ABC Cooking Studio Builds Flexible IT Infrastructure with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization

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October 11, 2013

ABC Cooking Studio, with 124 cooking schools in Japan, was growing rapidly both geographically and in business scope. The studio used Red Hat solutions to virtualize on a flexible IT infrastructure that scales along with the business and reduces deployment time of new systems by more than 65%.

Customer: ABC Cooking Studio

“Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization lets us get the job done without any system downtime, which helps us maintain service levels and lighten the burden of system operation.” - Shigetoshi Nakamura, Information Systems Group, ABC Cooking Studio

Industry: Other
Geography: APAC
Country: Japan


Business Challenge:

ABC Cooking Studio, with 124 cooking schools in Japan, was growing rapidly both geographically and in business scope. Supporting this growth with its existing Windows-based IT infrastructure was costly and time-consuming.

Migration Path:

VMware to Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization

Hardware:

Dell PowerEdge R610 / R510, Dell PowerVault MD3620 / MD1220, Dell PowerConnect 8024

Benefits:

The studio used Red Hat solutions to virtualize on a flexible IT infrastructure that scales along with the business and reduces deployment time of new systems by more than 65%.

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Business Challenge:

Defining the problem: From traditional to ‘scrap and build’ approach

ABC Cooking Studio’s rapid expansion required a fresh look at the company’s existing infrastructure. New systems needed to be developed differently, instead of using traditional processes.

“If we did things the old way, the new system would not be ready in time,” said Shigetoshi Nakamura, Information Systems Group, ABC Cooking Studio. “We have to create web services as we go along; and we let under-performing services die off so we can focus even more on the more promising ones. What we needed was an IT system that could cope with our ‘scrap and build’ approach.”

ABC Cooking Studio’s core system provides customer-oriented services — managing course bookings, attendance, and contracts — and enables members to book courses through the website. After classes are complete, the system provides students with access to help them further understand what they have learned.

Existing environment inefficient and costly

In order to cope with its increasing customer base and expanding range of services, the company needed a flexible IT infrastructure. However, its existing environment, with one operating system per server, posed a number of problems.

“When we tried to provide services with one operating system per server, we ended up with a proliferation of servers, despite our best efforts,” said Nakamura. “As hardware has a very high level of performance, a single service does not use up all the capacity of one server. We needed to use our resources more efficiently and it didn’t make sense to have a system that needed a high level of manpower to run. Datacenter usage costs are certainly not cheap either. We needed to minimize our system in order to reduce costs.”

Solution:

Finding a solution: Linux attraction and VMware limitations

ABC Cooking Studio had been using Windows-based servers, but Linux® platform technology attracted them because of its compatibility with current technology practices and easy availability of software.

The studio switched to Linux in 2009 and embarked on server virtualization in a Linux environment.

“To start with, we installed VMware ESX. At the time, there was no other mainstream virtualization solution around,” said Nakamura. “We initially virtualized 25 out of our 70 or so physical servers and replaced the entire 25-server environment with just three physical servers. That worked out at between eight and nine virtual servers per machine. We achieved our goal of using our server resources in an efficient way; however, in terms of creating a flexible IT infrastructure, we still had improvements to make.”

Using VMware products, it would have been very expensive to implement a live migration function that enabled a system running in the virtual environment to be migrated to another physical server without powering down the physical server. However, Nakamura found a solution in the form of Red Hat® Enterprise Virtualization.

How Red Hat helped: Live migration at a lower cost

In October 2011, ABC Cooking Studio started using the beta version of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization. While the company waited for the official release in January 2012, it began a full-scale replacement of its Windows software and had completed the first stage of this process by June 2012.

“Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization allowed us to acquire a live migration function at a much lower cost than if we had used VMware software. What’s more, the core component of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization is Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM), which is implemented in the Linux kernel. Because we were already familiar with KVM, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization had another point in its favor,” said Nakamura.

The company was also performing its own verifications of the Citrix XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization software on an as-needed basis. But because KVM is the core component of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Nakamura and his team found it relatively easy to envision how a system based on Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization would work.

Improvements made to Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization 3 included enabling the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Manager to run on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which meant that the virtual environment could be comprehensively handled in Red Hat Enterprise Linux. In addition, ABC Cooking Studio found Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization’s live migration function to be useful.

Live maintenance on physical servers without downtime

“Sooner or later, every physical host server needs maintenance, which requires the virtual environment running on that server to be moved temporarily to another server,” said Nakamura. “Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization lets us get the job done without any system downtime, which helps us maintain service levels and lighten the burden of system operation. Plus, when the system starts getting really big, we will be able to add new physical servers easily.”

Having replaced VMware with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization on the initial 25 servers, the company went on to virtualize 35 more servers using Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization.

The studio’s current virtual environment has 12 virtual machines per server running across a total of five physical servers. The Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization-based virtual environment comprises 60 operating systems, and plans are to raise this server consolidation ratio even higher in the future.

New service launch takes one-third the time

The live migration function is also extremely useful for enabling swift reaction to sudden surge in demand.

“We needed to increase resources because of large, sudden surges in demand on our web servers and because of the launches of new services,” said Nakamura. “In our pre-Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization days, we would have had to get in touch with multiple vendors and work out how much hardware we were going to need and how many days it would take to deliver.”

It used to take at least three months to get the new environment up and running. By building a virtual environment on physical servers with spare resources, it now takes just a month.

Benefits:

Results: Red Hat commands are second nature

The server virtualization project is still in progress, but the company’s ultimate plan is to replace all remaining physical servers with a virtual environment based on Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization.

“Our system is Linux-based and we are now virtualizing using Red Hat Enterprise Linux,” said Nakamura. “We use Red Hat Enterprise Linux commands all the time so using Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization is second nature to us. And because Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization is a Red Hat product, we can manage our system using our existing Red Hat Enterprise Linux knowledge. With VMware, we hardly ever used the commands. When an issue arose, we had to look up the command, which was slightly stressful.”

Nakamura also pointed out that because Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization is open source, his company has enjoyed big savings on both the initial cost and the running cost, which is calculated as a percentage of the initial cost.

Staying with open source

ABC Cooking Studio is using Red Hat JBoss® Enterprise Application Platform included in Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization as a component. Because of its success with Red Hat’s Linux, middleware, and virtualization offerings, the company intends to deploy more Red Hat software in the future.

“We have high hopes for upcoming versions of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and Red Hat Storage Server,” said Nakamura. “We will look into those products with keen interest and definitely want to participate in Red Hat user groups so that we can best assess if the products meet our needs prior to purchase.”

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