Casio Strengthens its Core IT Infrastructure with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization

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25 June 2012

Casio set out to create and transform its business through the use of innovative IT. In doing so, the company wanted to deliver IT solutions that created business processes and contributed to effective business management.

Customer: Casio

"We look forward to expanding our relationship with Red Hat, especially in the cloud space, as we trust Red Hat solutions will provide extreme value.” -Atsushi Yazawa, Corporate Officer, IT Department, Casio

Geography: APAC
Country: Japan


Business Challenge:

Casio set out to create and transform its business through the use of innovative IT. In doing so, the company wanted to deliver IT solutions that created business processes and contributed to effective business management.

Migration Path:

From Xen to Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization

Software:

Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Microsoft Windows

Hardware:

IBM System x servers

Benefits:

Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization has not only cut costs for Casio, but has also helped the company effectively handle business management challenges and prepare for a future cloud environment.

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Background:

Established in 1957, Casio has been dedicated to growing to meet its customers’ real needs. Casio accomplishes this goal by identifying what consumers truly need, rather than following the comfortable dictates of conventional thinking. This enables Casio to go beyond mere customer satisfaction and inspire people with its products and services such as unique G-SHOCK watches, calculators and musical instruments. Casio’s corporate creed also focuses on strong creativity and contribution. To contribute directly to society, Casio strives to provide products with innovative functions never seen before. These products provide new functionality that can be useful in the lives of people across the world.

Business Challenge:

Creating a business-centered, company-wide optimization process
Far from being an inward-looking department handling internal computer processing, the Information Technology Department at Casio Computer Co., Ltd named its group “gyoumu kaihatsubu,” which translates to “business development department.” This group is tasked with creating business models that work to provide a cohesiveness to the global company’s application and business departments, along with optimizing its global IT infrastructure.

Atsushi Yazawa, Corporate Officer, Information Technology Department, Casio, oversees this group and set out to implement a business-centered, company-wide optimization process, aiming to build an information system capable of creating actual business models. By installing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software and other solutions, Yazawa’s team worked diligently to standardize Casio’s business applications, while bringing them into universal company-wide use.

As Yazawa’s team rebuilt its IT infrastructure, virtualization was a main goal. The company needed to get to a point where they could develop business applications in order to strengthen Casio’s competitiveness. “All this thinking got the business development department working closely with our various business units, which helped us develop a working style where we can use IT to create true business value,” said Yazawa.

This team’s mission was to not simply build systems in response to departmental requests, but also to optimize those systems, taking into consideration everything--up to and including the outward-facing business process of each department. In order to do this successfully, Casio knew it had to keep pace with the IT advances currently in the market.

During Casio’s quest to formalize its system-building, the company had to make a mental distinction between non-core business and core business. “Non-core business is defined as domains such as production, sales operations, logistics, accounting, and purchasing, where IT systems can be standardized and shared,” said Yazawa. “By operating these IT systems cheaply and efficiently, we can increase our investment in core business domains, such as front-line sales support and product lifecycle management (PLM). By developing IT systems tailored to the nature of the business, in accordance with business requirements, we can create a competitive advantage.”
 

Solution:

Adding virtualization to strengthen its core IT infrastructure
After tackling the standardization of its non-core business, Casio wanted to bring in virtualization technology to consolidate its servers, while strengthening the IT infrastructure shared throughout the company. Before the creation of its business development department, Casio’s servers were deployed in a piecemeal fashion by department or by business. “We first began virtualizing our IBM core business servers in 2004. However, it wasn’t your average virtualization project,” said Yazawa. “Our aim was to consolidate and aggregate the servers scattered around our group companies as part of an office environment revolution. In fact, introducing virtualization at that time enabled us to consolidate about 20 servers.”

Building on this deployment in 2005, Casio decided to virtualize its IBM System x servers,starting with the supply chain application servers, which included approximately 1,000 x86 servers. The company’s initial target was to get this number down to 500. “Back in 2005, the only virtualization software around was VMware, but later on Xen appeared on the scene, offering a cheaper way to virtualize servers using open source software,” said Yazawa. “We adopted Xen in 2007 because our corporate culture encourages us to proactively adopt best-of-breed solutions, and at that time, it was a contributing factor to our final decision.”

However, after adopting Xen, Casio began considering other factors such as future-proofing its virtualization strategy. “When we began to rethink whether we would continue to use Xen in the future, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization was suggested to us, and our testing results convinced us that we would be able to gain the high-performance, scalable, cost-effective solution we were looking for. Plus, we saw Red Hat® Enterprise Virtualization as a perfect fit for Casio because it provides a key foundation for cloud deployments.”

Like most large companies, whenever a new solution is introduced, there are usually migration concerns. However, Casio felt extremely confident in their transition to Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization.

Once Casio began the migration process, Red Hat Consulting played a major role and provided support--from the migration point to the technical detail--which was incredibly helpful to Casio’s IT team. “The actual migration from our existing virtual machines to Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization went extremely smoothly,” said Kazuyasu Yamazaki, group manager of IT infrastructure group, Casio Information Service. “Because Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization is based on open source, we can also expect it to progress rapidly in the user community, which is a good thing. And even though we’re using this technology in a mixed Windows-and-Linux environment, it has been a very smooth deployment.”

Benefits:

Lower costs, faster procurement, and flexible business requirements
Since migrating to Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Casio has been able to reduce its costs significantly while also speeding up procurement, which has helped the company successfully handle business management challenges. “It’s not just a simple matter of server consolidation,” said Norihito Kuniyoshi, managing director, Casio Information Service. “The most dramatic benefit to Casio has been in cost reduction. Previously, we used to do a total budget estimate for each project, covering everything from development to infrastructure. Now, we can separate the infrastructure element and budget in packages. Therefore, when it comes to important projects we know about in advance, not only can we prepare the infrastructure using the budget for the previous fiscal year, but even if urgent projects occur, we can now change the priority order and handle things with more flexibility. Our procurement is faster too; preparations that previously took up to a month can now be achieved in a few days, or sometimes in just a single day.”

Casio’s virtual servers use only 60% of the resources previously used by physical servers. By running these virtual servers in sets of three, the company has been able to achieve the high availability they never thought was possible. “Rather than running virtual servers to facilitate the full use of physical server resources, our design concept is to reduce resource usage to 60% or below,” said Kuniyoshi. “This way, in the unlikely event that one server goes down, a recovery can be achieved, and the failure will not have a serious effect on the whole system.”

“Also, when we set up a new application server, we don’t have to stipulate the sizing right at the start,” added Yamazaki. “Instead, we can make the decision once the server has been running for a while. That’s another advantage of virtualization.”

Since gaining so many benefits with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Casio’s next step will be to transition to a cloud environment. When this time comes, Casio will look for an open source solution with strong vendor support. “We will not only be expanding our virtualization footprint in the months ahead, but also enhancing the functionality of our IT infrastructure,” said Kuniyoshi.

Currently, Casio is utilizing its own privately built consolidated infrastructure platform, but is also considering using a public cloud environment in the future. “Our main priority is to look very carefully at using our private cloud and public cloud for different purposes, or alternatively, building a hybrid cloud. We look forward to expanding our relationship with Red Hat, especially in the cloud space, as we trust Red Hat solutions will provide extreme value.” said Yazawa.

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