For EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services, technology has always been a competitive differentiator. But when it decided to license its dispatch and reservation systems software to other companies, it suddenly became a hosting provider and
needed more sophisticated data center capabilities and lower IT costs. EmpireCLS decided to upgrade its servers to the Windows Server 2012 operating system to take advantage of improvements in networking, availability, remote access, and other areas. With
these new features, EmpireCLS can provision hosting customers faster, deliver high availability at lower costs, and continue to reduce operating costs while growing the business. In fact, EmpireCLS has reduced IT costs by 30 percent during a period when the
business grew 30 percent. With a more efficient virtual desktop environment, EmpireCLS has improved compute performance by 300 percent.
Hollywood celebrities, Grammy Award–winning artists, and diplomats are just some of the people who rely on EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services to safely travel to destinations on time and in style. The New Jersey–based company employs more than
1,000 people and offers high-end chauffeur services in more than 700 cities around the world.
Technology has always been a key competitive differentiator for EmpireCLS. Chief Information Officer Alan Bourassa has worked hard to create world-class data centers, based primarily on Microsoft technology, that support business agility, lower operating
costs, and high availability of critical systems. At a time when the concept of virtualization was still new to many CIOs, Bourassa dramatically consolidated his company’s servers by using the Hyper-V technology in the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system.
When cloud computing emerged, EmpireCLS was one of the first to create a private cloud environment, pooling compute and storage resources into a seamless computing “fabric” that the business could dynamically configure on demand. Microsoft System Center
2012 was indispensable as a management infrastructure in providing one integrated tool set for provisioning, configuring, monitoring, automating, and managing virtual machines and services across cloud environments.
||You can either hire people to speed up work or you can find better tools. Windows Server 2012 is our better tool. With it, we’ve been able to reduce customer onboarding wait-time to zero.
| Alan Bourassa
Chief Information Officer, EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services
The private cloud environment provided the agility that EmpireCLS needed when it made an unorthodox move in March 2012. Always looking for new areas of business growth, EmpireCLS decided to get into the software-as-a-service (SaaS) business, selling its proprietary
dispatch and reservation system to other ground transportation companies. EmpireCLS considers this software program one of its greatest assets but decided that selling it to competitors was better than finding itself competing against a better program someday.
“Industry growth will not be in buying more cars,” says David Seelinger, Chief Executive Officer at EmpireCLS. “In the next three years, we expect 30 percent of our revenues to come from our SaaS services.”
While its cutting-edge IT infrastructure had given EmpireCLS the agility to take on this completely new business, Bourassa realized that the SaaS business brought new needs. “It’s one thing for your own business to be dependent on your technology infrastructure
but quite another when other people’s businesses are dependent on that infrastructure,” he says. “We were suddenly a hosting provider and a limo business, and we needed better ways to build customer networks that were isolated from our limo-business network
without using expensive third-party tools and network gear. We needed even greater IT efficiency geared to the hosting business and more cost-effective disaster recovery.”
As an early adopter of Microsoft technologies, EmpireCLS had watched the development of the Windows Server 2012 operating system and jumped at the chance to be part of the Rapid Deployment Program (RDP). “Windows Server 2012 is really a hosting provider’s
dream,” Bourassa says. “It includes many advanced network virtualization tools that, until now, had to be purchased from other companies. It enables hosting providers to create virtual networks and isolate traffic by customer.”
EmpireCLS worked with Microsoft Services Consulting to quickly understand the new features of Windows Server 2012, map those features to EmpireCLS needs, and move the features into production as quickly as possible. “There are probably 200-plus new features
in Windows Server 2012,” Bourassa says. “Having a really experienced architect from Microsoft Services Consulting come in and work with us on implementing the most relevant features for us really helped.”
EmpireCLS was particularly interested in the Hyper-V Network Virtualization feature in Windows Server 2012 and related functionality. By using Hyper-V Network Virtualization, IT administrators can isolate network traffic among different business units
or customers on a shared infrastructure without using virtual local area networks, which are challenging to manage. Administrators can also move virtual machines as needed within a virtual infrastructure while preserving their virtual network assignments.
“The ability to virtualize network traffic without reengineering our base physical network infrastructure is huge,” Bourassa says. “We can have multiple cloud sites running with the same IP address spaces because the IP addresses are virtualized. This is
a critical capability for Fortune 500 companies and hosting providers.”
Network Interface Card (NIC) Teaming is another Windows Server 2012 feature that EmpireCLS is using. NIC Teaming provides network fault tolerance on physical servers and virtual machines by using at least two network adapters by any vendor, without the need
for a third-party teaming solution. Previously, Bourassa employed third-party NIC teaming solutions but could not mix and match adapters, so he forfeited Microsoft support for a third-party-enhanced solution. With NIC Teaming built into the operating system,
EmpireCLS has a solution that is easier to deploy and manage and is fully supported by Microsoft.
Another networking enhancement in Windows Server 2012 is Hyper-V Extensible Switch, a virtual network switch that IT organizations can use to emulate hardware switches. By using this feature, EmpireCLS can accommodate more tenants on the same physical infrastructure
and can better optimize network resources. The staff never has to retool the physical network, which is difficult and expensive to do; they simply make adjustments to virtual networks.
EmpireCLS uses Hyper-V Extensible Switch in conjunction with the Cisco Nexus 1000V Switch, which enhances port-level traffic visibility. Previously, EmpireCLS network engineers were unable to look at the port-level traffic of each virtual machine or observe
how it was sending data packets. But with the Hyper-V Extensible Switch and the Cisco switch, engineers can now manage each virtual machine at the port level. This helps them troubleshoot network problems faster and more accurately and perform better capacity
planning and load balancing.
||It’s one thing for your own business to be dependent on your technology infrastructure but quite another when other people’s businesses are dependent on that infrastructure.
| Alan Bourassa
Chief Information Officer, EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services
Hyper-V Network Virtualization and Hyper-V Extensible Switch are examples of software-defined networking, a networking architecture where the router control plane is implemented in software in servers that are separate from the network equipment, and the router
data plane is implemented in commodity network equipment. Software-defined networking allows for quick experimenting and optimization of switching/routing policies, and for external access to switches and routers that formerly were closed and proprietary.
EmpireCLS also tested and is moving into production several availability features in Windows Server 2012. Hyper-V Replica provides asynchronous replication of virtual machines between storage systems, clusters, and data centers over two sites to provide
business continuity. “We like the fact that Hyper-V Replica does not require special licensing, specialized hardware, or other costs,” Bourassa says. “We’re very cost-conscious and always looking for more cost-effective ways to implement disaster-recovery
sites. With Hyper-V Replica, we can replicate virtual machines to our standby site, and the IP addresses stay with those virtual machines.”
Bourassa’s team is using Hyper-V live migration to migrate running virtual machines between host servers without downtime, and Hyper-V storage migration to migrate virtual hard disks to new locations without downtime.
The new cross-premises connectivity capability in Windows Server 2012 provides a simple way to set up remote-access servers between local infrastructures and hosted services, and also connect private subnetworks between geographically separate enterprise
locations while ensuring data security. By using cross-premises connectivity, EmpireCLS can securely move workloads and traffic seamlessly between its multiple cloud sites. “This was possible before, but it was more expensive,” Bourassa says. “With these new
features, private and public clouds can interact seamlessly now. It reduces worries around protecting data when it leaves one data center and goes across the Internet to another data center.”
Remote Access Improvements
EmpireCLS is also taking advantage of Windows Server 2012 improvements in the area of remote access and DirectAccess, a feature in Windows Server 2012 that allows remote users to securely access internal resources without connecting to a virtual private
network. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) desktops are easier to deploy and manage, files are easier to secure, and wide area network traffic is reduced. EmpireCLS is in production with Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services to provide VDI desktops
to about 200 reservation agents and dispatchers. “These are our most business-critical systems, and we’re running them on Windows Server 2012 today,” Bourassa says.
New Hardware Efficiencies
For the RDP, EmpireCLS used the HP X5000 G2 Network Storage Systems, a network-attached storage solution with two server nodes packaged in a 3U chassis with up to 40 terabytes of storage. “For customers that want to start moving away from expensive storage
area networks [SANs] and fiber switches, the HP X5000 is a nice way to begin distributing and reducing costs,” Bourassa says. “Its provisioning is so simple that you don’t need to consult with storage and networking experts.”
By upgrading to Window Server 2012, EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services has a more flexible, cost-effective IT infrastructure that can support business growth in new directions. It can maintain its service level agreements at lower costs and continue
to lower IT costs while the business grows. Performance for VDI desktops is higher, too, which translates into more productive employees.
Supports Faster Business Growth
Bourassa has once again outfitted the business with a technology infrastructure made for dynamic growth. EmpireCLS can now easily deploy hosting services for its SaaS business and onboard new hosting customers faster. “Because of the power of software-defined
networking provided through Hyper-V Network Virtualization and Hyper-V Extensible Switch, and the ability to dynamically move workloads around and manage them with System Center 2012, our staff can concentrate on onboarding customers rather than on reconfiguring
the infrastructure,” Bourassa says. “You can either hire people to speed up work or you can find better tools. Windows Server 2012 is our better tool. With it, we’ve been able to reduce customer onboarding wait-time to zero.”
Delivers High Availability at Lower Cost
EmpireCLS has always provided its customers with extremely high uptime commitments. With Windows Server 2012, it is fulfilling its service level agreements with less administrative overhead and lower infrastructure costs.
||We can bring up our disaster recovery site within 15 minutes of a major disaster, using capabilities included in Windows Server 2012, with minimum provisioning and no third-party products.
| Alan Bourassa
Chief Information Officer, EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services
“We can bring up our disaster recovery site within 15 minutes of a major disaster, using capabilities included in Windows Server 2012, with minimum provisioning and no third-party products,” Bourassa says. “That’s critical to us as a hosting provider because
companies buying services from us expect high availability and rapid recovery times. If a host-server network adapter card fails or there is an issue in a virtual machine, the NIC Teaming feature ensures that the virtual machine seamlessly fails over and continues
to run without interruption. With all these new features, we can truly move workloads easily and seamlessly across data centers, without worrying about the physical network infrastructure and topology.”
Increases IT Efficiency and Reduces Costs
Bourassa estimates that the efficiencies provided by Windows Server 2012 equate to the work of at least two full-time employees—a cost avoidance of at least US$240,000 a year. “With Windows Server 2012, people can spend their time on what is most important
to their career and the business versus doing mundane tasks,” Bourassa says. “More tasks are automated, and the tasks are simpler. For example, I previously had to have an expensive network engineer configure NIC teaming, but today we just activate it in Windows
Server 2012. We’ve reduced our IT and operating spend by 30 percent over three years while adding 550 external vendors to our infrastructure and growing the business by 30 percent. We couldn’t have done that without Microsoft virtualization and cloud software.”
The company has greater scalability and expandability across data centers and within its public and private clouds. With the virtualization improvements in Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services, EmpireCLS has achieved a smaller server footprint and
higher performance, so it can support more virtual desktops per server.
“We clearly have to increase server capacity as our customer base grows, but by combining next-generation HP blade servers with Windows Server 2012, we have reduced our server footprint by a factor of 12,” Bourassa says. “A 12:1 footprint consolidation is
huge.” EmpireCLS has also achieved a 30:1 reduction in storage for its VDI solution.
“These kinds of efficiencies deliver huge cost savings for environmentally conscious companies like ours,” Bourassa says. “On every invoice, we tell our limo customers the carbon footprint of their trip, and we want to continuously reduce this number.”
Improves Compute Performance, Employee Productivity
EmpireCLS has experienced huge performance improvements with the new version of Remote Desktop Services. There are 90 percent fewer packets being sent over the network to support VDI desktops and Remote Desktop Services, which translates into a response
time improvement of 300 percent. “Our dispatch software screen-paints have dropped from three seconds to one second,” Bourassa says. “The time saved throughout the day translates into higher employee productivity, faster response to customers, and happier
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
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For More Information
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