Solutions provider increases agility and operational efficiency with System Centre and Hyper-V
Published: July 2010
The immediate financial benefits of virtualization are well understood, in terms of reduced power consumption, increased server utilization and so on. Beyond those immediate benefits, it is possible to drive on-going operational efficiencies through effective management of a virtualized server estate. In this case study the emphasis is around the improvements to the business model and management processes resulting from the deployment of Microsoft’s System Centre management tools combined with Windows Server 2008 R2 Data Centre edition and Hyper-V.
The main thrust of this case study is to examine how Biznet improved its business processes enabling the company to become a stronger competitor in the internet solutions market place. The key objective for Biznet was to provide a basis for growth and high availability for some of its larger customers. Other objectives included containment of data centre costs, improved equipment and staff productivity, improved agility to deal with customers’ changing needs and the ability to widen Biznet’s product offerings.
Among the many benefits of the Microsoft Virtualization solution is the ability to provision servers in minutes rather than hours allowing Biznet to be more productive and proactive to the needs of their clients.
Biznet has been in business for 13 years web-enabling a wide range of clients based in the UK and Ireland. The company builds and deploys secure web-based solutions. These services have been extended to include hosting when required by clients that did not want to invest in their own hardware infrastructure. Many of Biznet’s clients are high profile such as the Irish Tourist Board - Bord Failte, Dublin Bus, Northern Ireland Prison Service, Maxol Direct and the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
Biznet operates a data centre located in BT’s data centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Biznet had deployed seven racks of physical and VMware virtual servers that required expensive maintenance and a considerable level of management expertise to ensure that quality of service was maintained at satisfactory levels for Biznet’s many clients.
Biznet required the ability to expand without increasing the complexity of the data centre facilities. Some clients required stronger guarantees around high availability that could not be guaranteed within the existing infrastructure.
There were many changes that cumulatively transformed the physical components in the data centre and significantly changed and improved the management of the complete IT infrastructure. The obvious changes were round the hardware and software components but the most important fundamental changes were centered round the management software and tools that enabled many key benefits to be realized.
Server and storage hardware was updated in order to provide scope for growth and to provide higher availability for key customers. Biznet installed a HP Blade Centre and associated HP Storage Works solutions supporting shared file storage. The server operating system deployed was Windows Server 2008 R2 Data centre edition with Hyper-V enabling the full benefits of an easily managed virtualized solution to be obtained. The new hardware and software combination enabled the number of racks in the data centre to be reduced from seven to four and further reductions are expected in the future.
The full gamut of Microsoft’s System Centre manager tools was deployed to manage both physical and virtual servers. Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 enabled the centralized management of both physical and virtualized servers supporting planning, deployment and optimization of the infrastructure. The Operations Manager 2007 R2 enabled a reduction in the cost of data centre management through a single user interface that allowed staff to monitor all the key performance elements. Monitoring covers health and performance information and alerts covering availability, performance, configuration and security situations enabling operators to gain rapid insight into the state of the IT environment and active services. The Configuration Manager 2007 R2 enabled Biznet to manage their global IT hardware infrastructure across physical, virtual, distributed and mobile environments.
““Customers and partners such as Biznet understand that managing virtual and physical servers, applications, and automation with the same tools (System Centre in our case) is needed to take advantage of virtualization and to drive efficiency. With Windows Server 2008 R2 and System Center, Biznet now have a complete, cost-effective system with complete lifecycle management, enabling them to deliver a higher quality of service to their customers while achieving ongoing cost savings for their business.”
Ronan Geraghty, Server Business Group Lead,
““By implementing Microsoft Virtualisation we’ve reduced our day to day operational costs for our IT staff by easily 20%. We can utilise our facilities team more effectively and efficiently and provide a superior and comprehensive service to our clients. By choosing Microsoft over competitor solutions we reduced substantial upfront costs service. I would safely say that Microsoft Virtualisation has allowed us to reduce our on-going running costs in the data centre by a further 35% year on year. We now also have a new service offering to bring to our existing or potential new clients”
Adrian Bradley, Biznet Managing Director.
The benefits that Biznet have obtained with their virtualization implementation may be broadly divided into two main categories – commercial business process model improvements and financial improvements.
Benefits for Biznet’s clients
Clients requiring greater capacity or replacement hardware may avail of Biznet’s new virtualized services thus saving capital expenditure as they do not have to purchase additional hardware. Virtualization enables Biznet to quickly bring additional capacity online without having to purchase additional hardware.
Virtualization has resulted in improved Quality of Service and greater levels of uptime. Live Migration enables services to be reallocated quickly using ‘drag & drop’ facilities built into the virtualization management tools. The monitoring in Operations Manager helps to ensure that potential problems are eliminated before they can impact on operations.
The storage and processing capacity can be more accurately mapped to individual clients’ needs thus eliminating unnecessary excess capacity while still providing available capacity either temporary or permanent using dynamic resource optimization in Microsoft’s Virtual Machine Manager.
Microsoft’s Virtual Manager software enables a better match between the IT infrastructure and the individual client’s needs to be achieved and enables capacity requirements to be amended in anticipation of changing circumstances.
As a result of both hardware and software updates Biznet’s clients have benefitted from state-of-the-art technology resulting in faster delivery and throughput of information or business transactions.
Commercial benefits for Biznet
Biznet has extended its product offering with the addition of a virtual server capability as an alternative to traditional server technology. This is proving to be a popular product offering as clients are actively seeking out this type of product. Adrian Bradley, Biznet managing director added “We can now be a one stop shop and meet all of our clients’ needs from development, deployment, maintenance and ongoing hosting and facilities management if required”.
The virtualization solution provided by Microsoft has enabled Biznet to deploy servers in minutes rather than the hours that were required before the advent of virtualization. This has enabled Biznet to be more proactive to their clients’ needs and to be more productive.
Clients can now avail of guaranteed 100% server uptime made available by Microsoft Clustering and CSV storage.
Microsoft System Centre management tools have enabled a high level of automation to be deployed covering patching, maintenance, backup and monitoring. This has released staff to be deployed elsewhere generating client billable services.
Bradley commented on the very intuitive interface used in Virtual Machine Manager and he added “Our team required very little training to get the platform up and running and maintenance is a breeze”.
The financial benefits of virtualization are very significant and far reaching for Biznet. The company examined and ordered a virtualization solution from a competing company that was cancelled after assessing the offering from Microsoft. The Microsoft solution was found to be a very mature and a well developed product set that cost a fraction of the competitor’s product both in terms of capital and running cost. Windows Server 2008 R2 Data Centre Edition enables Biznet to run unlimited numbers of Hyper-V virtual machines.
The replacement of server and storage hardware with powerful virtualized devices enabled very large infrastructure reductions to be achieved – the number of racks in the data centre was reduced from seven to four. Further running cost savings were achieved as a result on the reduction in the number of physical servers. Further reductions are expected in the future. Apart from the obvious power cost savings there were very significant data centre environmental cost savings that also helped to boost Biznet’s green credentials.
The automation of many routine tasks previously carried by the IT support staff has meant that their time can now be more productively used to generate revenues for Biznet.
The Microsoft System Centre Management tools enable the IT staff to monitor and manage the data centre infrastructure much more efficiently and precisely. This ensures that assets are deployed more efficiently helping to minimize the levels of capital expenditure and day-to-day running costs.
The virtualization evolution continues at Biznet with the planned expansion of the blade infrastructure and storage array with a view to expanding the virtualized product set. The company intends to package the hosting facilities with its other product and service offerings as a standalone service in the market place. The combination of Windows Server 2008 R2 Data Centre Edition with Microsoft’s System Centre Management tools has produced a win- win situation for Biznet and its clients.
Biznet IIS Ltd
Biznet is a multi location internet solutions company that has supply management solutions covering enterprise content, bespoke information systems, supplier performance, online booking, and mobile solutions.
Internet solutions and server hosting.
Biznet sought to provide scalability and improved quality of service while reducing costs and improving employee productivity.
Legacy hardware was replaced by virtualized solutions and powerful virtualization management tools were deployed at very competitive costs.
Improved service and additional products for clients
Improved business processes
Substantial capital and revenue savings.
Windows Server 2008 R2 Data Centre and Hyper-V
System Centre Virtual Machine Manager
System Centre Operations Manager
System Centre Configuration Manager
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