4-page Case Study - Posted 2/6/2012
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Private Cloud Speeds Provisioning from Two Days to 30 Minutes, Spurring Growth
As global IT services giant Infosys grew, so did the costs and complexities of its own IT infrastructure. In a world of ever-increasing competition and profit pressure, Infosys wanted to make its IT infrastructure both more efficient and more effective in order to fuel innovation and customer service throughout the company. That’s why Infosys combined virtualization and management technologies from Microsoft to create a series of private cloud environments, each tailored to support a key business scenario or user group. As a result, the IT staff spends far less time on key management tasks, and employees still get more services more quickly than before, such as servers that are provisioned in 30 minutes—decreased from at least 2 days. Security risks are virtually eliminated, costs are reduced, and Infosys now has a crucial tool for competitive advantage and business growth.Situation
When you’re as successful as Infosys, it may be time to reconsider what you did that made you so successful.
Of course, it’s tough to argue with success. Over the three decades since its founding, Infosys has grown to become a US$6.6 billion-a-year provider of business and IT consulting, services, and solutions. To achieve that, Infosys operates 65 development centers throughout Europe, India, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, and the Americas. At any one time, Infosys works on about 8,500 projects for its customers, which are mostly Forbes Global 2000 companies.
Traditionally, the company supported its projects on about 3,500 server computers scattered across its development centers. There were always inherent inefficiencies in operating that hardware. New computers had to be requisitioned, ordered, delivered, configured, and deployed, which could take weeks. Standalone servers were difficult to manage, and risk increased when developers retained and used decommissioned—and unmanaged—computers. Energy and facilities costs rose in direct proportion to the increasing server count, and computer capacity—and the investment in that capacity—made no contribution to productivity or profits when computers sat idle. When Infosys was smaller, with a smaller infrastructure, these inefficiencies did not matter very much. As the company’s business and infrastructure grew, however, the inefficiencies became an issue.
Infosys customers still got the innovative solutions and quality service that kept them coming back, but it became increasingly expensive for Infosys to provide those solutions and service—at a time when increasing global competition put unprecedented pressure on margins and budgets. In 2007, Infosys executives considered whether it might be time to stop building and using IT in the traditional way, despite previous success.
||We built private cloud services on Microsoft technologies that not only support our continued growth but also help us to achieve that growth more efficiently and effectively.
||K. Murali Krishna
Senior Vice President, Computers and Communications Division, Infosys
It didn’t take Infosys long to conclude that it was. “Virtualization looked like a much better route for us,” says K. Murali Krishna, Senior Vice President of the Computers and Communications Division at Infosys. “We could reduce costs for hardware, software, and IT management and be more responsive to our developers and others.”
Infosys embarked on a virtualization of its core IT infrastructure—choosing core IT for its first venture into virtualization because the team responsible for it seemed less resistant to change than might be one or more of the several business owners and teams responsible for custom line-of-business infrastructure.
The effort met the company’s initial goals—capital and operating costs declined—but it wasn’t enough. Virtualization by itself did not bring the ability to manage all virtualized resources as a single, integrated entity, for maximum effectiveness. Nor did it take into account the varying needs that employees had for sometimes contradictory characteristics, such as collaboration and security.
“To make virtualization an even better tool for our employees and an even more efficient way to manage our infrastructure, we needed to do something more,” says Murali.Solution
By 2009, Murali and his colleagues identified the outlines of that “something more.” Virtualization was evolving into cloud computing. Where virtualization had taken physical servers and moved them to virtual machines on one or more physical servers, cloud computing went further. It added an in-depth layer of management to virtual servers, enabling a company to manage them holistically—for example, moving workloads dynamically and automatically from over-burdened virtual machines to idle ones, even across separate physical hosts. The company’s employees would see the difference in greater responsiveness, higher availability, and easier use. Infosys chose to host its cloud environment privately, within its own infrastructure, accepting greater management responsibility for the sake of greater control over the environment.
Infosys now had a choice that was not available to it just a few years previously. Microsoft had introduced the Hyper-V virtualization technology in the Windows Server 2008 operating system. Infosys tested the product and found it amply powerful, stable, and cost-effective to meet its needs. Because Microsoft technology was broadly deployed at Infosys, the company’s IT staff was familiar with Windows Server, which meant it was also largely familiar with Hyper-V—even before using it. As Murali says, “Anything that simplifies our environment is good.”
Components of Private Cloud Computing
Virtualization is only part of what constitutes a private cloud environment. Murali and his colleagues were also impressed with the Microsoft tools available to manage the cloud technology: the Microsoft System Center family of products. The tight interoperability of System Center tools and Microsoft virtualization, along with the ability to use those tools to manage both its virtual and physical environments were further points in favor of choosing Microsoft private cloud technology.
Infosys adopted Windows Server 2008 (now updated to Windows Server 2008 R2 with SP1) with Hyper-V, along with a broad set of System Center products. Those products include Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R3 to ensure prompt software updates, Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 for fast and reliable business continuity, Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 to monitor and address potential problems before they become actual problems, and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 and Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal for managing virtual machines.
The company built a custom portal—interoperating tightly with in-house asset management and project management systems—from the ground up as a wrapper on top of Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal. With this architecture, virtual machines are tracked just like any physical IT asset in the asset management system. That helps to ensure that they adhere to the overall governance framework.
Murali wanted to accomplish two mutually reinforcing goals by creating a private cloud environment: to make it as useful as possible for Infosys employees and their customers, and to maximize user adoption. That required him to think like his users—and to not think about virtualization.
“Our developers and project managers don’t care whether their needs are being met by the cloud, our servers, or their desktops,” says Murali. “They just want highly available, easy-to-use solutions that are tailored to their specific requirements. So we stopped talking about the cloud and started talking about business scenarios.”
One Size Doesn’t Fit All
||Virtualization looked like a much better route for us. We could reduce costs for hardware, software, and IT management and be more responsive to our developers and others.
||K. Murali Krishna
Senior Vice President Computers and Communications Division
Murali envisioned a solution that was not a single, one-size-fits-all private cloud environment but rather a series of cloud services, each tailored to a specific business need. Infosys calls the solution the Experience Wrapper because each private cloud environment gives its users a distinct experience (i.e., different interfaces, workflows, security mechanisms, resources) designed for a narrow range of functions. The private cloud environments encompass services for development and test, for collaboration with partners and customers, for support of customer systems, and for sharing prototypes and other works-in-progress with customers. Murali and his colleagues focused first on a large, immediate need: supporting their developers and testers.
The result of their first effort is MyCloud, a development and test environment that replaces the desktop and server resources on which developers and testers formerly relied. Its most popular feature is automated provisioning of virtual machines using a custom-built self-service portal. The custom portal is based on System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self-Service Portal and includes agile virtual machine templates. IT staff uses the tool’s dynamic provisioning engine to automate as much of the process of validating requests and provisioning resources as they wish. At the same time, developers and others use the same portal to access and manage virtual instances allocated to their projects.
MyCloud, now in production for two years, is based at four Infosys data centers to enhance high availability and business continuity. Each data center supports MyCloud with 16 physical hosts configured in failover clusters—12 active and 4 passive at each site—running on a mixture of Dell and HP hardware. Each physical host supports up to 60 virtual machines; the entire cloud environment supports up to 2,400 virtual machines.
Infosys recently launched its Collaboration Cloud, another part of the Experience Wrapper. Infosys developers and project managers—and their customers, suppliers, and others—use this private cloud to work jointly on virtual machines, share files, and run real-time demonstrations of working code. While Infosys had based MyCloud on Active Directory authentication and self-service provisioning, it based Collaboration Cloud on a dual-authentication system that increases security for an environment that is open to selected external users, such as customers and partners, and on workflows created to expedite control provisioning and other business processes. Infosys is now pilot-testing Access Cloud, which it created to support customer systems. The company plans other private cloud environments, in addition to support for virtualized SUSE Linu operating systems running on the cross-platform Hyper-V technology.Benefits
Infosys uses Microsoft private cloud technology to manage its infrastructure more efficiently and effectively, to mitigate much of its system risk, to increase utilization and reduce cost, and—perhaps most importantly—to fuel competitive advantage and business growth.
Reduces IT Staff Time to Provision Servers by 87 Percent
Many of the tasks that formerly consumed the time of the company’s IT staff now are handled automatically, freeing them to devote time and attention to activities that promise greater value to the company.
For example, Murali points to the process of provisioning servers and other resources for developers and testers. Because that process is now highly automated, IT staffers who formerly spent anywhere from two to four hours per server on provisioning now spend no more than 30 minutes—a savings of about 87 percent.
“One reason we adopted Microsoft private cloud technology was to bend the cost and time curves to support our users as we continue to grow,” says Murali. “It’s certainly doing that.”
Virtually Eliminates Risk from Unmanaged Computers
Infosys finds that managing resources is not just more efficient—it is also more effective. And perhaps nowhere is greater effectiveness more important than when it comes to securing the infrastructure.
||Our developers and project managers don’t care whether their needs are being met by the cloud, our servers, or their desktops. They just want highly available, easy-to-use solutions that are tailored to their specific requirements.
||K. Murali Krishna
Senior Vice President Computers and Communications Division
“I used to get involved in the implementation of security updates,” Murali says. “We’d have 80 percent compliance when we implemented a security update—some of the servers would be offline, some would have configurations that were incompatible with the update. After a week of work to investigate and address the noncomplying servers, we’d be at 95 percent. It would take two weeks to get to 100 percent on the computers we managed—which weren’t all the computers out there. It was not acceptable.”
Now, Murali uses the combination of System Center Configuration Manager and Hyper-V to help ensure 100 percent compliance within two to four days—vastly reducing the amount of time that his IT staff spends on achieving that compliance.
Infosys has optimized its security in other ways, too. It strengthens security where it needs it most—for example, on the externally facing Collaboration Cloud—without burdening those using internally facing cloud environments.
The company has also gained a major security enhancement from the virtual elimination of unmanaged servers and desktop computers.
“Access to decommissioned computers gave developers an unofficial alternative to waiting weeks for new computers, but those computers didn’t receive security updates and monitoring, greatly increasing our risk exposure ,” says Murali. “By adopting Microsoft private cloud technology, we’ve eliminated the incentive for developers to keep old computers under their desks and mitigated the risk from those unmanaged computers.”
Reduces Energy Costs by 80 Percent
By adopting Microsoft private cloud technology to boost IT efficiency, Infosys is able to expand its business without requiring a commensurate increase in capital and operating costs. Infosys can now respond to changes in workloads and spikes in traffic by shifting compute power and other resources dynamically and automatically to wherever they are needed. That has increased average CPU utilization, for example, from 35 percent on standalone servers to 80 percent on Hyper-V hosts. The increase in effective capacity, in turn, reduces the need to add hardware for each new customer and workload that Infosys undertakes.
The increase in capacity also reduces the need to keep hardware idle for the sake of workloads that arise only periodically. Idle hardware not only incurs depreciation, it also consumes major quantities of energy 24 hours daily for direct operation, heating, and cooling. Murali estimates that there has been a reduction of around 80 percent in power demand by such workloads due to virtualization.
Gets Developers onto New Environments in 30 Minutes
Infosys uses its private cloud environments to give each group of users an environment best tailored to its primary business scenarios. Tight interoperability between those environments and in-house asset management and project management systems helps to ensure that only required environments are provisioned. “Users get the environments they need—and only the environments they need,” says Murali. “That makes them more productive the moment they start using private cloud services.”
Developers used to wait up to six weeks for new computers to be procured and provisioned for their use. Even when hardware was readily available, it still took two days to acquire and provision it. Now developers are up and running with their new environments in just a half-hour. As a result, developers have more time to consider design and development alternatives while still helping Infosys to bring its solutions to market more quickly than before. Similarly, testers conduct more testing on those solutions without having to wait for new test computers. The result is the creation of customer solutions that are more effective and more reliable.
Developers and other employees now have more freedom to work from home or other off-site locations because the private cloud technology supports external access while maintaining optimized security. Sales and marketing personnel are more effective in meetings at customer sites because they run demonstrations from the private cloud, rather than relying on portable computers, which represent greater risk.
“We built private cloud services on Microsoft technologies that not only support our continued growth but also help us to achieve that growth more efficiently and effectively,” says Murali. Windows Server 2008 R2
Windows Server 2008 R2 is a multipurpose operating system designed to increase the reliability and flexibility of your server and private cloud infrastructure, helping you to save time and reduce costs. It provides you with powerful tools to react to business needs faster than ever before with greater control and confidence.
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