4-page Case Study - Posted 5/31/2013
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Aston Martin

Luxury Sports Car Manufacturer Accelerates Efficiency with Latest Operating System

Behind every luxury sports car produced by Aston Martin is a sophisticated IT infrastructure. The goal of the Aston Martin IT team is to optimize that infrastructure so that it performs as efficiently as the production line it supports. To meet that goal, Aston Martin is standardizing on Microsoft technology. The IT team chose the Windows Server 2012 operating system, including Hyper-V technology to virtualize its data center and build four private clouds to dynamically allocate IT resources to the business as needed. For cloud and data center management, Aston Martin uses Microsoft System Center 2012. With a single viewpoint into the company’s entire infrastructure, the IT team can ensure that PCs in the company’s headquarters and production facility are running reliably at peak performance.
Aston Martin is a more cohesive, productive organization as a result.

Situation
Founded in 1913, by Robert Bamford and Lionel Martin as Bamford & Martin, the company has developed into an iconic auto brand. It was in 1914 that it became known as Aston Martin, following one of Lionel Martin's successful runs at the Aston Hill Climb in Buckinghamshire, England. Within a year, the first Aston Martin had been built and registered with the name, and by 1920, the business had relocated to Kensington in London.

Today, Aston Martin cars are synonymous with luxury, heritage, and authentic craftsmanship. Alongside these core values comes passion about the cars the company produces: all models are hand-crafted using advanced production techniques and technology processes within a modern environment at the forefront of contemporary manufacturing.

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* The IT team’s purpose is to enable
Aston Martin to build the most beautiful sports cars in the world. So, from servers, to desktops, to production line PCs, Microsoft technology is behind everything we do.
*

Daniel Roach-Rooke
IT Infrastructure Manager,
Aston Martin

*
Supporting the company’s entire operations, including offices in Germany, the United States, Japan, and China and corporate headquarters in Gaydon—a state-of-the-art global production facility and the company’s main data center—the IT infrastructure at Aston Martin drives the company’s success. Over time, this infrastructure had evolved into a heterogeneous platform of disparate operating systems and management tools.

“The 15-member infrastructure and operations staff worked hard to build interoperability into our systems and tools to optimize performance, speed, and agility, but it was a challenge,” says Daniel Roach-Rooke, IT Infrastructure Manager at Aston Martin. “The ‘consumerization’ of IT; cloud and hybrid computing complete with shifting networks; and the increasing mobility of our employees and their devices make it even more imperative that we have proper tools to manage and control the Aston Martin environment.”

Previously, business units made their own IT purchases for their projects. If a production engineering team wanted a new piece of machinery—and these machines all have an embedded PC with a UI that has to be monitored to ensure optimal production lines—the team would have to buy the machinery and then ask the IT team to install it on a server and connect it to a database and the network. “Sometimes, we would get a call saying the production line is about to go down because there’s a problem with a system, and we wouldn’t know about it because we hadn’t provisioned it,” says Roach-Rooke.

Decentralized IT purchasing contributed to a plethora of standalone servers running disparate operating systems. Aston Martin had physical servers running the Windows Server 2003 and 2008 R2 operating systems and Solaris UNIX-based operating systems. When the company began to virtualize its servers, it used a combination of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 and VMware virtualization technologies, but these two solutions required different management tools, incurring extra work for the IT team. “We knew that virtualization was the only way to move forward, but I wanted to standardize on a single virtualization technology that would serve all our needs, including running some of our SUSE Linux-based applications,” says Roach-Rooke.

Other technologies at Aston Martin included a Cisco IPsec remote access solution and ZenApp, a Citrix desktop virtualization solution. The IT team replaced the Altiris Deployment Solution with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 in 2011, but the company did not have a consolidated server and infrastructure management solution that would work with the diverse technologies that made up its infrastructure.

Consequently, the IT team used manual workarounds—such as manually provisioning and de-provisioning servers for the test and development environment—that affected its ability to provide efficient service to the business.

“Since I joined the company three years ago, our team has been working to change the perception of IT to one of a strategic partner and business enabler,” says Roach-Rooke. “But before we could effect that change, we had to simplify our IT platform and our policies and procedures. And to do that, we needed to align the business with a strategic IT vendor who could provide us with robust, leading-edge, and interoperable technologies so that we could build a central IT function with global insight and management.”

Solution
Aston Martin found that vendor in Microsoft. With the introduction of the Windows Server 2012 operating system, which includes the latest version of Hyper-V virtualization technology, and the launch of Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, Aston Martin saw a solid IT foundation that aligned with its goals of pushing the boundaries of contemporary sports car manufacturing.

*
* We knew that virtualization was the only way to move forward, but I wanted to standardize on a single virtualization technology that would serve all our needs. *

Daniel Roach-Rooke
IT Infrastructure Manager,
Aston Martin

*
“The 2012 iteration of Microsoft products is a very, very strong portfolio,” says Roach-Rooke. “As a customer, the 2012 refresh year demonstrated Microsoft’s commitment to building interoperable products that just work seamlessly together. It was an easy decision to go with Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012.” System Center 2012 is a product for managing data center resources, private clouds, and endpoint devices.

And when Roach-Rooke and his team compared the latest version of Hyper-V with VMware ESX, they were impressed. “If you compare the two products, the number of virtual machines per host, the amount of memory per virtual machine, and the total amount of memory per cluster, Hyper-V is superior to VMware,” says Roach-Rooke.

Flexible Licensing
Another reason that Aston Martin chose to work with Microsoft is that it could take advantage of many of the technologies it had already acquired through its Enterprise Agreement. This agreement includes Software Assurance for Volume Licensing, which provides automatic upgrades to new software versions and the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP). And with MDOP, Aston Martin gets Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V), which transforms applications into centrally managed services that are never installed on employees’ computers.

Aston Martin compared the cost of upgrading its VMware solution with the fact that it already had licenses for the Windows Server 2012 Datacenter edition and that System Center 2012 was covered by the Microsoft Enrollment for Core Infrastructure. Both Microsoft licenses allow Aston Martin to run, manage, and monitor an unlimited number of virtual machines in its data center. “I’m a big fan of the Enterprise Agreement and the buying power that it gives us for products,” says Roach-Rooke. “With the Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, I don’t require any additional outlay from my budget to give our users what they need, which is high availability, reliability, and good performance. That’s very compelling. I’m looking to derive maximum benefit from our Enterprise Agreement and use the whole Microsoft product stack, end to end. And underpinning everything is Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V, and System Center 2012.”

Aston Martin is replacing its Cisco remote access solution using the Remote Access technology within Windows Server 2012, which combines the DirectAccess feature and the Windows Routing and Remote Access Server (RRAS) feature in a unified server role. The company is also using Hyper-V and Remote Desktop Services to replace its Citrix remote desktop solution. The Remote Desktop Services role in Windows Server 2012 provides technologies that enable Aston Martin employees and specified third-parties to connect to virtual desktops, RemoteApp programs, and session-based desktops. With Remote Desktop Services, users can access remote connections from within a corporate network or from the Internet.

A Virtualized Data Center
Since deploying Windows Server 2012, Aston Martin is approximately two-thirds of the way through its server consolidation project. It has virtualized 35 physical servers, including many proprietary applications that ran on Microsoft SQL Server 2005 data management software. In the data center, a 12-node Hyper-V cluster hosting 112 virtual machines supports the production environment and a 6-node Hyper-V cluster running 33 servers is in the lab. There are approximately 30 VMware physical servers left to migrate.

*
* The 2012 iteration of Microsoft products is a very, very strong portfolio. As a customer, the 2012 refresh year demonstrated Microsoft’s commitment to building interoperable products that just work seamlessly together. *

Daniel Roach-Rooke
IT Infrastructure Manager,
Aston Martin

*
“Hyper-V is such a good product that we want to get everything moved over as soon as possible,” says Roach-Rooke. “For example, we compared Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 running on a physical Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 cluster with SharePoint Server 2013 running on a virtual SQL Server 2012 environment. Then we ran searches on SharePoint Server 2013, a very intensive SQL operation, in both environments and saw performance increases of between 20 to 30 percent with the virtual environment compared to the physical SQL Server 2008 R2 cluster.”

Aston Martin is currently moving its business-critical Siemens PLM (Project Lifecycle Management) software from a Linux environment running on Sun Sparc servers to Hyper-V running on HP BladeSystem hardware. “HP Servers have proved to be more reliable than competitor models, and also have better diagnostics, and better overall performance,” says Roach-Rooke. “They also have management tools that integrate into System Center.”

The Siemens PLM solution is a business-critical solution accessed daily by approximately 300 engineers, but it did not run in a highly available environment. “There was a proposal to move the PLM solution to VMware on Red Hat Linux virtual machines,” says Roach-Rooke. “But we decided to use Hyper-V and SUSE Linux 11 SP 2 instead, which can be fully integrated into our Windows environment. We’ll go live with this project in May 2013.”

The company is also taking advantage of Cluster-Aware Updating, a feature within Hyper-V that supports automatic updating of clustered servers with little or no loss in availability during the update process. The Aston Martin IT team can use Cluster-Aware Updating to take one node of the cluster offline, install updates, restart, and bring the node back online—all without disruption to the employees. Although the IT team is using Server Message Block 2.0 until they can upgrade the flare code on their storage area network, when the company upgrades to Hyper-V over Server Message Block 3 (SMB3) protocol, Aston Martin will gain a file-level storage protocol and the flexibility of remote storage at DirectAccess storage type speeds.

Private and Hybrid Clouds
Aston Martin is also using Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V to build private clouds—abstracting compute, storage, and networking resources to dynamically provision and scale applications and resources as needed by the business. To date, Aston Martin has three private clouds: one for the development and testing team and two for the production environment. These latter two cloud environments are for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 running on SQL Server 2012, and one is for System Center. And when the IT team finishes migrating its PLM solution to Hyper-V, it will constitute a fourth private cloud. Also, the IT team plans to migrate Active Directory Domain Services in Windows Server 2012 to Windows Azure, the Microsoft cloud services development, hosting, and management environment.

“With the private cloud, Microsoft extends way beyond the infrastructure-as-a-service concept and pushes the boundaries by blurring public, private, and hybrid clouds together,” says Roach-Rooke. “We are familiar with Windows Azure as our Internet site runs in that environment, and we are testing the migration of virtual machines to Windows Azure for disaster recovery and extra scalability.”

*
* If you compare the two products, the number of virtual machines per host, the amount of memory per virtual machine, and the total amount of memory per cluster, Hyper-V is superior to VMware. *

Daniel Roach-Rooke
IT Infrastructure Manager,
Aston Martin

*
Centralized Management Tools
By using System Center 2012, Aston Martin gains interoperable tools for cloud and data center management, so the IT team can optimize resources across public and private clouds and quickly deliver IT and application services to the business—all from a single administration console.

“System Center 2012 is another example of the fluid interoperability we benefit from with Microsoft products,” says Roach-Rooke. “By the end of 2013, we’ll be using all the components to manage our entire estate.”

Aston Martin is using System Center 2012 Configuration Manager to deploy standardized desktop images across the enterprise and the Data Protection Manager component of System Center 2012 for automated backups to disk—from desktops to the entire virtual estate. The company is deploying the Operations Manager component for infrastructure monitoring. By the end of 2013, it also plans to deploy the Service Manager component, which provides an integrated platform for automating IT best practices at Aston Martin.

“When we have Service Manager deployed, it will work with Operations Manager to automate service ticket assignment and incident resolution,” says Roach-Rooke. “And we can take advantage of the Self-Service Portal in Service Manager to make applications available to our employees on demand.”

Benefits
By deploying Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 as the foundation for its Microsoft-centric IT infrastructure, Aston Martin has set the course for achieving the kind of optimized IT operations that is necessary to keep the company at the forefront of design and engineering excellence.

“The IT team’s purpose is to enable Aston Martin to build the most beautiful sports cars in the world,” says Roach-Rooke. “So, from servers, to desktops, to production line PCs, Microsoft technology is behind everything we do. And because the relationship we have with Microsoft is so close, we’ve accomplished what I set out to achieve when I started at Aston Martin: standardize on a single platform and supplier and leverage IT investments that we have already made.”

Improved Production Efficiency
With a solid foundation provided by Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 cloud and data center management tools, Aston Martin is realizing the culmination of an IT journey toward production line efficiency. “Just a few years ago everything in the automotive industry was UNIX-based,” says Roach-Rooke. “With Windows Server 2012 underpinning our operations, Aston Martin demonstrates the performance benefits of moving to the Windows platform. Our entire production line runs on 250 touch-enabled Windows 7 PCs that we can monitor and control with System Center 2012. There are no more unexpected calls asking for assistance on the factory floor because we have insight into everything that’s running, so we’re boosting performance on the production line.”

Increased Flexibility with Hybrid Cloud Model
Aston Martin is using Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 to achieve flexibility in optimizing its computing resources that come from enabling a hybrid cloud infrastructure. And the company has already tested migrating virtual machines into Windows Azure with the goal of introducing more robust disaster recovery capabilities.

*
* With the private cloud, Microsoft extends way beyond the infrastructure-as-a-service concept and pushes the boundaries by blurring public, private, and hybrid clouds together. *

Daniel Roach-Rooke
IT Infrastructure Manager,
Aston Martin

*
“With Active Directory running in Windows Azure, we can introduce single sign on capabilities to allow customers and aspirants who visit the astonmartin.com website to authenticate using their Live ID or Facebook ID, and that information will be captured and downloaded to Microsoft Dynamics AX, our customer relationship management solution,” says Roach-Rooke. “We have just completed migrating our business-to-business services from a hosted environment to Windows Azure, where we can better manage them using System Center 2012. We get the flexibility of managing resources on-premises or in the cloud with a single solution.”

Simplified IT Management
The Aston Martin IT team is replacing several third-party products—VMware and Linux with Hyper-V; Cisco with Remote Access within Windows Server 2012; Citrix with App-V; and Altiris with the Configuration Manager component of System Center 2012 and System Center 2012 Endpoint Protection—to simplify its IT infrastructure and improve IT services. “We found Altiris and its antivirus software difficult to manage,” says Roach-Rooke. “System Center 2012 Configuration Manager is fully integrated into the rest of the System Centre stack, it’s intuitive to configure, and it builds on the skills we already had in the team.”

Remote Access within Windows Server 2012 makes it easier to centrally administer, configure, and monitor both DirectAccess and VPN-based remote access services. “With Remote Desktop Services that comes with Hyper-V, we can enable access to our suppliers so they can give us support on some of their proprietary systems that we use on the production line,” says Roach-Rooke. “And because we can virtualize SUSE Linux on Hyper-V for our PLM project instead of having to use VMware, I get full control over my whole virtualized estate with a single hypervisor.”

The IT team saves approximately eight hours a week by using System Center to automate backups because the team no longer takes snapshots manually. Four help-desk agents used to build computer images individually, but using System Center 2012 to deploy desktop images has saved everyone time and introduced standard images for different devices, including PCs, tablets, and high-end workstations used for computer-assisted drawing. “With System Center 2012, it’s a lot less work managing, updating, and deploying software out to our estate, so we can focus on strategic IT projects,” says Roach-Rooke. “We are also using System Center to audit our hardware estate, which we couldn’t do before. This helps to simplify how we track our desktop refresh program.”

And now that developers have their own private cloud to use for their projects, the IT team is no longer required to build and tear down environments. “We give the developers standard images of servers and a test environment, so it’s less work for us,” says Roach-Rooke. “If they break it, they can rebuild it themselves, and they can quickly scale out their environment to do load testing. The private cloud is definitely introducing efficiencies in our test and development function.”

*
* With Windows Server 2012 underpinning our operations,
Aston Martin demonstrates the performance benefits of moving to the Windows platform.
*

Daniel Roach-Rooke
IT Infrastructure Manager,
Aston Martin

*
With more virtual machines running per Hyper-V host, Aston Martin has reduced physical servers by 70 percent, significantly reducing the amount of daily server administration tasks for IT staff. “We are loading more memory and computing power per virtual machine, and we can allocate resources across servers with very little effort,” says Roach-Rooke. “If we have 12 nodes in a live environment and we want them to be the priority, we can set one machine across each blade and guarantee a top-level resource for each one. We can assign less critical machines a different level of resources and it’s all controlled by Hyper-V. Dynamic resource allocation means that we can ensure a better user experience for employees.”

Self-Service Software Deployment
When Aston Martin deploys the Self-Service Portal in Service Manager, the IT team can make applications available to employees on demand. “The idea of users being able to install software themselves is an IT trend we couldn’t do before,” says Roach-Rooke. “Employees are increasingly savvy and expect self-serve access to the tools they need to do their work, and with System Center 2012, we can enable that scenario. I’m looking forward to offering the Windows 8 operating system to the business, on-demand. If an employee wants Windows 8, they can simply click to get it. System Center 2012 will build the machine, copy the files, and direct the employee to our Software Catalogue to automatically install Office and any other apps or tools they need to do their job. For me, this is utopia. And it will reduce the number of calls to the help desk.”

Cohesive, Efficient Operations
By standardizing on the latest operating system and management technologies from Microsoft, the Aston Martin IT team is helping to build a more cohesive business. “The efficiencies we gain from Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 are bringing the whole organization together,” concludes Roach-Rooke. “Before, we were a disparate collection of units; now, we ask everyone to talk to us when they want a new piece of software or equipment and we tell them we can put that into our virtualized environment and ensure that it’s highly available so that everyone stays productive. Thanks to Microsoft technologies, IT is gaining credibility and demonstrating that we can deliver what we say we can. Everyone benefits.”

Windows Server 2012
Windows Server drives many of the world’s largest data centers, empowers small businesses around the world, and delivers value to organizations of all sizes in between. Building on this legacy, Windows Server 2012 redefines the category, delivering hundreds of new features and enhancements that span virtualization, networking, storage, user experience, cloud computing, automation, and more. Simply put, Windows Server 2012 helps you transform your IT operations to reduce costs and deliver a whole new level of business value.

For more information, visit:

www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-server/2012-default.aspx   

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Aston Martin products and services, call 44 (0) 1926 644644 or visit the website at:
www.astonmartin.com

Solution Overview




Organization Profile

Aston Martin is a British manufacturer of luxury sports cars. Founded in 1913,
Aston Martin has evolved into an automotive icon synonymous with luxury, performance, and craftsmanship.


Business Situation

The IT team used multiple tools to manage the heterogeneous infrastructure at Aston Martin. The company needed to standardize its server platform and tools so that the IT team could improve its services.


Solution

Aston Martin uses the Windows Server 2012 operating system and Hyper-V virtualization technology running on HP hardware and Microsoft System Center 2012 to manage its new environment.


Benefits

  • Improved production efficiency
  • Increased flexibility with hybrid cloud
  • Simplified IT management
  • Self-service software deployment
  • Cohesive, efficient operations


Hardware
  • Server: HP C7000 with DL460 G7 blades
  • Storage: EMC Celerra
  • Network: Cisco

Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Active Directory Domain Services
  • Microsoft System Center 2012 SP1
  • Microsoft Hyper-V

Vertical Industries
Automotive, Industrial Equipment & Aerospace

Country/Region
United Kingdom

Business Need
Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
  • Virtualization
  • Private Cloud

Languages
English

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