Essar is a multinational corporation with investments in the sectors of steel, energy (oil, gas, and power), infrastructure (ports, projects, and concessions) and services (shipping, telecom, realty, outsourcing and technology solutions). With operations in more than 25 countries across five continents, Essar employs over 73,000 people and has revenues of US$ 39 billion.
Behind this breakneck pace of growth, Essar invests significantly in the latest technology to drive forward and backward integration in its businesses, and on leveraging synergies between its businesses. However, for Jayantha Prabhu, CTO, Essar, this growth was resulting in a huge stress on the existing IT infrastructure environment in terms of both scalability and sustenance. “We were not able to manage our business requirements with the traditional approaches being followed,” says Jayantha. “The need of the hour was to transform the existing IT environment to enable it to meet the new requirements with an eye on ensuring that the existing investments were not wasted.”
Essar had a mix of virtualization technologies from the top virtualization solution vendors across both the X86 as well as the Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) environments. The idea was to build a cost-effective, flexible, and scalable IT infrastructure by virtualizing its data center infrastructure. However, its IT capabilities were relatively constrained. "We were facing a lot of problems and limitations due to an aging IT infrastructure of physical servers," says Prasad Patil, Vice President - IT Infrastructure, Essar. “Managing such an expansive infrastructure from a central location, however, took its toll on productivity and revenue, especially as the server fleet began to show its age.” Prasad continues, “Our business challenges were the typical issues that centralized infrastructure deployment is faced with in terms of resource sharing by multiple LOB’s under Essar. We had to deal with the varying nature of applications under different LOB’s in terms of compute requirement, dependency on versions of operating systems, IOPS requirement, etc.”
In order to expand IT systems and meet business growth, Essar had to ensure data center infrastructure optimization in terms of space, cooling, and power consumption. The company also needed to maximize resource utilization at its data centers. “Our primary requirement criteria were scalability, quality, security, and manageability,” says Prasad. “The idea was to enhance our IT environment to enable it to address the dynamic business needs with the least amount of disruption to the existing environment both in terms of day to day functioning as well as incorporating the existing deployed investment being wasted.”
Essar has already deployed the vanilla virtualization solution where the focus was on just moving physical servers to the virtual environment. “Having experienced the challenges of the deployment, we were unanimous in the decision to opt for a private cloud solution,” says Gaurang Doshi, Associate Vice President - IT Infrastructure, Essar.
Essar evaluated the top virtualization solution vendors for its requirements. “We had created a list of requirements that would ensure the success of the deployment, which had parameters like technology, support, cost, and existing infrastructure integration,” explains Gaurang. “We were able to efficiently meet the same due to the inbuilt features of the private cloud solution offering from Microsoft.”
The private cloud solution is based on the Windows Server 2012 operating system, Hyper-V virtualization technology, and the Microsoft System Center 2012 suite. “Virtualization solutions from Microsoft have matured significantly over the last few years,” says Gaurang. “From a licensing perspective, Microsoft was a perfect fit due to our Enterprise agreement with them. Plus, the solution met our technical requirements for the deployment of planned business applications to be moved to virtualization. It also justifies in terms of better TCO/ROI for our specific requirement in Essar.”
Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V includes significant scale and capacity improvements that were critical in the company’s decision to virtualize its biggest database workload. Since deploying Windows Server 2012, Essar has virtualized a large number of physical servers on Windows 2012 Hyper-V hosts in a cluster at the Kurla data center. Microsoft System Center 2012 forms a critical part of the private cloud strategy.
Essar administrators have control of all key parts of the system from a single management console. By installing components of System Center 2012, including Virtual Machine Manager, Operations Manager, Orchestrator, Configuration Manager, and App Controller, the IT team can centrally manage its physical and virtual server environments.
Essar uses the Virtual Machine Manager component of System Center 2012 to deploy and manage virtual machines. Virtual Machine Manager with App Controller helps improve the agility of IT management by allowing role-based self-service access to datacenter resources. App Controller creates a simple way for datacenter administrators to delegate control of services and virtual machines to service owners. It is deployed to provide portal access to IT users for virtual machine provisioning in the private cloud.
Essar also uses the Operations Manager component of System Center 2012 to monitor CPU performance, memory, disk utilization, application workloads, and other aspects of server health. The Data Protection Manager component of System Center 2012 is used for automated backups to disk.
Essar runs all .NET applications and many applications from OEMS like SAP and Oracle in its Microsoft private cloud environment. It also runs niche industry specific software like Aspen tech, etc. “We have made initial steps with SAP on Windows as compared to our existing environment of SAP on the Unix platform,” says Jayantha. “With the deployments that we have made of SAP on Windows, we have had a good experience both on the performance and well as the sustenance aspects.”
Overall, Essar is extremely happy with the support and knowledge of the Microsoft team. The adoption of technologies associated with this private cloud solution was seamless for the company.
With its Microsoft private cloud solution Essar is able to utilize the benefits of virtualization which is become a norm in the industry. The company is able to dramatically lower costs, enhance management effectively, and enable its IT team to cater to their needs with speed and agility.
Enhances End User Productivity
Essar is using Windows Server 2012 along with Hyper-V and System Center 2012 to build a private cloud, abstracting compute, storage, and networking resources to dynamically provision and scale applications and resources as needed by the business. End users will get utmost performance and response over IT infrastructure and application. “Increased application availability and performance of applications minimize end user efforts and time, which results in enhanced end user productivity,” says Prasad. “Our IT team can now respond dynamically to the application needs of users leading to quick fulfillment of end user requirements.”
Reduces IT Operations Costs
The highly virtualized private cloud solution is helping Essar save in hardware-related costs, including server acquisition, power, cooling, and data center space. Because Hyper-V is included in the Windows Server 2012 license, the company reduces its virtualization licensing costs significantly while gaining a more predictable and scalable cost model. Essar expects to see additional IT staff savings by employing System Center 2012. The solutions automation capabilities result in labor cost avoidance.
“With the Microsoft private cloud solution, we want to see a continued downward cost of running our data centers,” says Gaurang. “As we are consolidating and virtualizing our physical servers, we are optimizing the use of IT resources while maintaining needed capacity thereby lowering IT operations costs.”
Simplifies IT Management
By standardizing and virtualizing the IT environment, and introducing automation of standard operational processes, Essar is reducing IT management complexity. System Center 2012 provides high levels of automation to simplify the company’s IT infrastructure and improve IT services.
“With System Center 2012, it’s a lot less work managing, updating, and deploying software,” says Jayantha. “With more virtual machines running per Hyper-V host, we have significantly reduced physical servers thereby reducing the amount of daily server administration tasks for IT staff.”
The main benefit of making IT staff more efficient is redirecting these valuable resources to address higher value work beyond basic server maintenance.
Increases Business Agility
With the private cloud solution, Essar can reconfigure its large IT infrastructure far more quickly to meet constantly changing business needs. “The private cloud software from Microsoft has made it very easy for us to provision servers on demand,” says Jayantha. “What used to take few weeks can now be done in a day, promoting greater agility across the business.”