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Industry: Technology
Location: Italy
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Sony Italia saves 60% in server acquisition costs


  • Consolidated 12 physical servers to virtual machines running on two physical servers.
  • Saved an estimated 60% on server acquisition costs.
  • Reduced TCO by cutting power and cooling requirements.


Sony Corporation is one of the world’s leading electronics companies, producing a vast array of advanced consumer and professional technologies across computing, audio-visual devices, semiconductors and electronic components. The corporation operates on a global basis, employing approximately 147,000 people in total. Sony Italia, headquartered in Milan, employs approximately
250 people.


Aiming to shrink its physical infrastruc­ture and reduce costs, Sony Italia virtu­alized 12 physical servers running Win­dows and Linux. As virtual machines, they now run on a SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) cluster using built-in Xen virtualization technology.

The Challenge

Several years ago, Sony Europe consolidat­ed most of its IT infrastructure into two data centers in the U.K. Most of the shared ap­plications for the European operations, in­cluding a major SAP ERP solution, are man­aged from this central point of control.

To ensure high performance and ease of maintenance for its country-specific sys­tems, Sony Italia opted to keep its own lo­cal server infrastructure. As time passed, growth in data volumes and user numbers put significant pressure on these servers, resulting in reduced performance and re­liability. With limited budgets, replacing all 30 physical servers was out of the question. Sony Italia also had concerns about rising heat output and electricity consumption in the data center.

Server virtualization was the ideal solution, enabling Sony Italia to preserve its system architecture, while using a more compact and efficient physical infrastructure. Fol­lowing an initial phase of virtualization for about half of its infrastructure, the organi­zation was keen to extend these benefits but needed to find a more cost-effective option.

“Using Xen virtualization with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server meant that we could buy two large physical servers instead of 12 smaller ones—saving at least 60% on initial acquisition costs alone.”

SUSE Solution

Aiming to complete the virtualization of its infrastructure, but finding the cost of addi­tional licenses too high, Sony Italia worked with SUSE to create a solution based on SLES with Xen virtualization included. Also, the addition of SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLE) High Availability Extension ensured a resil­ient, clustered solution.

“We were already using Linux alongside some commercial UNIX systems, and it was very compelling to be able to deploy a Linux distribution with built-in virtualization at no extra cost,” says Paolo Barna, man­ager, operations and security systems, Sony Italia. “SUSE Linux Enterprise High Availability Extension gave us powerful clustering tools to make sure that the new virtualized envi­ronment would be extremely reliable.”

Sony Italia installed two new servers running SLES in a high-availability cluster. These host more than 12 virtual Linux and Windows servers. In normal conditions, the workload is balanced across the two physical serv­ers to ensure optimal performance. In the event of a hardware problem or network issue on one of the servers, the other can automatically and seamlessly take over the entire workload while the fault is fixed.

Sony Italia used PlateSpin Migrate to sim­plify the migration from the old physical infrastructure to the new virtual machines. PlateSpin Migrate enabled live virtualization of active systems, minimizing business dis­ruption and accelerating the process.

Sony Italia plans to extend its use of Xen virtualization on SLES, replacing the current technology on up to 10 physical servers.

The Results

By replacing 12 older physical servers with just two new ones hosting Xen virtual ma­chines on SLES, Sony Italia has reduced its costs and freed up valuable space in the data center. The company avoided having to buy, maintain, power and cool ten new machines—and with 64-bit virtual servers running on the highly tuned SLES platform, the new two-server cluster offers all the performance Sony Italia needs.

“Using Xen virtualization with SUSE Linux En­terprise Server meant that we could buy two large physical servers instead of 12 smaller ones—saving at least 60% on ini­tial acquisition costs alone,” says Barna. “We will also achieve significant savings in electricity for powering and cooling the new infrastructure.”

Server virtualization also enables Sony Italia to create new IT resources faster and more flexibly. Rather than purchasing new hard­ware to meet emerging business require­ments, then painstakingly installing the correct operating system, security patches and application software, Sony Italia can simply create a new virtual machine using an existing environment as a template.

“One of the great benefits of Xen and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is that we can cre­ate a completely new virtual server for the business within just five hours,” says Barna. “This is a great way to provide new test and development environments.”