4-page Case Study - Posted 3/15/2010
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Humanitarian Group Replaces VMware with Hyper-V to Cut Costs, Improve Response
Facing reduced donations and rising demand for services, the Swedish Red Cross (SRC) wanted to lower operational costs and increase IT agility so it could better help those in need. The nonprofit switched from VMware virtualization software to the Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter operating system with Hyper-V virtualization technology to achieve annual-licensing, hardware, and energy savings of SEK113,000 (U.S.$15,000). Not only has the SRC reduced operational costs, but it has gained increased IT agility from the ability to create servers in minutes to meet the needs of project teams. The SRC uses Microsoft System Center data center solutions to automate many server management tasks, which also frees up IT staff’s time to better support the organization’s needs and protect data. Using Hyper-V to reduce physical servers also helps the SRC lessen its environmental impact.
The Swedish Red Cross (SRC) is one of the oldest Red Cross national societies and the largest voluntary humanitarian organization in Sweden, with approximately 250,000 members and close to 40,000 volunteers who contribute their time and money to improve conditions for other people at home and abroad. The Swedish Red Cross is based in Stockholm and employs 450 people.
“With the economy continuing to be tight, we have smaller budgets and greater needs to respond to than ever before,” says Jim Terneborg, Infrastructure Technician for the Swedish Red Cross. “We needed to do everything possible to reduce operational costs, which include data center costs. We in the IT department also want to continue to use technology to deliver the best services we can, so our employees can deliver prompt and meaningful services to people in need.”
To that end, the IT staff had embraced server virtualization in 2004, when rising server costs first began seriously eating into the organization’s budget. The SRC was one of the first organizations in Sweden to deploy VMware virtualization software, and used it to reduce its server count by half, from 30 to 15.
However, even with these consolidation gains, the server count continued to grow as the SRC continued to computerize many operations and use software programs such as e-mail, collaboration software, and finance programs to run more efficiently. Much of the business software that SRC used to automate its operations came from Microsoft: Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft SQL Server 2005 data management software, Microsoft System Center data center solutions, and others.
In early 2009, the SRC needed to upgrade its server hardware and decided to further standardize on Microsoft software to streamline management work and costs. “By this time, VMware was one of the notable exceptions to our all-Microsoft environment,” Terneborg says. “Every time we ran into a problem in the VMware environment, we had to bring in a consultant since we didn’t have the expertise on staff, which cost a lot of money. VMware licensing costs were also quite high.”
In March 2009, when the SRC purchased new IBM blade servers, it decided to investigate the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system with Hyper-V virtualization technology. The SRC already had a Microsoft Enterprise Client Access License, which included Windows Server 2008 licensing. And for the cost of licensing the Datacenter edition of Windows Server 2008 R2 as the host operating system, the SRC would get unlimited operating system licensing for virtual machines.
“Saving money was certainly part of the appeal of Windows Server 2008, but we also knew that with a pure Microsoft solution, we could manage our entire infrastructure ourselves and get rid of expensive VMware consultants,” Terneborg says. “We could use System Center programs to manage our virtual machines, which would give us a single management pane to control our entire physical and virtual environment.”
SRC engaged ATEA, a local Microsoft Gold Certified Partner with expertise in Hyper-V, to help it install Windows Server 2008 Datacenter and its Hyper-V virtualization feature. “We wanted to deploy Hyper-V using Microsoft best practices, and ATEA was familiar with those,” Terneborg says. “It also provided on-site training to our staff so we didn’t have to send staff members out of the office for training.”
||We will realize about SEK113,000 [$15,000] in hard savings with Hyper-V, and we will be able to manage a growing number of servers without expanding our headcount.
Infrastructure Technician, Swedish Red Cross
ATEA also helped the SRC set up a virtualization cluster with an attached storage area network and migrate VMware servers to Hyper-V. The SRC is using the Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008, which provides a pared-down operating system footprint for reduced maintenance.
To date, the SRC has deployed Windows Server Datacenter on four host servers configured as a high-availability cluster, and it has created 27 virtual machines on this cluster. It migrated its 15 VMware virtual machines to Hyper-V and added 12 new virtual machines, eliminating the need to buy 12 physical servers. The virtual machines run a mix of the Windows Server 2008 Standard, Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard, Windows Server 2003 Standard, and Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard operating systems.
The SRC still has 25 stand-alone servers, about half of which will be virtualized by mid-2010. By June 2010, the SRC plans to have only 14 physical servers left in its data center, six of which are hosts of Hyper-V. “We have virtualized not only test and development servers, file and print servers, domain controllers, and Web servers, but our most demanding and critical applications such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, SQL Server 2008 and 2005 databases, and our finance application,” Terneborg says.
The SRC has virtualized seven SQL Server 2005 and 2008 databases used by up to 600 users; its Microsoft Dynamics CRM business software used by 40 users; and its Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 implementation, which manages 600 client and server computers. Also virtualized are its human resources and payroll application (Agresso) with 500 users, its budgeting and forecasting application (Mercur) with 200 users, and its file servers with 600 users and 600 gigabytes of data.
Interoperable Management Suite
By going with Microsoft System Center Server Management Suite Datacenter, the SRC cost-effectively gained server management licenses for the four main products of System Center, three of which it put to immediate use. The SRC used Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 to migrate its VMware virtual machines to Hyper-V and also create new virtual machines.
Terneborg and his colleagues use Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 to monitor physical and virtual servers and to optimize the performance of all servers. “If I log onto System Center Operations Manager, I can get a quick look at the health of all physical and virtual servers,” Terneborg says. “If there are problems, it’s very easy to drill down and find the root cause of the problem.” The team also uses Performance and Resource Optimization, a feature of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, to increase virtual-machine performance as needed.
The SRC uses System Center Configuration Manager 2007 to apply security updates to physical and virtual servers, and to distribute software to the organization’s client computers. Early in 2010, it will deploy Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2010, which provides disk and tape-based backup of all server data.
By migrating from VMware to Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter with Hyper-V, the Swedish Red Cross anticipates saving about SEK113,000 (U.S.$15,000) a year in reduced software licensing costs, consulting fees, server hardware, and power. Its IT staff can do more with fewer people and can be more responsive to the needs of project groups. The nonprofit gained a cost-effective data protection mechanism and a more environmental way to run its data center.
Annual IT Savings of $15,000
By switching from VMware to Hyper-V, the SRC has saved about SEK40,000 ($5,400) annually that used to go toward licensing VMware. It will also realize significant savings by eliminating VMware consulting fees.
Additionally, the move to Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter saves the SRC about SEK13,000 ($1,700) annually in operating system licensing fees. “We already have a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, so we are getting more from our existing investment,” Terneborg says.
More savings lie ahead. With continued virtualization, the SRC expects to save about SEK30,000 ($4,000) annually on server hardware and another SEK30,000 ($4,000) on data center power.
||Saving money was certainly part of the appeal of Windows Server 2008, but we also knew that with a pure Microsoft solution, we could manage our entire infrastructure ourselves and get rid of expensive VMware consultants.
Infrastructure Technician, Swedish Red Cross
With greatly streamlined server setup and management, the SRC IT staff is also far more efficient and able to do more work with fewer people. “We will realize about SEK113,000 [$15,000] in hard savings with Hyper-V, and we will be able to manage a growing number of servers without expanding our headcount,” Terneborg says.
More Responsive IT Support
With its new virtualization technology, the SRC IT staff can be more responsive to the dynamic needs of the organization. “When business teams request new software and servers for new projects, we can get resources to them immediately, rather than have them wait weeks for hardware to be ordered and configured and software licensing arranged,” Terneborg says. “The System Center Virtual Machine Manager interface looks like every other Microsoft program, so it’s very easy for the IT staff to learn and work with,” Terneborg says.
Setting up a new virtual machine using a template takes minutes, whereas it takes hours to set up a physical server. If a project team needs a new server, Terneborg’s staff can deliver it in minutes so the team can get to work right away. Or if a user wants to upgrade a server, the IT staff can make a copy of the virtual machine, upgrade the software, then move the virtual machine back, so their work is not interrupted. If the upgrade didn’t work, it’s easy to reinstate the original server. “Also, we don’t have to worry about licensing issues because our Windows Server Datacenter license covers all the virtual machines we create,” Terneborg says.
Now that the SRC has moved its business applications to new, more powerful hardware, those applications perform better, and the SRC is getting better use from its hardware investment.
Cost-Effective Data Protection
In addition to cutting costs and increasing business agility, the SRC has been able to better protect its data using a combination of clustering and automated backup. “With Hyper-V support for clustering, our application availability is much better,” Terneborg says. “We don’t have to worry about physical servers failing and taking down critical applications. We have better insight into server and application health and performance and can proactively move ailing virtual machines to other host servers if necessary.”
When the SRC deploys System Center Data Protection Manager, the IT staff anticipates even better data protection. “We can copy production virtual machines to an offsite backup location,” Terneborg says. “If anything happens to our primary data center, we will have a copy of all our production servers. It would have been cost-prohibitive to create a disaster-recovery setup using physical servers, but now we get it as part of our System Center Server Management Suite Datacenter license.”
“Because environmental issues impact our aid recipients, it’s of course important to the SRC to be a good environmental citizen and do all we can to reduce our environmental impact,” Terneborg says. “We’re not only reducing our electrical usage with Hyper-V, but we’re saving a lot of money that we can use to further our humanitarian mission.”
In closing, Joakim Pettersson-Winter, Chief Technology Officer of the Swedish Red Cross, reflects on how virtualization with Hyper-V helps the SRC better fulfill its humanitarian mission: “The SRC has a clear strategy of controlling and minimizing administrative overhead. This demands a highly effective IT organization that doesn’t solve capacity problems by increasing staff. For this reason, timesaving solutions are key to our ability to improve service levels. The time we save by implementing Hyper-V virtualization means increased ability to support our end users. Our staff spends less time waiting for technology-related problems to be solved so we have faster response to disasters.”
Microsoft virtualization is an end-to-end strategy that can profoundly affect nearly every aspect of the IT infrastructure management lifecycle. It can drive greater efficiencies, flexibility, and cost effectiveness throughout your organization. From accelerating application deployments; to ensuring systems, applications, and data are always available; to taking the hassle out of rebuilding and shutting down servers and desktops for testing and development; to reducing risk, slashing costs, and improving the agility of your entire environment—virtualization has the power to transform your infrastructure, from the data center to the desktop.
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