Weston Foods Goes Virtual

I was catching up on some reading and found this article at the Microsoft Momentum portal talking about how a Canadian company is leveraging Hyper-V and SC Virtual Machine Manager to consolidate servers and get more value out of the physical servers in their datacenter.  It is always great to see the success of others and even better when it is a Canadian company.  Enjoy the read and see more Canadian stories like this at http://www.microsoft.com/canada/momentum/customer_cases/default.aspx


When businessman George Weston founded a local bread bakery in Toronto in 1882, even he scarcely could have imagined how successful his legacy would be more than century later. Today, Weston Foods (Canada) Inc. operates as a subsidiary of George Weston Ltd. and represents a food-processing and distribution heavyweight that serves most of Canada.

Technology – including legacy applications and Windows-based solutions – is the enabler to company success and the IT team at Weston plays a central part in maintaining the company's reputation for high-quality products. However, with the IT staff responsible for the company's entire infrastructure, much of which was dispersed across its multiple locations, the company could foresee what that space for its growing number of physical servers could potentially become an issue. The company needed a more powerful, scalable virtualization solution to achieve better performance for the server environment.

Our staff can now manage and share information much faster than before, which helps us make better business decisions...

Weston's IT department works hard to optimize resources while supporting the business. While the previous environment was stable, notes John Canini, Director of Network and Operations, Weston Foods Canada, "we had just too many physical boxes to try and manage."

"At the time we had 49 physical servers. If we kept on going the way we were, we would have gone up to 55 in no time. We were simply running out of physical space," says Canini.

The IT team at Weston reviewed a range of technologies – including VMware-based offerings – before determining that leveraging Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V was the most cost-effective way to virtualize its server infrastructure.

"We looked VMWare initially when we started this project but the actual cost we projected for deploying and maintaining it really drove our decision towards using Hyper-V," says Canini.

This scenario is helping Weston to optimize the value of each physical server. The company also deployed Microsoft® System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 to manage its virtual landscape. As a part of the Microsoft® System Center suite of management solutions, it provides centralized management of virtual machines, accelerated provisioning, and easy virtual machine performance tuning.

Using Hyper-V, the company is consolidating multiple server roles as separate virtual machines that run on a single physical machine. The current environment at Weston now features 39 physical servers, down from the original 49, says Robert Kovac, Senior Systems Administrator, Weston Foods.

The Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V platform also features Cluster Shared Volumes failover clustering and Live Migration. The Cluster Shared Volumes feature means that multiple nodes in a failover cluster can read from and write to shared disks at the same time.

To take advantage of benefits such as server consolidation and clustering for high availability, the company determined that moving to a more virtualized environment would help to boost efficiency and reduce costs. With Hyper-V, Weston now has a more flexible and powerful virtualization environment and is now able to virtualize its IT environment applications without spending money on new hardware.

With Hyper-V, Weston is reducing the number of physical servers within its IT environment. This enables the company to spend less on hardware and has reduced the overhead costs related to server maintenance, floor space and cooling.

"Previously, we were running out of space and we knew that we were going to grow server-wise. Through virtualization, we're looking at saving about $50,000 on hardware and licensing on a $280,000 capital investment," says Canini.

Weston uses native Hyper-V management tools to simplify the management of virtual machines. Weston is also taking advantage of Microsoft® System Center solutions to automate server imaging, application and update deployment, server monitoring, and backup. Virtualization has become a key strategy for Weston from a server consolidation perspective. The company is taking advantage of clustered virtual machines to help ensure that the server environment is highly available.

"Consolidating our server environment with Hyper-V helps us be more proactive. We'll be able to see problems coming as opposed to actually reacting, we can start being proactive," says Kovac.

Next Steps:

Canadian organizations use Microsoft virtualization solutions to transform the way they manage their infrastructures, from the data center to the desktop. Interested to see how Microsoft Virtualization can help your organization – but don't know where to start? Learn more about the Top Ten Virtualization Myths, Why Microsoft Virtualization is Different (and possibly better) and also how to achieve Cost Savings with Microsoft Virtualization today.

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