4-page Case Study - Posted 2/3/2010
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Holding Company Enhances Availability and IT Services, Cuts Costs with Virtualization
Founded in 1834, Ayala Corporation is a renowned, highly diversified holding company based in the Philippines. Committed to using advanced technologies to help maximize business investments and enhance employee productivity, the company’s IT staff sought a cost-effective way to streamline IT management tasks and optimize application and server availability. Using the Windows Server 2008 Datacenter operating system with Hyper-V technology and several Microsoft System Center products, Ayala consolidated physical servers by more than 60 percent and reduced server rack space requirements by half. The company can now provision servers in minutes instead of hours, back up all of its virtual machines, and provide more responsive service—all while saving at least one hour every day in IT infrastructure management work and reducing IT costs by millions of pesos.
Ayala Corporation, the holding company for one of the oldest and most diversified conglomerates in the Philippines, has 120 employees and a fiscal year 2008 consolidated net income of 8.1 billion pesos (U.S.$174.5 million). Founded in 1834, Ayala is headquartered in Makati City and has businesses in a wide range of industries, including real estate development, banking and financial services, telecommunications, electronics and information technology, and water infrastructure development and management. Ayala is committed to ensuring that its business interests maintain the company’s tradition of excellence and fulfill its brand promise of “pioneering the future.”
Ayala uses advanced technologies to help maximize investments, improve infrastructure reliability, and enhance productivity. It also helps some of its smaller subsidiaries by providing them with technology resources that are supported by Ayala IT staff. However, with just six Information and Communications Technology staff members, it was difficult for Ayala to efficiently manage its computing environment and ensure business continuity.
“Maintaining and managing all of the physical servers needed to support our operations was too costly, too cumbersome, and time-consuming for our IT staff,” says Maria Angelica Rapadas, CIO for Ayala.
||Using Microsoft virtualization technology marks a milestone for Ayala. It is a giant leap into the ‘technology of the future’ and a win-win for our IT staff, end users, and businesses.
||Maria Angelica Rapadas
For instance, Ayala offers hosted e-mail service using Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 e-mail messaging and collaboration software to one of its businesses and wanted to extend that service to more of them. However, doing so would require a separate server for each additional business—which Ayala could not do because it already managed more physical servers than it needed. Ayala tended to dedicate a server for each of its applications. As a result, Ayala overinvested in servers, which were vastly underutilized.
Ayala IT staff members were also challenged with backing up all of the company’s servers. Because each server needed to be completely replicated on another computer, Ayala would need to have the same number of physical servers at its backup site as it did in production for full coverage. Not only would this be costly, it would require more time for the IT staff to manage. “We simply didn’t have the resources to support one-to-one backup, so we replicated only a handful of our servers,” says Mauricio Franco, Jr., Systems and Operations Manager for Ayala. This would put the company at risk if servers that weren’t replicated failed.
It was also time-consuming for IT staff to provision new servers. It typically took staff members at least half a day to deploy a physical server—time that was in short supply.
“With a lean IT organization, and a mandate to maximize availability, we needed a way to streamline our operations, reduce overall IT costs, and enable a much more resilient, flexible environment,” says Rapadas. “We believed that virtualization technology would enable us to achieve our goals and establish a more dynamic infrastructure.”
In December 2008, Ayala Corporation engaged with First Datacorp, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that specializes in helping businesses architect, develop, and deploy business-critical IT solutions. The goal was to build a flexible, high-availability infrastructure that would help Ayala minimize IT-related costs.
The companies began by evaluating VMware ESX and the Windows Server 2008 operating system with Hyper-V virtualization technology. They found that the features of the two hypervisors were comparable, but the prices were not. “At the onset of our proof of concept, the Hyper-V solution cost only one-tenth of VMware,” says Franco. “Even after VMware cut its cost to be more competitive, we were still able to realize a more cost-effective solution with Microsoft by using the Windows Server 2008 Datacenter edition.”
Using Windows Server 2008 Datacenter, Ayala can run an unlimited number of virtual guests per licensed server. This enabled the company to save approximately 10 million pesos (U.S.$217,792) in operating system licenses. In addition to selecting it for cost savings, Ayala wanted to take advantage of the Windows Server 2008 failover clustering capability and security features such as Windows Firewall with Advanced Security Microsoft Management Console snap-in, to strengthen business continuity and minimize downtime.
According to Noli Cura, Manager of the Technical Services Group for First Datacorp, “Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V is the best virtualization solution on the market. Its enhanced performance and stability help Ayala create a consolidated and highly reliable server infrastructure to host critical business applications. It also enables Ayala to maximize the return on its investment in Microsoft products.”
Franco adds, “Virtualization is the technology of the future. With the way it has structured its licensing, we expect Hyper-V to be the market leader.”
||Even after VMware cut its costs to be more competitive, we were still able to realize a more cost-effective solution with Microsoft by using the Windows Server 2008 Datacenter edition.
||Mauricio Franco, Jr.
Systems and Operations Manager, Ayala
The Ayala virtualization project began in January 2009 with a Hyper-V architecture planning and design workshop that was facilitated by Microsoft Consulting Services. The companies used the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit 4.0 to collect performance metrics of every physical server in the data center and identify servers that would be good candidates for conversion to virtual machines. “Using the MAP Toolkit significantly reduced the amount of time required for server inventory and planning,” Cura notes.
Using results from the planning and design session, First Datacorp began to implement the solution. It installed Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V on a new IBM BladeCenter HS21 server and configured a three-node Hyper-V cluster. First Datacorp also used Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, running on an IBM BladeCenter HS21 server, to convert 41 physical servers to virtual machines and to simplify ongoing management of the virtual machines.
The solution has been in production since February 2009. Currently, Ayala has 41 Hyper-V–based virtual machines at its primary site, running on three IBM BladeCenter HS21 blade servers. Approximately 20 virtual machines run on each of the first two nodes, with the third node reserved for backup. The company plans to add six to 12 more virtual machines by the end of 2010. Ayala replicates the virtual machines at its backup site and uses an EMC CLARiiON CX4-120 storage area network and Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 to back up its servers.
Ayala runs key custom-built and Microsoft software on its virtual machines, including Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2. It also runs high-availability configurations of Microsoft SQL Server 2003 data management software and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, and has virtualized the Exchange Server 2007 Mediation, Edge Transport, and Microsoft Office Communications Server front-end roles.
As part of its deployment project, Ayala also wanted to upgrade from Microsoft Office 2003 to Microsoft Office Professional Enterprise Edition 2007. It used Microsoft Application Virtualization to ensure a smooth migration. Because Microsoft Application Virtualization enables different versions of the same application to run simultaneously on the same computer, employees can have both products on their computers and use the earlier version until they are ready to move to Office 2007.
Using Hyper-V virtualization software and Microsoft System Center products, Ayala Corporation has consolidated servers, reduced costs, simplified server management tasks, and strengthened its business continuity program. “Using Microsoft virtualization technology marks a milestone for Ayala. It is a giant leap into the ‘technology of the future’ and a win-win for our IT staff, end users, and businesses,” says Rapadas.
Consolidated Physical Servers by More Than 60 Percent, Saved Money
Ayala cut the number of physical servers at its primary site from 40 to 15—a reduction of more than 60 percent—while doubling utilization of its host computers and still leaving ample capacity to accommodate growth. This consolidation also enabled Ayala to cut its server rack space needs by 50 percent. The company expects even greater savings in the future.
“By consolidating servers; not having to purchase new, high-end physical servers for backups; and reducing operating system licenses, we saved millions of pesos. We also realized savings in collocation and energy costs,” Franco notes. “And because virtualization eliminates unused physical server capacity, we maximize our return on investment.”
Accelerated Provisioning, Simplified Management Tasks
Ayala IT staff members benefit from more efficient server management and better control. “With System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, we have a single panel view for managing and monitoring our virtual servers, which makes our jobs much easier,” says Sherwin Celestial, Systems and Network Specialist for Ayala. “And by using the product’s physical-to-virtual conversion and template capabilities, we speed up server deployments.”
Ayala can now provision servers in minutes instead of hours. This was particularly beneficial when one of the company’s new startup subsidiaries recently needed a collaboration Web site. In the past, Ayala might not have been able to help the business; this time, however, Ayala IT staff provisioned the virtual server for the Web site in just 30 minutes, without having to acquire new physical resources.
Maintaining physical servers is also easier because IT staff can easily move virtual machines from one physical server to another during scheduled maintenance. And because Ayala consolidated its physical servers and uses System Center Virtual Machine Manager to manage its virtual servers, the environment is much less time-consuming for IT staff to manage. By simplifying these types of tasks, Ayala saves at least one hour every day in IT infrastructure management work. This frees IT staff to focus on more strategic projects.
The company has also enhanced security. With fewer host computers, there are fewer vulnerability points. Ayala can provide different levels of access to people in the holding company and the subsidiaries. For instance, it can let subsidiaries who take advantage of the e-mail service add new users with Active Directory Domain Services, while enabling only corporate IT staff to access the server.
Ayala no longer dedicates a separate server for each service offered to its subsidiaries. Using Hyper-V, the company created a shared infrastructure. One physical server can house different applications for different companies, making it much more cost-effective for Ayala to support. The company already added another subsidiary to its Exchange Server for e-mail services, and it is exploring additional services that it may begin offering in 2010.
Improved Availability and Business Continuity
Ayala has vastly improved the reliability of its infrastructure, taking advantage of the failover clustering capabilities and high-availability architecture in Windows Server 2008, as well as the recovery capabilities in System Center Data Protection Manager. “Not only do end users experience much higher application availability, they can now be confident that their applications will be easily recovered, if needed, on the virtual machines at our backup site,” says Celestial. Ayala expanded coverage at its backup site, replicating and backing up all of its virtual machines. The company strengthened its business continuity program without spending more money on physical servers.
Franco concludes, “We’re extremely pleased with our Microsoft virtualization implementation. We have established an efficient server migration strategy, created a high-availability environment, and improved responsiveness—all while streamlining IT management tasks, reducing costs, and optimizing our overall infrastructure.”
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.
For more information about Microsoft virtualization solutions, go to:
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For more information about First Datacorp products and services, call (63) (2) 893 6657 or visit the Web site at:
For more information about Ayala Corporation products and services, call (63) (2) 848 5643 or visit the Web site at: