LetterGen Builds Leading IT Infrastructure with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization

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January 17, 2012

Customer: LetterGen

Geography: EMEA
Country: Belgium

Business Challenge:

LetterGen strived to build cost-efficient, scalable computing resources

Migration Path:

VMware to Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization


Red Hat® Enterprise Virtualization; Red Hat Enterprise Linux®


IBM x3650 2u servers; IBM DS3400 SAN and EXP3000; Supermicro SAN STI7N1220


By migrating from VMware to Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, along with Red Hat Enterprise Linux as the core operating system, LetterGen has reduced costs by 67 percent. increased utilization, optimized system maintenance and improved service levels all around.


LetterGen NV of Boom, Belgium was founded in October 2009 as a subsidiary of BTR Services--an IT services provider founded in 2005. LetterGen Document Management Software dates back to 1997, when it was initially developed by Real Software to enable Generale Bank, Belgium’s largest financial institution, the ability to fully automate its corporate loans.

Business Challenge:

The quest for a scalable, stable virtualized environment
In 2011, The Deloitte Fast 50 (a ranking of the fastest-growing technology companies) ranked LetterGen number 30. As the company continues to innovate, the Belgian enterprise wanted to realize its growth plans and remain competitive. Since LetterGen was creating more virtual machines than it could migrate--an average of 10 per month--the company was looking for a new solution that provided a stable environment that would be easy to maintain and expand without incurring high costs.

“Our VMware ESXi environment, consisting of two IBM x3650 servers and one IBM x3650 server with a Virtual Center installation, did not offer the scalability we required to be fully successful. Moreover, our setup was not adequate to include several scattered machines,” said Vincent Van der Kussen, system engineer open system, BTR Service, who was responsible for the migration.

If LetterGen wanted to perform maintenance of a host, it had to shut down its machines, because the company could not migrate virtual machines to another host. When this shutdown occurred (once every three months), the system would be offline for maintenance for several hours. Expanding LetterGen’s VMware ESXi environment to resolve these issues would have required a significant investment from the company.


Red Hat technologies play an important role in LetterGen’s long-term strategy
After a demo and several internal tests, LetterGen was easily convinced that Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization satisfied all of its system requirements. “All of the features we wanted are in one package,” said Van der Kussen. “Moreover, Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization offered us the same features as VMware at a lower price point.”

To migrate from VMware to Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Lettergen engaged BTR Services, a Red Hat Premier Business Partner specializing in Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization. Using the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization V2V tools, BTR Services was able to automatically convert virtual machines running Windows 2008 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux from the VMware format to the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization format.

“V2V works perfectly and has saved us a lot of time,” said Van der Kussen. “The process of converting virtual machines manually from VMware is extremely time-consuming, due to the installation set-up. V2V does this automatically and allows us to program it to migrate some virtual machines at night.”

LetterGen has virtualized 95 percent of its infrastructure, including the web servers (Apache), file servers based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (Samba), active directory, database servers MySQL, MS SQL and DB2, JBoss Community projects and WebSphere application servers, as well as the entire development and testing environment. The operating systems deployed on the virtual servers are either WindowsServer 2008 or Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Today the company’s Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization cluster consists of three hypervisor hosts supporting more than 100 virtual servers. Plans to increase this capacity are ongoing.

The development environment predominantly uses open source tools such as Subversion, Hudson, and JBoss, while the back end of LetterGen runs on Java. “Choosing a Linux platform and the support from a market leader such as Red Hat was a logical decision,” said Van der Kussen. “The openness allows us to work in a highly flexible manner.”

Red Hat technologies also play an important role in LetterGen’s long term strategy for IT infrastructure. “Approximately 60 percent of our infrastructure currently runs on Red Hat, and we try to run services on Red Hat whenever possible because we know it’s extremely stable and doesn’t require complicated license management, which frees up time for other activities,” said Van der Kussen.


LetterGen lowers costs by 67 percent with Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization
Utilizing Red Hat solutions has helped LetterGen transform its IT infrastructure. First, the subscription costs of Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and the unlimited virtual guest entitlements available with Red Hat Enterprise Linux subscriptions, have allowed LetterGen to lower costs by 67 percent, while offering the same features and reduced system maintenance.

Thanks to live migration--one of the primary reasons for the switch--the IT team can more efficiently utilize the virtualization cluster. LetterGen can now move virtual machines from one host to another while the servers remain operational--without affecting performance. In addition, maintenance manager capabilities allow hosts to be upgraded and maintained while virtual machines are running. The result is less downtime and increased availability. This increased availability--along with the increased workload mobility from live migration--has increased the utilization of the IT infrastructure by other company groups in other time zones. Developers and test engineers in India and Brazil can now reliably access the virtualization cluster resources and can more effectively plan their work.

“The system is so stable that there have been no problems over the past 18 months,” said Van der Kussen. “The downtime currently stands at zero.”

With Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, LetterGen is able to maintain the scalability required for its customers and can easily expand to support its growing ambition. “Thanks to increased flexibility, we can now complete expansions more easily. The system's openness offers more flexibility to adapt the environment,” said Van der Kussen.

Moving forward, LetterGen plans to expand its use of open source technologies. It has revealed plans to employ Puppet, an open source configuration management tool. Along with other tools for continuous deployment, Puppet will make the development process more agile. LetterGen is also examining the merits of cloud computing, and plans to rely on Red Hat solutions and best practices to build its cloud infrastructure in the future.

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