ABM is one of the largest facilities management services companies in the United States, with more than 400 offices and tens of thousands of customers. To improve the efficiency of its IT staff and give information workers more work flexibility,
ABM is upgrading its 1,000 servers to the Windows Server 2012 operating system. By using the operating system’s IP Address Management feature, ABM has reduced IP address management time by 90 percent, which gives IT staffers more time to work on critical projects.
By taking advantage of network access control enhancements in Windows Server 2012, ABM can give information workers the freedom to work from any location using any device, while enhancing the security of its network. ABM is considering switching from VMware
to Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V for virtualization to significantly reduce costs.
ABM is a leading provider of integrated facility solutions. Thousands of commercial, industrial, government, and retail clients outsource their non-core functions to ABM for consistent quality service that meets their specialized facility needs. The
company’s comprehensive capabilities include expansive facility services, energy solutions, commercial cleaning, maintenance and repair, HVAC, electrical, landscaping, parking, and security, provided through standalone or integrated solutions. With more than
US$4 billion in revenues and 100,000 employees deployed throughout the United States and various international locations, ABM delivers custom facility solutions to meet the unique client requirements of multiple industries.
High Tech Can Provide Competitive Advantage
ABM operates in a very competitive environment, with any number of companies eager to siphon off existing clients and prevent ABM from attracting new clients. Against this backdrop, ABM came to realize that technology could give it a competitive advantage.
||[By using Windows Server 2012,] managing systems takes less time, so employees can work on higher-level projects…. This helps us complete important projects on time and avoid hiring more staff.
| Andre Garcia
Assistant Vice President, Global Infrastructure Services, ABM
By 2009, it had been almost a decade since ABM had invested in its technology infrastructure. As long as email messages arrived and the website worked, people were happy. However, after a number of acquisitions, the company found itself struggling to integrate
thousands of new servers, PCs, and applications from acquired companies. Unfortunately, most of the company’s data-center hardware and software was quite old, which slowed the integration task. ABM IT staff spent most of its time keeping servers running, which
left little time for acquisition integration and innovation. Information workers used Wyse terminals and traditional laptop and desktop computers to access corporate applications using Citrix remote-desktop software, but many employees wanted the freedom to
use their personal computers and smartphones to work more flexibly.
Manage More Devices
In 2009, the company embarked on a project to modernize its technology infrastructure. By 2012, ABM had made tremendous strides. Its more than 1,000 servers ran the latest Windows operating system, the Windows Server 2008 R2 operating system, and ABM
had used VMware technology to virtualize more than 90 percent of its servers.
However, as the company continued to grow—from 2,000 to 8,000 information workers between 2006 and 2012—the IT staff was challenged to support even more client devices and an increasing number of servers scattered across more than 400 offices and thousands
of job sites. Each client and server computer required an IP address, and managing those addresses consumed up to 15 hours a week of staff time.
“Managing IP addresses was a real pain,” says Patrick Murphy, Enterprise Architect in the ABM IT organization. “IP addresses were everywhere. We would sometimes issue duplicate IPs because of the confusion in knowing which addresses were available, and this
caused downtime due to days of troubleshooting.” IP address mismatches could also introduce security vulnerabilities.
Additionally, cost cutting was a constant priority, and ABM continued to look for ways to lower data center costs.
In early 2012, ABM decided to participate in the Windows Server 2012 Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) to get a closer look at the new operating system. “Once we felt comfortable with our infrastructure capabilities and capacity, we felt it was time to
step things up a notch and focus on relationships with some of our strategic vendors,” says Andre Garcia, Assistant Vice President of Global Infrastructure Services at ABM. “We have a great relationship with Microsoft and are involved in many different RDPs
and Technology Adoption Programs. Being involved in the Windows Server 2012 RDP allowed my team to learn about Windows Server 2012 early on at an in-depth level. My team and I are very excited about the new features and functionality in Windows Server 2012.”
Focus on IP Address Management
During its RDP, ABM specifically evaluated the Windows Server 2012 feature called IP Address Management (IPAM). IPAM is a framework for discovering, monitoring, auditing, and managing the IP address space and the associated infrastructure servers. ABM
set up a proof-of-concept environment consisting of IBM x3850 servers running Windows Server 2012 Datacenter.
“I see tremendous value in the new IPAM feature in just IP address upkeep,” Murphy says. “Being able to know which IP addresses are available is invaluable, especially with 400 sites. Being able to manage those more easily will make our jobs much easier.”
Chris Boynton, Cloud Services Manager for ABM, adds, “Even a small acquisition can have 15 to 20 sites. Over the course of a year, we can add 100 sites, which then get shrunk down as we consolidate. Our IP addresses are growing and shrinking all the time.
The IPAM improvements in Windows Server 2012 will let us manage this better through a single view.”
Explore Other Features
While ABM focused on IPAM during the RDP and is currently using Windows Server 2012 in production to manage its IP environment, it is also evaluating several of the operating system’s other features and capabilities:
Improved remote server management. Windows Server 2012 provides an enhanced Server Manager for managing multiple servers and performing tasks such as deploying roles and features remotely to physical servers and virtual machines. “One of
the things that impressed me the most was remote server management,” Boynton says. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. The ability to create server pools and do remote server management through a single view is huge for us.”
Server Core enhancements. ABM can now run Microsoft SQL Server databases from the Server Core installation of Windows Server 2012, a scaled-back installation option managed by a command-line interface and offering a smaller malware attack
surface. Additionally, Windows Server 2012 allows for an easy conversion between Server Core and full installation, which enables IT staffs to use the full installation for troubleshooting and then convert servers back to Server Core installation for production.
Hyper-V improvements. Windows Server 2012 contains significant virtual machine density and scalability enhancements, including support for as many as 32 virtual processors and 1 terabyte of memory for Hyper-V guest operating systems, a new
VHDX format for virtual hard disks (VHDs) with larger disk capacity of up to 64 terabytes, and additional resilience. “With these improvements, we’re looking seriously at switching from VMware to Hyper-V and virtualizing 100 percent of our applications, even
the most hard-core applications, within the next two to three years,” Boynton says.
Storage Spaces. Windows Server 2012 includes a feature set called Storage Spaces that enables organizations to use industry-standard storage—notably “just a bunch of disks” (JBOD) devices—to build highly scalable, continuously available
storage solutions. This delivers a substantial reduction in costs associated with purchasing and operating enterprise-grade storage solutions such as storage area networks. “If Windows Server 2012 lives up to its full potential, we could use it to replace
Citrix and our NetApp storage area network,” Boynton says. “We’re looking at significant savings in licensing fees alone. We’re very, very excited about it.”
Security enhancements. Windows Server 2012 includes improvements to DirectAccess, a technology introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2 that enables remote users to securely access corporate networks without virtual private network connections.
In Windows Server 2012, DirectAccess is more powerful, is easier to deploy, and has broader functionality. “With so many devices accessing our network, we need to ensure that they have appropriate antimalware software running,” Garcia says. “We already have
thousands of PCs running the Windows 7 operating system and plan to upgrade all our PCs to either Windows 7 or Windows 8 to take advantage of DirectAccess and BitLocker drive encryption.” Windows Server 2012 enhancements to the BitLocker feature offload data
encryption to hardware and help increase BitLocker performance and reduce CPU usage.
Once Windows Server 2012 is released to manufacturing, ABM will upgrade all 1,000 servers to the new operating system. “The Windows Server 2012 Datacenter license will be very cost-effective for us,” says Garcia. “We’re already getting 15 to 30 virtual machines
per host server and, with one license covering all the virtual machines per host, that will add up to a big cost savings.”
Simplify Desktop Management
At the same time that it upgraded to Windows Server 2012, ABM deployed Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager to install and manage applications on desktop and server computers. By using System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, the IT staff
has a single management console for provisioning, managing, and controlling user experiences for mobile, physical, and virtual environments.
||Our IP addresses are growing and shrinking all the time. The IPAM improvements in Windows Server 2012 will let us manage this better through a single view.
| Chris Boynton
Cloud Services Manager, ABM
“Deploying operating systems, applications, and security updates are much faster with System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, as is establishing and enforcing security settings,” says Murphy. “Using Configuration Manager not only simplifies IT administration
but also gives employees more freedom to use a range of computing devices so that they can work from anywhere.”
ABM is gradually deploying other components of Microsoft System Center 2012; next up will be Virtual Machine Manager, which ABM will use to manage host servers and all of its VMware virtual machines.
By taking advantage of management efficiencies in Windows Server 2012 and System Center 2012 Configuration Manager, the ABM IT staff can spend its time on higher-value tasks that deliver more value to the business. With network access enhancements in
Windows Server 2012, ABM can provide its 8,000 information workers with a flexible yet security-enabled computing environment. Ultimately, ABM could realize even bigger cost savings if it replaces VMware with Hyper-V.
Increase IT Efficiency and Provide More Rewarding Work Environment
ABM has seen a 90 percent reduction in the hours required to manage IP addresses due to IP Address Management. “More efficient usage of staff time means fewer people needed on a task,” Garcia says. “Managing systems takes less time, so employees can
work on higher-level projects that positively affect the top and bottom lines, rather than on low-level troubleshooting. This helps us complete important projects on time and avoid hiring more staff.”
Keeping its infrastructure software up-to-date also helps ABM attract top IT talent and keep those people engaged. “We pride ourselves on running state-of-the-art software,” Garcia says. “It keeps staff morale high, because our employees are constantly learning
new skills. Plus, when our information workers see IT staff running around with the latest technology, those workers get excited about using it too. Everyone wants to work for a company that is constantly looking for new ways of doing things. It says that
they’re working in a place where they will grow and not stagnate.”
Enhance Security and Flexibility for Information Workers
A high priority for Garcia is giving employees the freedom to work from any device and location that they choose while maintaining network security. “Long gone are the days when an employee comes into an office, clocks in for an eight-hour day, and then
goes home,” Garcia says. “Some employees work exclusively from the office and some exclusively from home, with everything in between. Supporting employees from anywhere, using any device, is critical to productivity and employee satisfaction. As we move all
our users to Windows 7 and Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 will make it much easier to implement network access controls and make our security strategy more effective.”
Potentially Lower Data-Center Costs
If ABM decides to swap VMware for Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, it will realize significant licensing savings. “Windows Server 2012 represents a significant opportunity for VMware users that are also Microsoft users to reduce their costs,” Garcia says.
“The latest version of Hyper-V has some significant enhancements that are causing VMware customers to question why they are paying two vendors for essentially the same capabilities. We are really impressed with just how much capability Microsoft has packed
into the operating system layer. The more we can reduce our operating costs, the more competitive the business can be.”
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
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