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Keeping Pace with Rapid Growth: The Waddington Group Gains Agility and Scalability through Virtualization

Post by Brandon Sweeney, VP, U.S. Commercial Customer Segment

In our work with customers around the world, we see IT teams struggling to keep pace with fast-growing businesses. Often times, the IT organization lacks the resources keep physical infrastructure in step with the continually rising demands of the business, particularly in times of rapid growth.

I’d like to share the story of how the Waddington Group (TWG), a major global packaging manufacturer and marketer, is using virtualization to address the challenges brought by rapid organic growth and the acquisition of companies.

To manage and support the company’s growth across multiple territories, TWG needed a highly scalable IT solution that would allow the business to respond quickly to new opportunities, while increasing IT efficiency and accommodating rising storage requirements.

“Our IT resources can’t grow at the same rate as the company,” said Paul Reed, IT Director, The Waddington Group. “We knew very early on that we could not just do more of the same things, but bigger. So we needed to think of different ways to deliver IT technologies to users more quickly and more efficiently.”

The company found its answer in a unified virtualization platform running on vSphere® with Operations Management™. Today, VMware virtualization enables TWG to respond more quickly to its rapidly changing business landscape. For example, vSphere with Operations Management enabled the company to reduce the time spent integrating backend systems by more than 80 percent.

“With our aggressive rollout of software, applications, implementations, and upgrades, we really didn’t want to be concerned about hardware infrastructure,” said Reed. “We wanted to be focused on providing the business solutions for the company. Virtualization has allowed us to concentrate on adding value to the company.”

Ultimately, VMware virtualization solutions have enabled TWG to increase data center efficiency by 34 percent, boost storage capacity utilization by 31 percent, and increase memory utilization by 19 percent. Those gains have helped the company’s IT organization keep pace with rapid growth without adding IT budget or resources.

For the full story on TWG’s virtualization journey, check out this VMware case study.

As always, I welcome your feedback in the comments section below.

 

Until next time,

Brandon

 

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Could an IT Scrinch ruin your holidays with data center downtime?

Could an “IT Scrinch” be living in your virtualized infrastructure? And could it be wreaking havoc on your business continuity and disaster recovery (BC/DR) plans in your IT environment?

These questions are probed in a new decked-for-the-holidays infographic that shows how VMware BC/DR solutions help you combat the IT Scrinch and save the day for your data center.

Here are a few of the ways the VMware BC/DR portfolio gets the job done:

  • The IT Scrinch wants you to work day and night to protect the almost 40 TB of fresh data produced each year in the typical SMB environment. [i] But not so with vSphere® Data Protection Advanced and vCenter® Site Recovery Manager™. These products help you save valuable staff time by automating and optimizing the backup and recovery of this constant onslaught of data.
  • The IT Scrinch greatly enjoys decreasing the availability of your applications. vSphere High Availability helps you fight back. It automatically moves your virtual machines when your servers or operating systems fail and automatically restarts the workloads when applications fail. Need to quickly troubleshoot an issue? In addition, VMware solutions can deliver a 26 percent decrease in time spent on troubleshooting issues brought by the IT Scrinch —to help you keep your systems available.[ii]
  • The IT Scrinch enjoys the thought that unplanned data center downtime costs $7,900 per minute.[iii] VMware vCloud® Air™ Disaster Recovery helps you avoid these costs. It leverages a public cloud to protect your onsite business-critical workloads and help ensure operational consistency with realizable cost and resource savings.

These are just some of the many ways you can put VMware solutions to work to combat the IT Scrinch in your virtualized infrastructure. To see additional ideas, check out our infographic How will the IT Scrinch make you miserable?


[i] The Acronis Global Disaster Recovery Index 2012.

[ii] Management Insight Technologies, September 2012

[iii] Emerson Network Power and Ponemon Institute, Dec. 3, 2013.

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Four Ways BC/DR Can Help Your SMB – Part 1: Backup

By: vExpert Gregg Robertson                        

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) is something every business, no matter how big or small, should be thinking about and planning for. Whilst preparing for my VCAP-DCD and even for my VCDX attempt, BC/DR was a very important topic, as two of the infrastructure qualities (AMPRS) that all designs show impact on are availability and recoverability.

In my daily role as a consultant, BC/DR is a core component for every design, no matter if it is vSphere, end-user computing or hybrid cloud. In this four part series of blogs, I am going to cover four different ways BC/DR can help your SMB through the usage of VMware solutions available . In part one, we will start with backup for your virtual environment.

Enterprise-Level Backups For SMB’s

The ability to do simultaneous backup and restores in an automated and simplistic manner is one of the major pillars of BC/DR. All companies want the ability to backup and restore their environments in the most efficient, cost effective and timely manner possible so that an outage from the loss of either a number of virtual machines or a file on a virtual machine isn’t going to cost the company.

One of the solutions from VMware that allows SMB customers to receive a large number of the features and capabilities of enterprise-level backup solutions due to it being powered by EMC Avamar is vSphere Data Protection Advanced (vDPA). vDPA enables a number of features with seamless integration with vSphere to enable single vendor support for backup and VMware virtualization. Some of these features and what they enable for SMB businesses are defined below:

  • Seamless Integration: vDPA is a simple-to-deploy, robust, disk-based backup and recovery solution. vDPA is fully integrated with VMware vCenter Server and enables centralized and efficient management of backup jobs while storing backups in de-duplicated destination storage.
  • Storage Efficiency and Recovery Time: vSphere API for Data Protection (vADP) is utilized by vDPA. This includes the Changed Block Tracking (CBT) mechanism. CBT tracks the changes made to a VM at the block level and provides this information to vDPA so that only changed blocks are backed up. This significantly reduces storage consumption and speeds up backup and recovery times with vDPA.
  • Consistent and Usable Backups: VMware Tools on Windows contains Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) components to assist with guest OS and application quiescing when backing up Windows VMs. More details on VSS can be found here.
  • Less Backup Storage Consumed: De-duplication occurs not only within each VM, but across all backup jobs and all VMs being backed up by the vDPA appliance. vSphere Data Protection Advanced leverages patented variable-length deduplication to consume up to 75 percent less backup storage* and deliver application-consistent, granular backup and recovery for applications.
  • Power State Independent: A VM that utilizes an agent for backup and recovery requires the VM to be in a powered on state. With vDPA, that is not the case – backups and recoveries can be performed regardless of the VM’s power state.
  • Browser Based Management: There is no need to install backup management software on an administrator’s workstation. Configuration and management of vDPA is web browser based. Currently supported browsers: IE 7, 8 on Windows. Firefox 3.6 and higher on Windows or Linux. Adobe Flash is required.
  • Granular Restoration: Restores can be entire VM or individual files and folders/directories. The file-level restore user interface (UI) is web based, simple, and intuitive, meaning end-users can perform self-service file-level restores (administrator permissions required).

vDPA Architecture

  • The appliance is deployed by default with 4 vCPUs and 4GB RAM.
  • vDPA is available in three sizes: 5 TB, 1 TB, and 2 TB – these are usable destination datastore sizes. The actual amount of disk space (thick provisioned) consumed by the appliance is 850 GB (3 .vmdk files), 1600 GB (7 .vmdk files), and 3100 GB (13 .vmdk files) respectively. Thin provisioning can be used, but the administrator should closely monitor disk consumption. It is important to note that once the vDPA appliance is deployed, the size cannot be changed.
  • The vDP appliance guest OS is SuSE Linux 11.
  • vCenter Server 5.1 or higher is required to use vDPA. vDPA can backup VMs on hosts running vSphere 4.0 and higher.
  • vDPA management is done via the vSphere Web Client. There is no plug-in for the vCenter Server “thick” client.

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Managing New IT Challenges in 2015 – Get Tech Tips in Upcoming Live and On-Demand VMware Webcasts

Go into 2015 with new strategies for managing common IT problems. This month, join us for upcoming live and on-demand webcasts to manage IT challenges more efficiently. Scale the transition to the mobile-cloud era with a new webcast on scaling mobile app development through cloud-based, mobile-backend services. Or, see how to incorporate operations management to monitor the health, performance and efficiency of your virtual environment. Sign up today to claim a spot! Webcasts are free – and make sure to check back, as many will become available on-demand.

 

VMware ViewPoint – Training & Certification Webinar Series – vSphere with Operations Management

Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 9:00am PT

If you’re interested in the advantages of using vSphere with Operations Management to manage and monitor your vSphere environments you should attend this free webinar.  Our VMware Learning Consultant will cover:

  • Highlights and features available in vSphere with Operations Management
  • How to use operations management to monitor keys aspects of your vSphere environments
  • How to drill down and find the root cause of an issue
  • “What-If” scenarios to analyze the effects of resource changes

 

Scale your mobile app development on VMware vCloud Air

 Thursday, December 11, 2014, 10 am PST

Have you built initial mobile applications and encountered more challenges than expected? Have you thought about how sales, support, operations, and customers can benefit from a more real-time, mobile-enabled approach?

We’ll share how VMware vCloud Air and its solution partners are helping scale the transition to the mobile-cloud era through developer choice and agility, as well as enterprise-grade capabilities supported by a cloud business model. Learn how to get started with hybrid cloud for both new mobile application development as well as how to modernize your existing applications by extending them to mobile devices.

This webinar is for leaders of digital initiatives, leaders of mobility, IT and application architects with mobile responsibilities.

Attend this webcast to:

  • See demos of how you can scale application development through cloud-based, mobile-backend services
  • Create choice and agility for your organization’s mobile application developers to build great user experiences
  • Ensure your mobile applications meet enterprise-grade standards for integration and security

 

vSphere With Operations Management: Monitoring the health, performance and efficiency of your virtual environment

 Tuesday, December 16, 2014, 10 am PST

Join this breakout session to learn how to use VMware vSphere with Operations Management to monitor the health and performance of your virtual workloads, optimize the efficiency of your virtual infrastructure and perform capacity planning for your virtual environment.

This session introduces the features and capabilities of vSphere with Operations Management including:

  • vSphere with Operations Management Demo
  • Troubleshoot performance problems
  • Efficiency optimizations
  • vSphere with Operations Management Overview
  • Components/packaging/licensing
  • Best Practices/Recommendations
  • Static vs. Dynamic Thresholds, Groups and Policies

 

Have ideas for upcoming webcast topics? Share your suggestions with us in the comments!

 

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Is the IT Scrinch stealing from your servers?

Just about any kid can tell you the story of the conniving, cold-hearted Grinch who stole Christmas. But did you ever consider the thought that a Grinch-like creature might be stealing from your data centers?

The greedy Scrinch wants to steal your resources—from your network to your endpoint devices. What’s there to do? In the Dr. Seuss classic, the townspeople fight the Grinch’s evil, stealing ways with nothing more than a heart-warming Christmas song. That approach won’t work with the IT Scrinch, who lives not in a cave but in your data center.

A better way is to fight the IT Scrinch with VMware vSphere® with Operations Management™, which couples the world’s the most trusted virtualization platform, vSphere, with intelligent operations, performance monitoring and capacity management.

Here are few examples of the ways this happens:

  • The Scrinch loves seeing unused IT capacity. vSphere with Operations Management increases capacity utilization by up to 40%.*
  • The Scrinch loves frustrated end users. The VMware solution drives improvements in end-user satisfaction by up to 41%.*
  • The Scrinch wants you to waste time trying to ferret out problems in your complex IT environment. vSphere with Operations Management reduces diagnostics and problem resolution time by up the 26%.*

For more examples, and a very festive look at how vSphere with Operations Management can help you take back the resources the Scrinch has been pilfering from your environment, check out the infographic What is the IT Scrinch stealing from you?”

Happy holidays—from our data centers to yours!

*Source: Management Insights Technologies, “The Benefits of VMware’s vCenter Operations Management Suite,” September 2012.

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Rethink Your vSphere Virtualization Infrastructure for your SMB

By: Gregg Robertson, vExpert

In recent years, virtualization has dramatically changed the infrastructure of companies and helped them to consolidate and optimize their environments. With the change and growth of the VMware vSphere® family of products, a number of features and solutions that were only part of the Enterprise and Enterprise plus licencing packages are now available for the small and midsize business (SMB) market as well. This change is causing SMB customers to rethink and re-evaluate their vSphere virtualized infrastructure to leverage these new offerings and realize the benefits of advanced reporting, data protection, enhanced optimization and advanced service offerings, to name a few.

In the past, many of these new features and technologies made a perfect fit for the SMB market, but costs made them prohibitive. That is now changing with a new wave of virtualization 2.0 technologies, including:

As a senior consultant doing work as a VMware partner and as an extension of VMware PSO, this change is something I am evangelising and explaining to all my customers. I especially want the small and midsize businesses I work with to know the capabilities and solutions that are now available at no extra cost to them, which can help enhance and optimize their virtualized infrastructure.

A large portion of these successes have been through the ability of SMB customers to now utilize vSphere with Operations Management to do reporting, monitoring and future planning through smart alerts, built in reports and health dashboards designed to optimize the utilization of hardware resources, such as CPU, memory and storage.

As shown in the screenshot below, this dashboard enables SMB customers to monitor the state of the environment through the current health score, the potential risks to the environment, the future health of the environment and how well the environment is running through the efficiency score. Each of these scores can be expanded to give further information and methods to improve these rankings. I always like to explain these scores like the the health of a person – the higher your health score is, the healthier you are, and the higher your risk factors, the bigger the chance of your health being impacted. Your efficiency is how well you are doing things and how you could do things better.

 

 

 

I’ve written a whitepaper around the need for SMBs to rethink their virtualization infrastructure and to elaborate on a number of the features and solutions that are now available to SMB customers, like vRealize Operations built into vSphere with Operations Management, as briefly detailed above. Download the whitepaper to learn how these solutions can help your business and your customers.

 

 

 

 

 

If you require any more information or consultancy about the solutions and technologies covered in the whitepaper, then please don’t hesitate to contact VMware Professional Services.

Gregg Robertson is a senior consultant, professional blogger, vExpert 2011 – 2014, VCAP5-DCA/DCD, VCP-Cloud, VCP 3/4/5, VMware communities moderator and co-host of the EMEA vBrownbag weekly webinars/podcasts. Gregg’s blog, TheSaffaGeek , started as a place to write down fixes plus VMware certification links and resources, but has quickly found a large following of readers and subscribers.

 

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How to Avoid Common VDI Mistakes

With a median ROI of over 300%, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is becoming an increasingly wise financial and technological choice for businesses. In addition to offering enhanced data protection, VDI improves IT efficiency by reducing overall desktop administrative and management tasks.

With all the benefits, why would anyone hesitate making the switch?

Since VDI changes how desktops are delivered to users, the transition requires a strong IT project path for problem-free implementation. Essentially, VDI benefits require change, and that opens up room for error. This is why proper and thorough planning is critical to successful VDI deployment. Here are a few common pitfalls you can avoid with a little planning.

Pitfall #1: Not Involving Users

Ultimately, the success of a VDI project is dependent on user acceptance. If users reject the change, you’ll have a more difficult time throughout the entire process. Involving stakeholders in the planning and early adoption processes empowers everyone.

The Solution: Involve users throughout the project.

Before deployment, interview users from different business units and ask them what they would like to gain from VDI, or even what they consider to be problematic about the current desktop environment. Continue to ask for feedback during rollout, as well. Try distributing questionnaires so users can share their observations.

Pitfall #2: Putting Together the Wrong Team

Though it might seem like the logical choice, building your VDI team around virtualization architects is actually a poor idea. Virtual desktops are not the same as virtualized servers.

The Solution: Include desktop administrators

Now that desktops are hosted in the data center, it’s vital that the storage systems hosting desktops and the networks used to access them are designed correctly. So, to guarantee a successful project, include the people who design and manage desktop and application environments. Collaborate with storage, server, and network specialists.

 

 

To help your team avoid making these and other VDI-related mistakes, we’ve identified and provided solutions for eight common VDI pitfalls. Download the white paper to learn more about VDI best practices.

 

 

 

 

 

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How to best use the BC/DR features of vSphere

By: Vladan Seget, vExpert

VMware vSphere can be leveraged to ensure application availability, server availability or site availability. In this post I’ll look at different scenarios that might fit your organization.

While it’s quite easy to get protected by High Availability (HA) to prevent hardware failures, there might be scenarios where you also need application protection.

It’s all about granularity

VMware vSphere App High Availability (HA) – Applications First!

When it comes to granularity, you might want to protect your application first. If your application crashes under a heavy load, for example, but the VM is still running fine, nothing happens. Users will start to complain that their application is not available. In this case, vSphere HA won’t trigger an HA event and the VM won’t get restarted. How do you deal with that?

Application High Availability to the rescue! The vSphere Application HA works in conjunction with vFabric Hyperic Server, so you must install and configure Hyperic server in order to use vSphere App HA, and you must deploy a small agent to the VM for monitoring. The whole solution is managed through a plugin visible through the vSphere Web Client only.

Not all Enterprise applications are supported for monitoring – here is the list of currently supported applications:

  • MSSQL 2005, 2008, 2008R2, 2012
  • Tomcat 6.0, 7.0
  • TC Server Runtime 6.0, 7.0
  • IIS 6.0, 7.0, 8.0
  • Apache HTTP Server 1.3, 2.0, 2.2

One prerequisite to installing Application HA on your cluster is to activate VM and Application monitoring (see below) and also to create an IP pool for the subnet where you want to install the product.