BACKGROUND

INA is a Croatian oil company. Its IT staff did not have efficient tools for testing and upgrading software, which slowed deployment to the production environment. Staff also had problems accessing information from an aging file server. INA deployed Windows Server® 2008 Hyper-V™ and automated its test environment to ensure timely application upgrades. It virtualized the file server to provide high availability, ensuring consistent information access.

BUSINESS NEEDS
Based in Zagreb, INA owns all Croatian refinery plants and is the only company with permission to explore and extract oil and gas reserves in the country. In addition to oil exploration and extraction, INA operates more than 400 gas stations around Croatia.

The company uses an SAP enterprise resource planning system with associated non-SAP applications that monitor gas station operations and collect point-of-sale data. Management needs the information to optimize customer service and sales at the gas stations. INA uses Computer Associates applications for managing service-desk calls, hardware and software monitoring and reporting, and backup. These systems are highly customized, requiring frequent testing for the production environment because employees rely on them to optimize performance for better customer service and efficient operations.

Despite the need for frequent testing, INA didn’t have a unified test and development environment for infrastructure based on the Windows® operating system. “Developers tested software on servers under their desks, running VMware Server and Microsoft® Virtual Server 2005 R2, but there was no centralization of these resources and no standardized workflow, so we had duplication of effort,” says Leo Petricic, System Engineer at INA. “We published updates or security patches to our infrastructure systems live. Our upgrade process was pretty slow because we were always waiting for the published update to be commented on and successfully implemented by the Microsoft community.”

INA also wanted to replace an aging file and print server, upon which 1,500 people depended, at its data center in Zagreb. “We were having performance issues that could impact employees’ ability at the head office and in the field to retrieve their data, and our maintenance contract is about to expire,” says Petricic. “We wanted to move this to a highly redundant scenario as cost-effectively as possible.”

SOLUTION
INA worked with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner SPAN to develop a virtualization solution to solve these two business issues. It joined the Microsoft Virtualization Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) for Hyper-V™ technology. The RDP gave INA the opportunity to evaluate Hyper-V, the hypervisor-based virtualization technology in the Windows Server® 2008 Enterprise operating system, as well as the beta version of Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008. Through host and guest clustering, Hyper-V provides INA with a cost-effective, high-availability virtualized environment for the print server. System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 offers centralized management of a library of virtual machines and self-service provisioning for virtual machines that will help the company formalize a more efficient process for testing critical software upgrades and customizations.

Dr. Sven Hölbling, Business Development Director at SPAN, used the Microsoft Assessment and Planning (MAP) Toolkit to expedite the evaluation of which servers in the company’s two data centers would benefit from virtualization. “The MAP tool quickly illustrated the potential benefits of a full-scale virtualization solution. It isolated servers in the overcrowded data centers that were running at less than 20 percent utilization,” says Hölbling. “For the RDP, we focused on virtualizing the production file and print server and using System Center Virtual Machine Manager to automate the test and development environment.”

Hölbling and Petricic used the new failover clustering features in Windows Server 2008 to configure a two-node, active-passive cluster built with Dell 2950 servers with dual-core Intel Xeon 2.33-gigahertz processors. They used System Center Virtual Machine Manager to configure the Hyper-V host cluster and the wizard-based user interface to complete the physical-to-virtual conversion of the print server in less than half an hour. INA is also beginning to create virtual machine templates in System Center Virtual Machine Manager. “We used Windows XP SP3, Windows Server 2008 (32-bit and 64-bit), and Windows Server 2003 as virtual machine templates,” says Petricic.

NEXT STEPS

Baldwin Ng