2 page Case Study - Posted 11/14/2013
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Sunbelt Rentals

Rental Company Uses Virtualization to Establish Flexible Disaster Recovery Solution

Sunbelt Rentals, an equipment rental company, wanted to establish a colocation facility for disaster recovery. The company plans to handle site replication using a cost-effective solution based on Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V, Hyper-V Replica, and the Virtual Machine Manager component of Microsoft System Center 2012 R2. The solution will increase IT staff efficiency and offers the flexibility and management ease to support a third replication site.

Business Needs
Sunbelt Rentals is the company to call if you need to rent a crane, an excavator, a concrete mixer, a stump grinder, or just about any other type of heavy equipment. The rental company has an equipment inventory of more than US$2 billion and more than 400 locations throughout the United States.

A key differentiator for Sunbelt is that it offers around-the-clock emergency service to help its customers ensure that they get their jobs done on schedule. Being available at all times, however, means that the company needs its own infrastructure—including its IT systems—to run smoothly, regardless of the hour. For that, Sunbelt needed a disaster recovery solution that it could count on. The company sought a solution that would not only help it in case of a technical failure, but also in case of a natural disaster. “We have never had major problems, but it is risky to go without a comprehensive disaster recovery plan,” says David Booher, Director of Enterprise Infrastructure at Sunbelt Rentals. “We decided to establish a colocation facility in Little Rock, Arkansas, so that our company could remain up and running no matter what.”

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* Thanks to our decision to virtualize using the latest version of Hyper-V …, we will be able to respond to our employees more quickly and provide faster, better services to our customers. *

David Booher
Director of Enterprise Infrastructure, Sunbelt Rentals

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Sunbelt Rentals already had a technology infrastructure that was well-suited to replication. In 2008, the company began to virtualize its infrastructure by using VMware ESX technology, but it quickly migrated to the Windows Server operating system with Hyper-V virtualization technology as soon as it became available. “We have always been big believers in Microsoft technologies, and other virtualization technologies were very pricey,” recalls Booher. “We also had some issues with the level and quality of support that we received from VMware.”

In the years since it first invested in virtualization technology, Sunbelt has gradually shifted its physical server computers to virtual machines. As of November 2013, the company has 17 servers that host 130 virtual machines, most of which handle workloads that include Microsoft SQL Server 2012, various line-of-business applications, web services, and custom-developed applications.

Solution
As Sunbelt considered the best way to handle a colocation facility for disaster recovery, it opted to take part in an early-adoption program for Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V and Microsoft System Center 2012 R2. “We wanted to see how using Hyper-V would help us take advantage of what we already own to be able to quickly set up the colocation facility,” says Booher.

As part of the program, Sunbelt deployed Windows Server 2012 R2 as a host operating system and used native Hyper-V Replica capabilities to replicate multiple virtual machines between its Fort Mill data center and a secondary data center in Charlotte, North Carolina, which will be retired after the colocation facility is up and running. The company is using the Virtual Machine Manager component of System Center 2012 R2 to support its test environment and Windows Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager to coordinate the replication. Sunbelt received help from a Microsoft Services consultant, who provided guidance as to how best to implement the network components.

The company also set up an experimental private cloud with a separate blade chassis for its development team. “We wanted to minimize both server sprawl and the IT burden,” says Ken Collins, Senior Systems Administrator at Sunbelt Rentals. “In the future, implementing private clouds will increase our speed of deployment for new products, servers, and services.”

Sunbelt expects to gradually upgrade its infrastructure to Windows Server 2012 R2 as it replaces hardware components, and it anticipates using Hyper-V Replica in production as early as 2014. Building a new colocation facility from the ground up is a huge undertaking, but the company eventually plans to transform the Little Rock colocation facility into a full production data center and build a new disaster recovery location to support both the Little Rock and Fort Mill sites. “We appreciate that replicating to a third site is not only possible but also easy with Windows Server 2012 R2 and Hyper-V Replica,” says Booher.

Benefits
For Sunbelt Rentals, using Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V, Hyper-V Replica, and Virtual Machine Manager provides business continuity at an affordable cost. “Our IT department has become more vital to the business as we deliver additional applications and services, so it’s more important than ever that we keep our systems running,” says Booher. “Thanks to our decision to virtualize using the latest version of Hyper-V and related services, we will be able to respond to our employees more quickly and provide faster, better services to our customers.” The benefits of upgrading include:
  • Increased flexibility. Sunbelt values the many choices it now has for establishing and managing a disaster recovery environment. “By using Hyper-V Replica, we gain tremendous flexibility, whether we want to revert back to a previous state, conduct one-click replications of our production servers, or keep virtual machines online while fixing issues,” says Booher.

  • IT staff efficiency. The company will be able to expand its IT footprint without a commensurate increase in IT staff because of the Microsoft tools that help the IT staff manage effectively. “The feature set that we get with Windows Server 2012 R2 makes it possible for us to set up our disaster recovery solutions quickly, without having to hire additional employees,” says Booher. “Just a few IT staffers can accomplish a lot, and we won’t need to employ IT personnel at our new facility because we can use System Center 2012 R2 to manage everything remotely.”

  • Affordability. Sunbelt recognizes that its colocation facility and ongoing management of that facility will be less expensive because the company chose to use virtualization technology from Microsoft. “Using Microsoft technologies for replication keeps our costs down because so much is already covered under our Microsoft Enterprise Agreement,” says Booher. “We are gaining peace of mind at a reasonable price.”

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Solution Overview



Organization Size: 5000 employees

Organization Profile

Based in Fort Mill, South Carolina, Sunbelt Rentals rents equipment for the industrial, construction, municipal, and homeowner markets through its more than 400 locations around the United States.


Hardware

  • Cisco Unified Computing System
  • HP BladeSystem c7000 servers


Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Microsoft Azure Hyper-V Recovery Manager
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft System Center 2012 R2
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Microsoft Services
  • Microsoft Consulting Services
  • Datacenter
  • Microsoft Hyper-V

Vertical Industries
  • Heavy Construction
  • Specialty Retail

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Cloud & Server Platform
  • Data Protection and Recovery
  • Disaster Recovery

IT Issue
Private Cloud

Languages
English

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