Virtualization Helps CSS Corp Go Lean And Fit

by Sohini Bagchi    Apr 29, 2016

virtualization

Businesses are increasingly looking at virtualization for improving costs and efficiency. CSS Corp a technology company supporting enterprise and consumer products, also embraced virtualization to achieve its business objectives. The IT firm that boasts an impressive set of customers and partners, many of them are Fortune 1000 companies, selected VMware as its partner for its virtualization efforts and noticed tremendous gain in RoI and productivity in the short period of time.

The virtualization journey

CSS Corp has provided technical and contact center support to VMware since 1996 and its positive experiences with the vendor convinced it to test VMware virtualization for its own business. The power of virtualization, in particular the ability to consolidate four servers to a single server, convinced CSS Corp that VMware’s technologies were the way forward and it quickly decided to expand its virtualization deployment, explained Riyaz Hussain, Lead Architect, CSS Corp Pvt. Ltd.

The company started by virtualizing its in house-developed web-based application it uses to track customer activities. Its experience with this project, especially around the speed of deploying new application instances and the ability to maintain physical servers without shutting down virtual machines, prompted it to virtualize its critical workloads. These included an IBM Lotus Domino email messaging system running on physical servers.

CSS Corp decided to transition to a Microsoft system and started exploring moving its entire messaging environment into the virtualized infrastructure. Proof of concept and testing exercises involving running two messaging servers in the virtualized environment found no problems, and CSS Corp proceeded with the project.

By 2015, CSS Corp had been running VMware virtualization for more than a decade and was experienced in using the technology to minimize its hardware requirements. The company has benefited considerably from its decision, informed Hussain.

According to him, IT is now running a lean 37 servers – less than one-third of the number it would have had to run had it not implemented VMware’s technologies. “If it wasn’t for virtualization, the number of servers we would have had in our datacenter would have reached a couple of hundred by now.”

“This would have required a huge investment in datacenter real estate, power and cooling, and the manpower to maintain the physical servers,” added Hussain.

The company’s datacenter is now about 96 percent virtualized and Hussain is working with his technology teams to virtualize the remainder if possible. A ‘virtualization first’ policy has operated within the business for the last five years, with all new applications running in the VMware infrastructure.

He mentioned that features and functionality added by VMware – particularly in VMware vSphere – have enabled CSS Corp to increase the number of virtual machines per each physical server from four to more than 25. The support company can also provision new virtual machines within a couple of hours rather than wait weeks to procure a new physical server, reducing time to market for new applications and services.

In addition, power and cooling costs have reduced considerably over the last decade and the number of administration efforts has been reduced considerably. Overall, CSS Corp has reduced its datacenter capital and operating costs considerably.

VMware virtualization has also given CSS Corp the ability to scale its infrastructure easily by seamlessly adding new nodes to clusters of machines within its datacenter. The company has gained the ability to better plan resource allocations for individual projects, rather than invest large amounts of capital up-front in new servers. “We were able to delay our capital expenditure requirements and spread our spending over multiple months because we didn’t have to invest in buying several servers at the same time,” says Hussain.

These clusters of physical servers are designed to provide high availability to CSS Corp applications and infrastructure. “We could get high availability to each node, so our applications could continue to run with minimal disruption in the event of one or more physical servers failing,” says Hussain. “We could also schedule downtimes for maintenance in each cluster without disrupting the virtual machines.”

Powering up cloud infrastructure

Powering up the cloud infrastructure With customers requesting a range of cloud services, including cloud infrastructure management, CSS Corp decided to add VMware vCloud Suite to its existing VMware infrastructure.

“We are encouraging our customers to embrace virtualization and implement public, private or hybrid cloud environments,” said Hussain, adding that the company initially acquired vCloud Suite to show its customers that they run private clouds too. However, once the company saw the benefits that vCloud Suite could deliver, it opted to move a few of its critical workloads into the cloud.

 “We can now legitimately say to customers – this is how we set up our cloud using VMware vCloud Suite, and we can replicate this in your datacenter,” says Hussain.

VMware vRealize Operations have eliminated the need for administrators to log into multiple consoles to manage different hypervisors or the private cloud infrastructure. In addition, vRealize Operations has enabled the company to reclaim unutilized resources to deliver more virtual machines, and identify whether the network, a host or storage is responsible for a problem that may be hampering a virtual machine, said Hussain.

Protecting revenue with enhanced disaster recovery

Maturing of its virtualized infrastructure and deploying of a private cloud has also prompted CSS Corp to review its disaster recovery processes. Traditionally, the business has focused on individual applications rather than the underlying virtual infrastructure in its disaster recovery planning. However, it has now acquired VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager to replicate its web-based customer case tracking software to a secondary datacenter environment.

“It’s difficult for advisors in our contact centers to support our customers if this system is down,” explains Hussain. “If calls go through to them and they cannot access basic information, the number of calls that comes through from customers falls and our revenue is impacted.

“Deploying VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager enables us to protect our revenue and customer satisfaction levels – and allows me to sleep better at night!” comments Hussain.

Extending virtualization to the desktop

CSS Corp is now exploring the possibility of extending virtualization from the datacenter to the desktop as part of a broader workplace transformation and a desire to reduce costs. Many contact center agents are limited to a set of workstations due to different networking configurations required as per the customer. “Virtual desktop infrastructure will allow us to share any seat with any project, and agents will be able to simply log in to access their desktop from any workstation rather than being forced to use a specific seat or workstation,” says Hussain.

Hussain and CSS Corp expect to sustain their long-running, fruitful partnership with VMware. “I’ve been working with VMware for more than a decade now and it continues to be a leader in virtualization,” says Hussain. “Its products are very stable, and we have not had any support concerns – their team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and provides skilled, technical advice. In addition, VMware’s sales team is very good about briefing us on their roadmaps and the attributes of ewer technologies,” concludes Hussain.