Applied Innovations, a Web hoster, needed to accommodate a request for 500 server instances. Rather than installing 500 physical servers, the company deployed 500 virtual machines on 24 rack servers running the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system with Hyper-V, managed with Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008. The company reduced its management load, improved reliability, and is saving U.S.$1.7 million over three years.
Applied Innovations is a Web hoster that aims to provide the technology and resources that businesses require to make them competitive and successful at a cost-effective price. Until recently, the company’s hosting environment consisted of approximately 500 server computers, most of which ran the Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter operating system.
When one customer requested the use of an additional 500 server instances, Applied Innovations needed to rethink its standard practice of adding physical computers to keep up with demand. “As we started to put together the proposed package for our customer, we realized that, to hit the customer’s desired price point, we’d need to buy lower-end computers,” says Jess Coburn, Chief Executive Officer for Applied Innovations. “If the customer no longer needed them, we’d be stuck with them. Plus, the costs of the physical space, power consumption, and administration for that many computers were prohibitive.”
The company began to consider using virtual server computers, but it faced the prospect with a certain degree of uncertainty. “We had some experience with virtual servers, but we’d never approached a virtualized environment on this scale,” recalls Wayne Lansdowne, Chief Systems Architect for Applied Innovations.
Applied Innovations decided to move forward with a virtualized environment, choosing to use the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system with Hyper-V technology. “We did some comparisons and saw that, with Hyper-V, we’d end up with a more complete package at a significantly lower cost than we would with VMware or Citrix XenServer,” says Coburn. “Rather than needing to purchase separate, expensive management tools, we’d get all the features
||We see virtualization with Hyper-V as the future of the hosting industry because of the business agility that it offers customers and the management and cost efficiencies that it offers providers.
Chief Executive Officer, Applied Innovations
and functionality we needed with Microsoft’s offering, right out of the box.”
Applied Innovations conducted a three-week implementation in December 2009, putting 500 virtual servers onto 24 Dell PowerEdge R610 rack servers and also using two Dell EqualLogic PS6500E storage arrays. “The deployment went seven times faster than if we’d had to deploy 500 physical servers and deal with the networking and cabling infrastructure to support all those servers,” says Lansdowne. The company also notes that it could support up to 800 virtual servers with its current arrangement but is using just 500 to ensure good performance and reliability.
The company took advantage of the Microsoft Dynamic Data Center Toolkit for Hosters, using it as a ready-made framework. “Our developers considered the Dynamic Data Center Toolkit to be invaluable,” says Coburn. “They were able to quickly put together the portal so that our customer could provision and monitor its own infrastructure, thanks to the toolkit’s guidance.”
Applied Innovations uses Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 to handle day-to-day management of the environment, System Center Operations Manager 2007 to perform monitoring and health checks, System Center Configuration Manager 2007 to install updates and push out software, and System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 to conduct backups. “We’ve found it so easy to manage our virtual environment with System Center tools that we’re going to use them for our traditional environment, too,” says Lansdowne. “We’ll gain efficiencies from using the same set of tools for end-to-end management across our data center.”
In March 2010, Applied Innovations was asked to provide another 641 server instances to its customer—a testament to the success of its initial Hyper-V rollout.
Applied Innovations believes that its choice of Hyper-V and the System Center suite of management tools not only saves the company money, but also gives its customers a competitive advantage. “We see virtualization with Hyper-V as the future of the hosting industry because of the business agility that it offers customers and the management and cost efficiencies that it offers providers,” says Coburn.
Significant Cost Savings
Applied Innovations conserved costs by choosing to use a Hyper-V environment. “By going with Hyper-V, we’re saving about $1.7 million over three years in terms of hardware, software, physical space, and power—and that doesn’t include the cost of labor,” says Coburn. “Total costs for traditional servers over three years would have been more than five times more expensive than virtualized ones. Those are phenomenal savings.”
Reduced Management Burden
By minimizing its number of physical servers, Applied Innovations also limits the number of people required to maintain the environment. “We would’ve had to add three or more system administrators if we’d chosen a traditional server environment, which would have cost at least $195,000 per year,” says Lansdowne. “But the System Center tools take care of a lot of the usual administration, proactively resolving issues and decreasing the day-to-day management load, so we haven’t needed to add to our staff.”
Applied Innovations has found that its virtualized environment offers reliability advantages over physical servers. “We derive added benefits from Hyper-V, including backup capabilities, high availability in case of hardware failures, and the ability to dynamically scale hardware resources without hardware migration and with minimal downtime,” says Lansdowne. “It would be nearly impossible for us to deploy a physical server setup with the sort of redundancy that we get from our Hyper-V environment.”
Greater Agility for a Competitive Advantage
With Hyper-V, Applied Innovations makes it possible for its customers to quickly adjust to changing business needs. “In a difficult economy, we’re giving our customers an easy, affordable way to adopt new technology and expand their businesses, because they can scale as they need to,” says Coburn. “Using Hyper-V not only positions us competitively in the market, but also gives our customers a competitive advantage. With it, they can better manage costs and their business in a time when it’s imperative to do so.”
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