Case Study: Cloud Provider Expands Business Model, Improves Services with Server Upgrade


To help change its business model from a traditional web hosting company to a cloud services provider, Outsourcery is taking advantage of the latest improvements in the Windows Server 2012 operating system and Hyper-V virtualization technology. No longer hampered by a four-core-per-virtual-machine limit, Outsourcery can accommodate partners and customers that demand high-performance virtual machines. Data center administrators are running 67 percent more virtual machines per server. Administrators can build an eight-node Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V cluster in just a few hours instead of a week, and they can perform simultaneous live migrations 10 times faster than before. Outsourcery expects to save more than £50,000 (US$78,000) a year in IT costs and to serve more partners and customers more quickly with a minimal quantity of resources—containing costs and growing its business.

In the United Kingdom, Outsourcery provides a broad range of cloud offerings, including hosted software applications, virtualized infrastructure, and unified communications solutions. Outsourcery is a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with four Gold competencies. In 2010, it was named Microsoft Hosting Solutions Partner of the Year, and in 2011, it was a finalist for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner of the Year. Outsourcery is also a member of the Presidents Club, an elite group of strategic partners whose sales achievements rank them as the highest in the Microsoft Dynamics global partner network.

Dynamic Data Center Initiative
Recently, Outsourcery took a step forward in its strategic plans to expand its existing cloud services to include a larger portfolio of next-generation cloud products. From the perspective of a cloud service provider, public cloud computing incorporates the automated and on-demand delegation of compute, storage, and networking resources to partners and their customers as needed through a shared physical infrastructure maintained by the cloud provider.

To support its plans, Outsourcery upgraded its platform to utilize dynamic data center solutions from Microsoft and, therefore, benefit from the latest advancements in automated cloud management and administration. The company also upgraded its data center in Leicester and opened another data center in London in July 2011. Outsourcery offered new services, such as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), which provides Windows-based virtual machines on demand. It used Microsoft Systems Center data center solutions and HP Converged Infrastructure, which integrates technologies into shared pools of interoperable resources and provides seamless management. The platform included the Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter operating system with Hyper-V virtualization technology and new HP ProLiant BL460c G7 Server Blades.

“We have seen a lot of interest in shared cloud services and dedicated cloud infrastructure from small and midsize businesses. We have closed deals from 10 through 20,000 seats of Microsoft communications tools, business applications, and cloud infrastructure solutions running on a dedicated cloud platform,” says Mike Charles, Product Manager for Cloud Infrastructure at Outsourcery. “We began this initiative expecting to see our business increase five-fold in the first two years and we are right on track.”

Growth Challenges
However, as demand for Outsourcery cloud services increases, the company must continue to deliver reliable applications and favorable user experiences to maintain growth. As Outsourcery is serving more and more partners, including independent software vendors and value-added resellers, it must provide cloud services geared to their needs. Outsourcery needed to create a cloud computing environment that would enable it to provide agile, responsive services to its partners to build their own businesses. “Our focus is on helping our partners to quickly and efficiently deliver cloud-based solutions to their own customers,” says Dan Germain, Director of Hosting Infrastructure at Outsourcery. “We need to provide partners with self-service tools to help them activate those services quickly, all from the Outsourcery platform.”

As a cloud services provider, Outsourcery runs business applications on a shared hardware platform. To remain competitive, it has to improve management efficiency and control operational costs at its data centers. “As we see greater demand for our services from our partners, we need to enable a greater density on our platform to keep our costs under control. For that reason, we want to be able to run more workloads and accommodate more businesses by using existing resources—without degrading service levels. We were running about 12 virtual machines, limited to four processors each, per host server with up to 32 gigabytes of RAM per virtual machine. For some of the workloads that we run in a multitenant platform with thousands of users, these limitations impacted how we could scale and grow the business.”

Large enterprise partners wanted Outsourcery to offer more flexibility in terms of network segregation. The company is using virtual local area networks (VLANs) to isolate networks of virtual machines for individual partners and their customers on a shared physical network. This increased management overhead as administrators have to renumber partners’ IP addresses to accommodate the physical and topological design of the Outsourcery data center. “As we started scaling with hundreds of partners, changing IP ranges and reconfiguring production switches when we moved virtual machines created additional layers of complexity,” says Germain. “This impeded our ability to quickly serve enterprise partners.”

Other manual data center management tasks reduced efficiency and impacted customer service. It took several hours for administrators to perform large-scale, live migrations of virtual machines because they could only move one virtual machine at a time. Building a new Hyper-V cluster could take up to a week because it required manual processes. To take advantage of its two data centers and offer data replication services, Outsourcery had to use expensive, storage area network (SAN) replication technology, which reduced the marketability of its service. Also, staff often struggled with virtual machines that consumed a disproportionate quantity of resources on the shared network.

“We made great strides with our Dynamic Data Center initiative, launching our facilities last year and taking advantage of virtualization technologies from Microsoft,” says Germain. “Now we wanted to take our data centers to the next level of density, maximizing the value of the resources we have to contain costs, while ensuring superior cloud computing services for our partners and customers. For these reasons, we were eager to find out more about the features and capabilities in the next version of Windows Server. Luckily, in January 2012, Microsoft invited us to join the Rapid Deployment Program [RDP] for the Windows Server 2012 operating system.”

Outsourcery managed to meet their requirements using Windows Server 2012. Have a trial here

To find out how they managed to meet their requirements View the case study

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