Affiliate Window Consolidates IT Infrastructure with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization

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October 15, 2013

In order to accommodate its rapid growth rate, Affiliate Window made the strategic decision to upgrade the IT infrastructure underpinning its services.

Customer: Affiliate Window

“Virtualization and automated build processes not only allow us to be more agile, delivering infrastructure faster than with physical servers, but also make it easier for development teams to enhance our service offering for clients." - James Cohen, technical operations director, Affiliate Window

Industry: Other
Geography: EMEA
Country: United Kingdom


Business Challenge:

From the outset, Affiliate Window has benefited from the flexibility and scalability of open source solutions. Following a significant period of growth, the firm took a strategic decision to refresh its data center, simultaneously overhauling and consolidating what had become a fragmented IT infrastructure onto Red Hat® Enterprise Virtualization.

Migration Path:

A fragmented IT infrastructure with a mixture of Citrix XenServer, Xensource, and bare metal servers were consolidated into a single data center using enterprise-class Red Hat technology.

Software:

Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Red Hat Enterprise Linux®

Hardware:

30 Dell PowerEdge M610 blade servers with Intel Xeon processors located in two Dell PowerEdge M1000e modular blade enclosures

Benefits:

Affiliate Window slashed operational costs by 26% and its physical footprint by 46%.

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Background:

Affiliate Window is a poster child for the social web, bringing together an affiliate network of advertisers, publishers, online real estate, and ultimately consumers. The early online advertising industry modeled itself on traditional physical media sales techniques: banner adverts supporting content, with popular sites charging a premium for placement and no guarantees on sales. Over time, the website banner advertisement model evolved to incorporate pay-per-click billing. Affiliate Window goes one step further, integrating an advert with the advertiser’s own website, only charging when a consumer click-through leads to a sale. Affiliate Window has grown exponentially in the last few years as online advertising has come of age. Revenues leapt from £43 million in 2009 to £136 million in 2012, and the staff increased from 96 to more than 240 over the same period.

Business Challenge:

Exponential growth requires open source scalability

In order to accommodate its rapid growth rate, Affiliate Window made the strategic decision to upgrade the IT infrastructure underpinning its services. Its existing IT system included HP and Dell servers with a mixture of local and networked storage, running Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® and CentOS in both bare metal and Xensource/Citrix XenServer configurations. When this legacy infrastructure came to the end of its lifecycle, Affiliate Window decided to consolidate its data center and saw this as an opportunity to transform its IT, moving to an entirely virtualized environment for greater scalability and simplified management.

Solution:

Ease of use, flexibility and availability

The decision to move to Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization was taken during the fastest growth period in Affiliate Window’s history. Though the firm has a long-standing relationship with Red Hat—having used Red Hat Enterprise Linux since 2003—Affiliate Window considered other options to enable enterprise-class virtualization, notably VMware. However, VMware was ruled out because of the cost and inflexibility of proprietary solutions.

Affiliate Window worked with LinuxIT, a Red Hat Premier Partner, to select Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization as the ideal solution.

The evaluation period took four months from start to finish, with Affiliate Window setting up different environments in the data center to simulate current and future load requirements. Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization proved the best match for the technical and business requirements.

Prior to the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization implementation, Affiliate Window was running 100 physical servers. In the final implementation, Affiliate Window has 30 Dell PowerEdge M610 blade servers with Intel Xeon processors located in two Dell PowerEdge M1000e modular blade enclosures. The Dell servers running on Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization currently support over 200 virtual machines, running the majority of the firm’s affiliate network and development environment. As a result of the implementation, Affiliate Window can now provision virtual machines based on demand.

The firm’s development platform has about 75 virtual machines running under Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization. Kernel SamePage Merging (KSM) allows more virtual machines to run per host. KSM enables the kernel to examine two or more running programs, and compares their memory. If any memory regions or pages are identical, KSM reduces multiple identical memory pages to a single page, enabling a higher density of VMs per physical host.

Affiliate Window takes full advantage of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization Management features like the graphical user interface-based (GUI) tool, high availability, and live migration. Using the GUI, Affiliate Window is working on making its development platform self-service so developers can create or delete virtual machines according to demand. In the event of a hardware failure, high availability ensures a virtual machine automatically restarts on another host in the cluster without any user intervention. Live migration provides the ability to move a running virtual machine between physical hosts with no interruption to service, for example in the event of a soft-failure, or when hardware maintenance needs to be carried out without application downtime.

“Virtualization and automated build processes not only allow us to be more agile, delivering infrastructure faster than with physical servers, but also make it easier for development teams to enhance our service offering for clients,” said James Cohen, technical operations director, Affiliate Window. “By deploying Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, we reduced our operational costs by 26% and our physical footprint by 46%. We’re getting more value out of our technology, so we’re able to focus on our core business and on delivering the best possible service to our clients.”

Benefits:

Consolidation breeds efficiency

With Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Affiliate Window’s IT team is able to launch new virtualized servers in minutes as opposed to the hours it took previously. The decision to consolidate onto a single platform means more than 200 virtual machines can be managed easily by a smaller team of IT professionals. In short, managing data has become more efficient, enabling Affiliate Window to react more quickly to business requirements. Remaining innovative and agile in digital marketing is key to the company’s continued success.

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