Best of VMworld Europe 2014 user awards: Winners

The Best of VMworld Europe 2014 user awards have been announced. See who made the top spots

Five European IT projects have been crowned winners of the Best of VMworld Europe 2014 user awards, along with two honorable mentions, at the VMworld Europe 2014 event in Barcelona.

The judges of the fifth annual Best of VMworld Europe awards assessed the entries and selected the winners based on overall innovation, systems performance improvement, cost reduction, easing the management burden, new use in the market and improved efficiencies and business processes.

The awards, hosted by Computer Weekly, and LeMag IT, covered virtualisation and server consolidationdesktop virtualisation, hybrid cloud computing, disaster recovery and a private cloud computing project, as well as a best of show winner.

Unveiled at a ceremony at VMworld Europe 2014, the winners are as follows.

Best private cloud: HISI (entered by Simplivity)

IT services provider HISI quickly turned to hyper-convergence for its infrastructure when its storage area network (SAN) and blade capacity started running uncomfortably close to its limits at 80%.

Founded in 2009, HISI provides IT infrastructure, virtual servers and managed services around the clock. Its latest innovation in hosting services is an automated cloud service to host virtual machines (VMs).

HISI’s existing IT environment consisted of traditional physical hardware and software layers, including SAN racks, SAN-to-SAN replication appliances, SAN switches, blade servers and Veeam backup to tape. HISI experienced high acquisition costs, required multiple skills for administration of infrastructure elements and was plagued by increased management complexity from the numerous architectures.

HISI’s IT team was introduced to Simplivity in February 2014 and decided to go with Simplivity’s hyper-converged infrastructure, OmniCube. By the end of March, in less than a month, HISI had successfully moved all 150 VMs onto Simplivity hyper-converged infrastructure, including mission-critical applications such as Oracle, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SharePoint and SAP, and was experiencing improved performance. 

HISI’s founder and CEO, Thierry Petit-Perrin, was impressed with the drastic improvement in performance since implementing Simplivity OmniCube. Simplivity’s inline deduplication, compression and optimisation of data allowed HISI to benefit from a performance boost of almost 50%.

The deployment of new workloads in HISI’s environment has also improved, now taking less than a day, compared with deployment time on its legacy infrastructure of one week.

Best hybrid cloud: LinkByNet

LinkByNet operates its own cloud infrastructure and provides cloud integration services for mid-sized to big corporations in France.

It decided to implement a portal solution based on self-provisioning the VMware vCloud Automation Center (VCAC) by implementing all business processes required to customers. VCAC is a unified IT service catalogue which delivers infrastructure, applications and custom services.

The VCAC implementation at LinkByNet allows cross-management of an internal VMware cloud and an external Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. The project is a complete implementation of VCAC, creating a true hybrid cloud in a VMware private cloud environment and an AWS public cloud.

The implementation resulted in cost reductions, improvement in team productivity, improved quality control and safety.

LinkByNet is an Advanced Consulting Partner of AWS, with a relationship spanning 10 years.

Best virtualisation and server consolidation: Sky News (Entered by Red Hat)

Sky News currently serves an audience of around 107 million people. The website is one of the fastest growing in Europe.

“Because we’re running a 24/7 operation and have to get the news out there as fast as we can, systems must be up all the time,” said James Murphy, Sky News project team leader.

“We never know when news is going to break, so even scheduled downtime isn’t an option. And we have to cope with very uneven traffic flows because a major piece of breaking news can happen at any time, resulting in huge, unanticipated peaks that we have to handle.”

Until May 2012, Sky News used a centralised platform, shared with other systems, to run the content publishing system that broadcast and delivered real-time news feeds across a range of platforms. These platforms ranged from web and mobile to on-demand, catch-up services and feeds to third-party commercial clients, such as railway stations and taxi cabs.

This centralised architecture made it hard for the IT team to offer assurance around resiliency and scalability for the Sky News publishing system. And, at a time when the channel is looking to target new audiences and new platforms and roll out new services, making changes and updates to the system could be a lengthy and complicated process.

The IT team decided to try a new approach to spreading a virtualised environment over two datacentres. Instead of a conventional active/standby setup – where one datacentre acts as the primary run-time environment and the other as a secondary, disaster recovery (DR) site – Murphy and his team planned to run two datacentres back-to-back. 

The workload of the publishing system would be shared 50/50 across both datacentres, leaving plenty of free capacity to both handle traffic peaks and satisfy DR requirements. The new environment uses Red Hat Satellite to automate management tasks.

The team can now also devote more time to ensuring that the content publishing system grows and evolves with Sky News’ audiences and services.

Best virtualisation for disaster recovery: Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital (Entered by Zerto)

Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital is a major specialist cardiothoracic hospital that performs 60,000 outpatient appointments and 12,000 inpatient procedures every year. The hospital saw an opportunity to improve care by making patient records available faster through Allscripts.

As the hospital transitioned from manual processes to Allscripts, it became clear that if this application was unavailable for any period of time, the patient experience could be affected.

As Allscripts workloads ran in its virtualised environment, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital decided to research disaster recovery (DR) options for this virtualised environment. The hospital was concerned that most DR solutions have matching storage requirements and limitations on historical points for failover, meaning they would not meet the required service levels.

The hospital implemented Zerto Virtual Replication to protect its Allscripts electronic patient record (EPR) system as well as other business critical applications.

Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital’s project delivered non-disruptive disaster recovery testing, simple installation, together with automated failover, failback, recovery and testing to deliver aggressive service levels and minimise the impact of DR processes on patient care.

Honourable mention: Symphony Group (entered by Silver Peak)

For Symphony Group, it is absolutely critical to its business operations that it is able to replicate data between its sites in a timely fashion. However, with the company’s headquarters and remote datacentre more than 100 miles apart from each other, the geographical distance between the two locations meant that the company began to experience network performance issues. 

Using Veeam and IBM XIV storage, the company quickly found that the data mobility between the sites was being limited by the 100Mbps network bandwidth allowance, making it increasingly difficult for the company to meet its recovery point objectives (RPOs). Symphony Group’s IT department was unable to move all of the data and achieve the RPO that was required. What’s more, the process was putting huge strain on the company’s day-to-day business operations.

With budget constraints in mind, Symphony Group required an affordable solution that would allow the company to meet its RPOs without needing to re-architect its existing network. Having tried WAN optimisation in the past, the company chose to deploy Silver Peak’s velocity replication acceleration (VRX) software, which was purpose-built for storage and could scale to over 1Gbps connections. 

A particularly important aspect of the project was that Silver Peak’s VRX software was able to seamlessly fit into the company’s replication environment, and with its ability to run on all standard hypervisors – including VMware, vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer and KVM.

Silver Peak’s VRX software took less than 20 minutes to deploy without touching the network, which put the power to increase replication performance over the WAN into the hands of the storage professional. Since the deployment, Symphony Group has eliminated distance limitations and has been able to easily meet its stringent RPOs. By using real-time techniques, primarily at the network (IP) layer, the company has been able to deliver maximum throughput over the WAN and overcome the common bandwidth, distance and quality challenges. Most notably, Symphony Group is now able to replicate 110GB of data per hour between the two sites with no performance issues. 

Honourable mention: Swiss Life

Swiss Life France, the french subsidiary of the swiss insurance company Swiss Life, completely rebuilt its infrastructure based on a VMware virtualised environment. 

It was a dual-site implementation based on Cisco UCS Servers and EMC VNX storage arrays, that includes a disaster recovery component. The infrastructure is now about 90% virtualised.

Storage is replicated between both sites (in Paris and Roubaix, near Lille) with EMC Recoverpoint. About 150TB of data is replicated between both sites. The project took about nine months. The next step is the automation of disaster recovery with VMware SRM.

Best desktop virtualisation: Der Deutsches Reisebüro

Travel agency business Der Deutsches Reisebüro has been running its virtual desktops on VMware View since 2010.

With 560 branch offices located all over Germany, offering flights, hotels, event tickets, cruises and tours, the business needs to run without disruption connected to its headquarters' datacentre with a typical asymmetric VPN line between 2-16Mbit.

The company decided to undertake a Microsoft Windows 7 migration project with just two administrators and one developer managing the whole infrastructure of 2,300 desktops.

After several man hours scripting vSphere and View, the roll-out was finally completed in six weeks, done 100% outside of business hours to avoid user impact. The team undertook 80-90 VMs and installations per day within a four-hour timeframe and temporarily extended the IT team with three students who used a self-coded migration tool.

A full data backup of old machines – including OL profile information, most business application data, printer data, favourites, signatures and so on – was completed. Cost savings were approximately €88,0000.  

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