With Xen open source virtualisation technology integrated in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, CASIO expects to significantly reduce the cost of consolidating its large estate of Windows servers.
As part of a four-year update of the group’s IT infrastructure, Casio Information Service Co., Ltd.—the subsidiary in charge of managing CASIO’s IT—began an ambitious project to consolidate and virtualise hundreds of servers. The overall aim of the refresh programme was to improve productivity by standardising communication tools across the group, to strengthen security, and to promote better IT control and cost-efficiency.
Following a major upgrade to the wide area network linking its Japanese office locations and manufacturing sites, CASIO had sufficient bandwidth to start centralising its servers.
CASIO began looking at ways to consolidate approximately 1,000 branch systems into a smaller number of physical servers in a central location, and initially selected virtualisation software from a major vendor. It soon became apparent that the cost of this approach was threatening to outweigh the potential benefits—so CASIO considered the use of alternative virtualisation software.
Of the 1,000 Windows servers that CASIO planned to consolidate, approximately 600—running applications, databases and websites—were considered suitable for virtualisation. The company chose what was then considered the only major solution capable of virtualising Microsoft Windows servers.
The process of virtualising and centralising the servers was delivering the expected benefits in terms of improved security and operational efficiency, but CASIO was not achieving the cost benefits that it had expected.
“For the virtualisation software we originally selected, the choice of compatible server and storage hardware is limited, and so the cost tends to be higher,” said Kazuyasu Yamazaki, Network Group, Casio Information Service Co., Ltd. “The possibility of using the Xen technology included in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server on practically any hardware made it an appealing option.”
By implementing SUSE Linux Enterprise Server with the SUSE Linux Enterprise Virtual Machine Driver Pack, CASIO successfully achieved the same performance for virtualised servers as it was getting with its original solution, but at around 10% of the cost. CASIO is using servers with the latest Intel VT and AMD-V processors to enable bare-metal virtualisation at nearnative speeds.
“We had already been using SUSE Linux Enterprise for two years as our platform for Oracle Collaboration Suite,” said Norihito Kuniyoshi. “The Virtual Machine Driver Pack brought Xen up to the same level of performance as our original software, and therefore gave us a viable, low-cost alternative for virtualisation.”
The introduction of Xen on SUSE Linux Enterprise as a platform for Windows virtualisation is still very new at CASIO, and the company will continue to run its original virtualisation software alongside the newer technology while it considers its strategy for the future.
“The fact that Xen is open source software is important, since it reduces our dependence on a single vendor,” said Kuniyoshi. “Also, the security offered by the alliance between SUSE and Microsoft was a factor in our decision. Xen with SUSE Linux Enterprise is the only officially endorsed platform for the virtualisation of Windows on Linux.”
CASIO implemented its first virtualised Windows servers using Xen and SUSE Linux Enterprise during a major holiday period in Japan, and remarked on the excellent support available from SUSE.
By enabling CASIO to run multiple Windows servers side-by-side on a single physical server, the SUSE technologies will significantly reduce costs and increase flexibility. CASIO expects to reduce its total number of physical servers by half, using both Xen and its original virtualisation solution.
“Based on our initial results, we estimate that the cost of Xen and SUSE Linux Enterprise for virtualising Windows systems is just 10% of the leading equivalent solution,” said Kuniyoshi. “The difference is even greater if you consider that the alternative solution requires more expensive hardware.”
With Xen and SUSE Linux Enterprise running on virtualisation-aware Intel and AMD processors, CASIO can consolidate multiple Windows servers with almost no loss of performance. This means that more virtual systems can run on each new physical server, keeping the total cost of ownership low.
“Server virtualisation gives CASIO the ability to reduce software and hardware costs through highly efficient consolidation,” said Kuniyoshi. “The option of using the Xen virtualisation technology integrated in SUSE Linux Enterprise reduces our cost of virtualisation and gives us an open source solution that is officially recognised by Microsoft.”