2012
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Volkswagen Financial Services Car Financer Improves Performance of Web Applications, Reduces Costs with Upgrade

Volkswagen Financial Services helps Volkswagen buyers acquire the car of their dreams by providing a range of financing options. The company is upgrading hundreds of web servers to Windows Server 2012 to take advantage of Internet Information Services 8 and greater virtualization density in the Hyper-V technology. With the upgrade, Volkswagen Financial Services will be able to deploy web-based applications to Volkswagen dealers and partners much faster and improve application performance and stability. The company has seen a 36 percent increase in the performance of some applications, which helps it win financing deals. By using Windows Server 2012 and Microsoft System Center 2012, the company will be able to manage more applications with fewer people. It expects to trim web server configuration time by 50 percent and overall infrastructure management costs by 20 percent.

Situation
Volkswagen Financial Services is the financing arm of the Volkswagen Group, a German multinational automotive manufacturing company headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany. The Volkswagen Group Automotive Division designs, manufactures, and sells cars, and the Financial Services Division provides financing, leasing, and fleet management services for Volkswagen dealerships. Volkswagen Financial Services is one of the largest automobile financial services providers in Europe, with total assets of nearly €77 billion (US$97 billion) as of December 31, 2011. The company employs 7,350 people worldwide.

Volkswagen Financial Services delivers nearly all of its applications to Volkswagen dealerships and partners (such as subsidiary dealerships and banks) over the web from three data centers in Europe. Its Internet-Based Architecture (IBA) platform is based on the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system and Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.5, the Windows Server 2003 operating system and IIS 6, and the Microsoft .NET Framework. The IBA infrastructure consists of about 180 production web servers and 50 development servers, most of which the company virtualized by using the Hyper-V technology in Windows Server 2008 R2.

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* With IIS 8 and Hyper-V, we have more computing resources to give our applications so that they can deliver top performance even during peak times. *

Steffen Seifert
Systems Analyst, Volkswagen Financial Services

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The company’s web infrastructure staff was constantly busy responding to the needs of thousands of dealerships around the world: delivering new applications, improving the performance and stability of existing applications, and assisting users. The company supports not only Volkswagen dealerships, but also dealerships belonging to Volkswagen subsidiaries Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Porsche, and Škoda. To deliver a continuous stream of new business applications and maintain top application performance, the web team must be able to quickly scale its web environment. However, Volkswagen Financial Services ran into virtual machine density limits with Hyper-V that limited scalability and overall business response times.

Additionally, the company’s web architecture was complex, and the IT staff had to manually load-balance compute resources to deliver adequate performance for various workloads at peak periods around the world.

Because of the need to scale the web infrastructure manually, application performance and stability occasionally suffered. Switching between screens was slow for some applications at certain times of the day, and sometimes web servers simply failed. “We have to deliver very stable systems and be able to deploy new application versions during the workday without any interruption,” says Steffen Seifert, Systems Analyst at Volkswagen Financial Services. “When a dealer sits down with a consumer who wants to buy a car, they have several financing options. If the dealer goes to one of our applications and it doesn’t work or is slow, he or she will simply jump to the website of another bank. A few seconds delay can make the difference between winning or losing business.”

The web infrastructure team wanted to focus its time on delivering new applications but was bogged down in manual infrastructure management work needed to keep the IBA platform healthy, secure, and stable. In addition to load-balancing servers, the team spent inordinate amounts of time configuring IP addresses and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates for web servers. SSL is a protocol that provides secure communication over the Internet. “We needed more automation in our administrative work so that we could reduce the time we spend on it and focus on activities that add value to the business,” Seifert says.

Solution
The web team thought that it could solve many of these problems and eliminate much of its manual work by transitioning its virtualized environment to a private cloud environment. In such an environment, virtual resources are combined into a seamless pool of resources that can be dynamically reallocated to workloads as needed, rather than having virtual machines permanently assigned to specific workloads. Volkswagen Financial Services was about to create a private cloud environment using Windows Server 2008 R2 when it learned about the Windows Server 2012 operating system.

Create Proof of Concept
The company volunteered to participate in the Windows Server 2012 Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) and worked with Microsoft Services Consulting to build a proof of concept. The team deployed Windows Server 2012 Datacenter on a cluster of four HP ProLiant DL580 blade servers. “We like HP hardware because HP service is great,” Seifert says. “From a technical perspective, HP has good driver implementation.”

During the RDP, Microsoft Services Consulting supported Volkswagen Financial Services by providing deep technical knowledge for implementing the proof of concept, tracking down answers to questions, and generally smoothing the way. “The ultimate success of our Windows Server 2012 proof of concept relied on the outstanding support of Microsoft Services,” Seifert says.

Volkswagen Financial Services tested a number of Windows Server 2012 features:

  • Windows PowerShell improvements. The number of cmdlets—the smallest unit of functionality in the Windows PowerShell command-line and scripting language—has been vastly increased in Windows Server 2012. “With 2,300 new task-oriented cmdlets, there are many new opportunities to automate data center deployments,” Seifert says. “We can automate the configuration and installation of IIS to our special needs.”

    Seifert’s team changed its application deployment tool, previously based on Microsoft Visual Basic scripts, to Windows PowerShell scripts. This simplified the scripts and made them work faster and more reliably. This resulted in improved overall deployment quality and the ability to deploy applications during business hours without interrupting users.

  • Centralized SSL certificate support. IIS 8 in Windows Server 2012 accommodates the hosting of thousands of SSL websites on a single server, where they are shared by all servers in the server farm. This results in greatly improved scalability and easier management. With this enhancement, Volkswagen Financial Services can rapidly add servers to a web farm without individually configuring SSL certificates. It can also terminate SSL certificates on Windows Server 2012 web servers rather than on expensive load balancers.
  • Hyper-V capacity improvements. Windows Server 2012 provides significant improvements in scalability and performance for virtualized workloads. It supports virtual machines with up to 64 virtual processors and 1 terabyte of memory and clusters with as many as 64 nodes. With this increase, Volkswagen Financial Services can pack more virtual machines in each host server and achieve higher data center utilization.

  • Hyper-V over SMB. Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012 introduces a new storage option: support for the Server Message Block 3 (SMB3) protocol. This provides increased flexibility, easier storage provisioning, and reduced system costs compared to the storage options in Windows Server 2008 R2. With Hyper-V over SMB, Volkswagen Financial Services can build a very scalable and available data storage foundation for demanding applications at a far lower cost than is possible with storage area networks (SANs). “We would like to use the SMB3 feature to connect our Hyper-V nodes to file servers rather than SANs,” Seifert says. “This will reduce costs and improve scalability. We can also save money on host bus adapter cards, which are expensive.”

Use Management Suite to Create Private Cloud
Volkswagen Financial Services has long depended on Microsoft System Center data center solutions to manage its data centers and recently upgraded to Microsoft System Center 2012 to gain even more extensive automation efficiencies. In fact, by using System Center 2012, the company was able to create a private cloud environment. It will use System Center 2012 Configuration Manager to install Hyper-V and applications on web servers, the Virtual Machine Manager component to manage physical hosts and virtual machines, the Operations Manager component to monitor server health, and the Orchestrator component to automate administrative tasks and dynamically orchestrate virtual machine creation and reprovisioning.

“Our two primary data centers are in Germany, but we also have to provide our IBA applications to data centers in Mexico and Asia,” Seifert says. “By using System Center 2012, we will be able to create a standard virtual machine template in Germany and give our hub data centers the rights to copy this template to create their own virtual machines and manage their applications themselves. They will have more autonomy while still adhering to corporate IT policies.” 

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* [With IIS 8,] every server is configured identically. This saves time, because we need only to launch a script to create a virtual machine. This reduces our web server configuration time by 50 percent. *

Steffen Seifert
Systems Analyst, Volkswagen Financial Services

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Volkswagen Financial Services has three Windows Server 2012–based web clusters in production, one for each tier of its IBA platform: front-end web processing, the business logic layer, and database services. The IBA clusters total 14 Hyper-V nodes with about 200 virtual machines. The company is currently replacing all of its web server hardware and will deploy Windows Server 2012 Datacenter on these new servers.

Benefits
By upgrading to Windows Server 2012, Volkswagen Financial Services can achieve much higher virtualization density, which it can use to quickly scale its web infrastructure to respond faster to business needs. The web infrastructure team can improve the performance and stability of web-based applications and thus the dealer sales experience. With the many automated efficiencies in Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012, Volkswagen Financial Services can reduce IT administrative work and costs and better focus on revenue-producing activities.

Enhance Scalability and Response to Business
By using Hyper-V, Volkswagen Financial Services has been able to dramatically increase virtual machine density in its web server farms, which in turn lets it scale web resources very quickly. “We must be able to react dynamically to resource requests and deliver computing power to the business very quickly,” Seifert says. “With the capacity increases in Hyper-V and support for SMB3, we can greatly reduce the time it takes to deploy servers needed to boost performance and support new applications.” Rather than spend hours provisioning new physical Hyper-V servers to host additional virtual machines, the team can add more virtual machines to existing hosts in minutes.

Improve Performance, Stability, and Customer Experience
Volkswagen Financial Services has found IIS 8 to be more stable, secure, and better performing than earlier versions. When web team members migrated IBA applications from IIS 6 to IIS 8, they saw an instant performance boost without changing a single line of application code. In benchmarks, they speeded response time for a critical IBA action from 47 milliseconds to 30 milliseconds, a 36 percent improvement.

“With IIS 8 and Hyper-V, we have more computing resources to give our applications so that they can deliver top performance even during peak times,” Seifert says. “Even one or two seconds faster response time can make the difference between winning and losing business.”

Reduce IT Management Costs by 20 Percent
By using IIS 8, Volkswagen Financial Services can now host thousands of SSL websites on a single server with a single IP address, which results in as much as 20 times better scalability. The IT staff can rapidly add servers to a web farm without individually configuring SSL certificates. Instead, the staff can centrally share and manage SSL certificates.

“We can now implement automated scripts instead of using manual steps to configure web farms,” Seifert says. “Also, every server is configured identically. This saves time, because we need only to launch a script to create a virtual machine. This reduces our web server configuration time by 50 percent.”

With efficiencies like this, and with the automated efficiencies delivered by System Center 2012 and a private cloud environment, the company anticipates a 20 percent cost avoidance in overall infrastructure management costs by making the current team more efficient. The web team will spend less time monitoring web servers, troubleshooting problems, and load-balancing workloads, and more time creating new applications that benefit the business. “With Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012, we can manage more applications and users with fewer administrators,” Seifert says.

Volkswagen Financial Services also reaps savings from Microsoft licensing. While some virtualization solutions require separate licenses for host servers and guest virtual machines, Windows Server 2012 Datacenter includes licenses for the host server and all guests on that host. The Microsoft Enterprise Agreement covers a range of enterprise software, including upgrades. “Our Microsoft license gives us the freedom to deploy as many virtual machines as we need, and it also let us upgrade to System Center 2012 with no extra upgrade costs,” Seifert says. “We can get the software we need, when we need it, without extra costs and time-consuming licensing management.”

In closing, Seifert says that it is the comprehensive approach that Microsoft takes to create compelling value for Volkswagen Financial Services. “What makes Microsoft so interesting for us and our Internet-based applications is that all the Microsoft software works so well together,” he says. “The virtualization standard in financial services is typically VMware. But we decided to use Hyper-V for our IBA infrastructure because we liked the integration of all the Microsoft products. We have to deliver more than just a virtualization environment; we have to deliver an infrastructure that is managed from end to end. With Microsoft, we can deliver total lifecycle application management, with support from one vendor.“

Windows Server 2012
Windows Server drives many of the world’s largest data centers, empowers small businesses around the world, and delivers value to organizations of all sizes in between. Building on this legacy, Windows Server 2012 redefines the category, delivering hundreds of new features and enhancements that span virtualization, networking, storage, user experience, cloud computing, automation, and more. Simply put, Windows Server 2012 helps you transform your IT operations to reduce costs and deliver a whole new level of business value.

For more information, visit:
www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-server/2012-default.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 Volkswagen Financial Services, visit the website at:
www.vw.com/en/financial-services.html

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 7350 employees

Organization Profile

Volkswagen Financial Services provides financing, leasing, and fleet management services for Volkswagen dealerships around the world. It is based in Wolfsburg, Germany, and employs 7,350 people.


Business Situation

Volkswagen Financial Services wanted to improve the performance and scalability of the web-based applications it delivers to Volkswagen dealers around the world. It also wanted to reduce IT costs.


Solution

The company is upgrading its web servers to the Windows Server 2012 operating system to take advantage of web server improvements, greater virtualization density, and other features.


Benefits

  • Enhance scalability and business response
  • Improve performance, stability, and customer experience
  • Reduce IT management costs by 20 percent


Hardware
  • HP ProLiant DL580 blade servers

Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Microsoft Consulting Services
  • Microsoft System Center 2012
  • Datacenter
  • Windows PowerShell
  • Microsoft Internet Information Services 8.0

Vertical Industries
Financial Services

Country/Region
Germany

Business Need
  • Cloud & Server Platform
  • Cost Containment

IT Issue
  • Private Cloud
  • Virtualization

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Microsoft Services

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