4-page Case Study - Posted 9/20/2012
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AWAN Computing

Hosting Provider Chooses Operating System for Its Unmatched Scalability, Availability

AWAN is building a Tier 4 data center in Singapore to offer local companies and multinationals a range of cloud-based services. Although it was prepared to use an open source virtualization technology, AWAN was impressed by Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V and decided to deploy it instead. AWAN realized a higher virtual machine density with Hyper-V than with the open source technology, which translates into higher revenues. The company will also enjoy lower operating costs by taking advantage of automated failover features in Windows Server 2012 and data center management efficiencies provided by Microsoft System Center 2012. Windows Server 2012 also contains high-availability features that will complement the company’s Tier 4 availability requirements. By going to market with Windows Server 2012, AWAN feels that it has a significant competitive advantage.

Situation
AWAN, which means “cloud” in the Malay language, was established in 2011 to deliver Tier 4 data center capabilities (as defined by the Uptime Institute Tier Standard) and cloud-based infrastructure solutions in Singapore and throughout Asia. A Tier 4 data center is designed to host business-critical computer systems and has fully redundant subsystems and compartmentalized security zones controlled by biometric access. It also has its own active-active 2N power co-generation plants to deliver a fault-tolerant infrastructure with availability levels of 99.999 percent.

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* The ability to get 23 percent higher virtual machine density [with Windows Server 2012] yields commensurate revenue improvements over a three-year period. *

Peter Sim
Vice President, Sales and Marketing, AWAN Computing

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In short, AWAN set out to build one of the biggest, most available, most advanced data centers in all of Asia. “We are quite ambitious, yes,” says Peter Sim, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for AWAN Computing. “We are going to be the first Tier 4 data center in Asia when we complete phase two in July 2013, and we have ambitious growth plans. We will have capacity for about 9,000 virtual machines at launch, and within six months, we will have capacity for tens of thousands of virtual machines.”

The company will provide infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings to local firms and to the many multinational companies that use Singapore as a hub for their Asian operations. AWAN IaaS offerings will include servers, storage, and networking infrastructure that customers will use to run virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and server-based applications. AWAN SaaS offerings will include Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SharePoint Server, Microsoft Lync Server, and other common applications delivered as a service over the Internet.

From the early stages of planning its data center AWAN selected an open source server virtualization technology. The company had decided to use the same software to deliver its VDI offering and felt that it made sense to use it to virtualize servers as well. “We were comfortable with our choice in terms of performance and ease of deployment, and we also had a great relationship with the vendor,” says Sim.

However, this software lacked a comprehensive management platform. With plans to expand its server holdings to tens of thousands of virtual machines, AWAN needed a management environment that would enable it to automatically deploy and configure hundreds of servers at a time. It also wanted to automate and centrally control server monitoring, management, load balancing, resource metering and billing, and every other aspect of data center operations so that it could maintain a small staff and low operating costs.

Another concern was scalability. AWAN was out to build a super high-density data center, packing the most virtual machines possible into the least amount of data center space. Its scalability tests with the open source virtualization software had been good, but AWAN wondered if the technology would accommodate the level of growth it was expecting.

Solution
Just six months before opening its doors, in June 2012, AWAN learned about the Windows Server 2012 operating system from its local Microsoft representative. What it learned caused both business and technical managers at AWAN to reconsider their choice of virtualization technology.

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* We are going to be the first Tier 4 data center in Asia when we complete phase two in July 2013, and we have ambitious growth plans. *

Peter Sim
Vice President, Sales and Marketing, AWAN Computing

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“We learned that Windows Server 2012 offered greater scalability, density, reliability, and management than our first choice,” says Mohammed Meraj bin Malik, Technology Manager for AWAN Computing. “The capabilities of Windows Server 2012 fit the needs of a cloud provider better than our first choice did. Also, with the pricing provided by the Microsoft Services Provider License Agreement, it became more viable to deliver an end-to-end Microsoft solution.” The Microsoft Services Provider License Agreement is for organizations that want to offer hosted software and services to end customers.

“We’ve always had a good working relationship with Microsoft, and from the business side of things, I felt that our partnership with Microsoft was critical and strategic,” Sim adds. “We’re a small company, and we felt that the long-term cloud vision that Microsoft supports aligned well with ours.”

Join Rapid Deployment Program
AWAN was eager to obtain quantifiable density and scalability metrics for Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V, so it joined the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) and worked with the Singapore branch of Infront Consulting Group to build a test environment. Infront Consulting Group is a member of the Microsoft Partner Network that specializes in Microsoft System Center technologies and has Gold competencies in Desktop, Management, and Virtualization.

Infront Consulting Group helped AWAN install Windows Server 2012 Datacenter on several HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 servers configured with dual six-core Intel Xeon processors and 64 gigabytes (GB) of RAM. Each server also had eight network interface card (NIC) ports and a two-port fibre channel host bus adapter for network and fibre channel connections to a Hitachi Data Systems storage area network (SAN). Infront Consulting Group then helped AWAN design and build the test infrastructure. “Infront Consulting was very valuable,” bin Malik says. “We wouldn’t have been able to deploy some of the features in Windows Server 2012 without them.”

Test Availability Features
AWAN clustered Hyper-V hosts by using the failover clustering feature in Windows Server 2012 and connected them to the SAN by using redundant fibre channel connections. Failover clustering enables the movement of virtual machines between nodes without interrupting applications that are running within the virtual machines.

The SAN was configured to present to the Hyper-V cluster a number of shared 1-terabyte logical unit numbers, or LUNs, which were configured as Cluster Shared Volumes, an updated feature in Windows Server 2012. This configuration ensured that hosted workloads were continuously available, with the ability to move workloads between hosts without any interruption.

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* We learned that Windows Server 2012 offered greater scalability, density, reliability, and management than our first choice. *

Mohammed Meraj bin Malik
Technology Manager, AWAN Computing

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With Windows Server 2012 Cluster Shared Volumes, administrators can create volumes that provide simultaneous access to virtual machine configuration and hard disk files, with direct input/output, through all nodes in a Hyper-V cluster. This active-active configuration lets AWAN load balance virtual machines across cluster nodes by moving virtual machines without any service interruption as well as making virtual machine workloads highly available.

AWAN also tested the storage live migration and “shared nothing” live migration features in Windows Server 2012. Hyper-V live migration supports simultaneous virtual machine migrations with no downtime, in and outside of a cluster. Hyper-V storage migration allows for transfer of virtual hard disks with no downtime to a new location for upgrading or migrating storage or performing storage maintenance. “Shared nothing” live migration provides the ability to migrate a virtual machine from one Hyper-V host to another host that isn’t part of the same cluster, shares no storage, and has only a gigabit Ethernet connection to the first virtual machine. “Live migration is a lot more stable and works better and faster than in the previous version of Hyper-V; it will help us better manage resources across a large pool of servers,” bin Malik says.

AWAN tested virtual machine clustering features by using guest clusters of Microsoft SQL Server data management software and the Hyper-V Virtual Fibre Channel adapters, which provide fibre channel ports within the guest operating system and allow administrators to connect to fibre channel storage directly from virtual machines.

Finally, AWAN tested Hyper-V Replica, which provides asynchronous replication of virtual machines between storage systems, clusters, and data centers over two sites to provide business continuity.

Test Scalability Limits
Once the Hyper-V infrastructure was set up, configured, and tested, AWAN and Infront Consulting created and tested a number of desktop and server workloads to determine density limits. Windows Server 2012 provides significant improvements in scalability and performance for virtualized workloads. It supports as many as 64 virtual processors and 1 terabyte of memory for Hyper-V guests, a new VHDX virtual hard disk format with larger disk capacity of up to 64 terabytes, and additional resiliency.

To test scalability limits, AWAN provisioned several virtual machines running the Windows 7 operating system on a single host server. Virtual machines were configured with two virtual CPUs, 2 GBs of RAM, and 30-GB disks. It also tested the scalability and performance of server-based workloads running in Hyper-V, including file servers, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Internet Information Services, and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. These test virtual machines contained up to 24 virtual CPUs, 32 GB of RAM, and 4-terabyte disks.

The tests yielded results that impressed the AWAN staff: it could pack about 510 virtual machines in its test cluster, whereas the limit for a similar configuration with the open source software was about 392.

Evaluate Management Solution
After only two months of testing, AWAN made the decision to deploy Windows Server 2012 on all host servers and make Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V its standard server virtualization technology. “Just two months ago we were going forward happily with another virtualization technology, but Windows Server 2012 really impressed us,” Sim says. “The timing was perfect for us; Microsoft came out with Windows Server 2012 just when we needed it.”

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* Just two months ago we were going forward happily with another virtualization technology, but Windows Server 2012 really impressed
us.... Microsoft came out with Windows Server 2012 just when we needed it.
*

Peter Sim
Vice President, Sales and Marketing, AWAN Computing

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In addition to the impressive scalability and availability of Windows Server 2012, AWAN was influenced by the ability to use Microsoft System Center 2012 data center solutions to manage the whole environment, physical and virtual. System Center 2012 is a complete data center management solution for managing on-premises, cloud-based, and hybrid data center environments. It includes components for provisioning, deprovisioning, and load-balancing virtual machines; monitoring server health; deploying software; backing up workloads; performing service management; automating and orchestrating processes; securing computers; and more.

Launch in Phases
AWAN will open for business in December 2012 with 64 blade servers and capacity for about 9,000 virtual machines. In June 2013, it will more than double that capacity. Ultimately, AWAN will have the capacity for 5,000 racks of servers and tens of thousands of virtual machines. AWAN is recruiting hosting partners and resellers around the region to help bring in customers without the need for a large sales team.

Benefits
By building its new data center with Windows Server 2012 Datacenter, AWAN Computing gains tremendous scalability, lower capital and operating costs, unprecedented availability, and a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Deliver More Scalability and Revenues
AWAN discovered that Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V offers more scalability and performance than its original virtualization choice, enabling it to pack far denser workloads in every host server. “In our testing, we generated as many virtual machines as the server could handle before it failed,” bin Malik says. “We were able to fit 23 percent more virtual machines on our Hyper-V test configuration than was possible on the other product.”

Adds Sim, “The ability to get 23 percent higher virtual machine density yields commensurate revenue improvements over a three-year period.”

Reduce Capital and Operating Costs
With the high densities made possible by Hyper-V, AWAN will save money on servers. “We expect to reduce our server procurement expenses by 22 percent by going with Hyper-V rather than the other virtualization technology,” Sim says.

AWAN will also save on operating costs by taking advantage of the automated failover efficiencies provided by Windows Server 2012 and the automated management efficiencies provided by System Center 2012. “Our operational team will not be very big,” Sim says. “We want to make use of technology to work smarter, and the Microsoft platform will let us do that.”

Bin Malik adds, “System Center 2012 is a huge part of the value of the Microsoft platform. It will allow us to provision virtual machines faster, monitor server health, fix problems faster, do resource metering and billing, and run all kinds of reports. There will only be six to eight people on our data center staff, with just three people managing the infrastructure day to day. Low operating costs are an important part of our business model, and with System Center, we will be able to meet our low-headcount goals.”

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* Low operating costs are an important part of our business model, and with System Center, we will be able to meet our low-headcount goals. *

Mohammed Meraj bin Malik
Technology Manager, AWAN Computing

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AWAN plans to build a self-provisioning portal that its staff and regional partners can use to provision IaaS resources for local customers, passing along the management efficiencies to the larger AWAN ecosystem.

Achieve Unprecedented Levels of Availability
Windows Server 2012 is packed with high-availability features that hosting providers previously had to buy separately and integrate into their environment at great cost. With built-in features such as Hyper-V Replica, live migration, storage migration, and Cluster Shared Volumes, AWAN can move workloads and storage around freely and update host servers without interrupting workloads. “The high-availability features in Windows Serve 2012 are really important to a hosting provider, because we have to maintain service level agreements with customers. For us, downtime is money,” Sim says.

According to Sim, Microsoft has the same long-term vision that AWAN has—and near-term products to back it up. “We are investing a great deal to build the first Tier 4 data center in Asia,” he says. “Our availability standards are incredibly high. In Microsoft we have found a partner with the same ambitions and standards, namely ‘never go down.’ High availability is built into the operating system and fits right into our Tier 4 data center. We have stressed this operating system, and it just didn’t break under tremendous loads. We weren’t able to do that with the other technology.”

Gain Competitive Advantage with Latest Operating System
AWAN feels that it is equipping its data center and its business with a significant competitive advantage by standardizing on Windows Server 2012. “In all our marketing materials we put Microsoft front and center, because Windows Server 2012 is a fantastic piece of software,” Sim says. “Honestly, we were flabbergasted by this operating system.”

AWAN also received a huge amount of attention and support from Microsoft, which helped it move from test to production in record time. “I was a little bit surprised that Microsoft was so helpful, because we were a small customer,” bin Malik says. “Microsoft assistance really helped us create a better and more economical product. We did not receive this same level of support from other vendors. We are very pleased to be opening our doors with Microsoft inside.”

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 Infront Consulting Group products and services, visit the website at:
www.infrontconsulting.com

For more information about AWAN Computing products and services, call (011) (65) 6220 7789 or visit the website at:
www.awan.com

Solution Overview



Organization Size: 15 employees

Organization Profile

Based in Singapore, AWAN Computing provides enterprise-class, cloud-based solutions, including virtual desktops, software as a service, and infrastructure as a service. AWAN has 15 employees.


Business Situation

In designing a high-density data center with low operational costs, AWAN had virtualized its server infrastructure using an open source technology. However, it had concerns about scalability and management.


Solution

After testing Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V technology, AWAN was impressed by the scalability, availability, and management of Microsoft cloud software.


Benefits

  • Deliver more scalability and revenues
  • Reduce capital and operating costs
  • Achieve unprecedented availability levels
  • Gain competitive advantage


Hardware
  • HP ProLiant DL380p Gen8 servers with Intel Xeon processors
  • Hitachi Data Systems storage area network

Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2012
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Microsoft System Center 2012
  • Microsoft Services
  • Datacenter

Vertical Industries
Hosters & ISPs

Country/Region
Singapore

Business Need
  • Cost Containment
  • Cloud & Server Platform

IT Issue
  • Virtualization
  • Cloud Services

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Infront Consulting Group Microsoft Services

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