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UBE Industries, Ltd. (UBE) has embarked on a server consolidation and virtualization project to consolidate over 500 servers, at their many branch offices across Japan, onto Fujitsu PRIMERGY BX620 blade servers running VMware Infrastructure 3 virtualization software.
The deployment of a virtualized infrastructure was aimed at achieving more than 30% reduction in TCO. With a target of three years for completion and with the UBE server virtualization project scheduled to finish in late 2009, a number of key benefits have already been garnered; both with existing servers and the newly added systems. Benefits include improved server resource utilization, a reduced need for application updates and better application quality due to more flexible development and testing environments. UBE is targeting the new virtualized infrastructure to achieve more than 30% in TCO reductions over three years.
Founded in 1897 as a coal mining company in Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, UBE has a history extending over 100 years. With its core business grounded in chemicals, the company contributes widely to society by providing a diverse range of products including construction materials, machinery, metals, plastics, fertilizers and chemical resources. UBE conducts its operations across Japan with 149 group companies that include two headquarters, one in Ube City and one in Tokyo. It also has factories at multiple locations, namely, Ube, Chiba, Sakai, Isa (Yamaguchi) and Kanda (Fukuoka).
During 2003 to 2004, UBE conducted a backup consolidation project for servers at all the company’s branch offices. For this they adopted storage centralization that would help them reduce the workload required for replacing and storing tapes. At that time UBE had about 200 machines and the backup consolidation was part of an effort to facilitate server consolidation for its File and Web servers.
In 2005, in order to achieve further efficiency, UBE asked Fujitsu for help in setting up the company’s IT standardization policy.
First, UBE needed to understand, diagnose and analyze its existing IT assets to specify a clear direction for server consolidation. During the process, UBE discovered that, when all branch offices across Japan were included, they now possessed more than 500 servers; with many of them were underutilized. In addition certain applications residing on those servers required continuous service availability, with immediate switchover capability in the event of a server failure.
During the planning phase, UBE considered consolidating its departmental database systems. This, it initially appeared, would reduce license and maintenance costs and bring visible benefits from server consolidation. However, UBE soon realized that was not the most efficient way to achieve comprehensive cost savings. This was because each server had totally different management levels and some servers didn’t even have maintenance support contracts.
”To resolve the situation, we developed our IT standardization policy in 2006 by clarifying the concepts and ideas for consolidation, and we completed documentation at the same time. For example, server selection, development and operational management metrics, were all documented. In this process, we chose two patterns of physical and virtual server consolidation as our server consolidation policy,” explains Kazuyuki Oi, Group Leader, Infrastructure Group, Information Systems Department, Corporate & Administration Office at UBE Industries, Ltd.
Based on their new policy, UBE decided to adopt a virtualization technology approach in consolidating its 500+ departmental servers. Through May to July of 2005, UBE had evaluated VMware ESX, and eventually turned to VMware based on its ability to provide efficiency in server management and performance excellence. UBE then started testing VMware Infrastructure 3 software on a development server to evaluate performance. They also considered the workflow needed to manage the virtualized environment.
“Because they had never used that kind of technology before, there was much concern among internal users at UBE about the new virtualized system. They were not 100% sure whether a single server platform could really run multiple virtual machines simultaneously. In addition, support and performance were another issue,” states Sadao Fukutani, Manager, Operation Technology Group, Information Processing Service Department at UBE Information Systems, Inc. Fukutani who was in charge of developing and operating the information systems continues. “In response, we tested the VMware ESX server with the maximum workload and were able to prove that virtual machines on VMware ESX could work with no problems.”
UBE also knew that implementing virtualization often raised concerns about performance and support for applications. As a result they chose, if such situations occurred, to replicate the applications on a physical backup server to obtain support, or continue operating physical servers if the new environment could not replicate the same applications. But in over one and a half years since UBE started operating with the new virtualized system, they haven’t encountered any such problems so far.
One of the most important goals of UBE’s virtualization implementation was to eliminate the time and costs required for application development and deployment, by totally separating the physical hardware from the applications. This would enable server replacement without change to the applications. It had always troubled UBE that, due to the different platform environments, they had to expend large amounts of money on application updates when servers where replaced. This was despite the fact that the in-house developed applications at UBE could last more than 10 years, without requiring re-configuration, as long as there is no change in the administrative workflow.
UBE also wished to reduce the number of physical servers. That would lead to cost savings in hardware, server administration, power use and rack devices. The implementation of virtualization made it possible for UBE to use its applications for over ten years in a secure manner, eliminating the need for application updates that used to come every 5 years or so as hardware maintenance support reached end of life. In addition UBE improved their space use efficiency due to their adoption of blade servers.
In creating a virtualized environment, UBE put a massive effort into minimizing the changes in server administration. This was so that the IT staff at UBE could operate the new system in the same manner as the company’s existing systems.
“The virtualized system is designed to reside across all layers, including server hardware, networks and storage. To manage the system, it appeared that we would have to rely on network and storage administrators respectively. To avoid that, we consolidated the layers into one, so they can be viewed at a glance by IT staff. We also set up very precise authorization settings by clearly delineating which segments are visible to IT staff and which are hidden. Some parts are of course fully visualized while other parts are completely invisible so IT staff do not even recognize their existence,” says Ryousuke Yamaguchi, Senior Engineer, Operation Technology Group, Information Processing Service Department at UBE Information Systems, Inc.
Most of the time, changes generated by new system implementations consume valuable IT staff time before they get used to the new system. This requires additional effort on their part to re-learn the system. Yamaguchi states, “The three-months of testing, prior to going into production, gave us confidence that VMware could easily be adjusted to the the existing UBE IT environment. As a result the company would be able to adopt the new VMware-based system without encountering dramatic changes in server administration. As a system developer and provider, I need to say that VMware will be a huge help in significantly reducing the burden on us.”
Following the testing phase, in January 2007, a VMware Infrastructure 3 based virtualization environment on Fujitsu PRIMERGY BX620 blade servers was put into production. UBE chose to adopt Fujitsu blade servers because Fujitsu had ensured their compatibility with UBE’s existing storage devices. UBE also recognized the ability of Fujitsu blade servers, along with the SAN boot functionality, to provide automated switchover in the event of a server failure. This was an important consideration for the company.
Currently, the installed PRIMERGY BX620 S3 servers, connected to the SAN-based storage at UBE, host 20 VMware ESX Servers which run 295 virtual machines. These including Windows NT Server, Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003, Linux as well as others (information as of September 2008).
Virtualization environment deployment has yielded more than just consolidation efficiency for UBE. Other significant benefits include:
1. Decreased server provisioning time Previously, it could take one to two months to order, purchase, install and have a new physical server up and running. With the new virtualized environment, UBE now can provision a new server in just one to two days. They simply create another virtual machine. Internal procedures and background tasks to obtain new servers have been dramatically simplified, and the company can fully utilize its existing server resources as well.
2. Improved reliability and availability Before implementing VMware, individual servers at UBE had different reliability levels. The use of VMware HA and VMware DRS features, enabled UBE to standardize the reliability and availability levels across the entire system. In particular VMware DRS plays an effective role in balancing the server resources.
3. Enhanced flexibility eases server reconfiguration Another major benefit of VMware virtualization is that UBE can now change a virtual machine configuration or a virtually-defined physical hardware configuration very easily, as business needs demand. For example, VMware DRS allows them to achieve flexible and efficient allocation of CPU and memory resources for virtual machines just by adding additional capacity or removing unused CPUs or memory, at any point in time.
“In addition to the target 500 servers to be consolidated, we now have more and more newly-purchased boxes. It seems quite impossible to manage such server proliferation without virtualization. I believe that thanks to the server virtualization approach, we have been able to operate an ever-increasing server population without needing to hire additional IT administrators. We couldn’t have achieved cost savings and simplified server administration without the virtualized environment,” says Fukutani.
Based on the three-year server consolidation and virtualization project, UBE is now moving forward with the consolidation of about 500 servers based on VMware-based server virtualization. The aim is to complete the project by the end of FY2009. The company is also interested in using the VMware virtualization technology for DR purposes, to meet their business continuity planning requirements, as well as the use of thin-client computing with VDI.
About UBE Industries, Ltd.
[Tokyo Head Office] Seavans North Bldg, 1-2-1, Shibaura, Minato-Ku, Tokyo 105-8449
[UBE Head Office] 1978-96, Kogushi, Ube, Yamaguchi 755-8633
Founded : June 1897
Consolidated : March 1942
Number of Employees : 3,544 (Non-consolidated), 11,058 (consolidated) as of March 31, 2008
Net Sales : ¥329.5B (Non-consolidated), ¥704.2 B (Consolidated) as of March 31, 2008
Nature of business :
In addition to its two core chemical businesses (chemical products, plastics, specialty chemicals and fine chemicals), UBE Industries, Ltd. provides diversified products in the following five segments: Construction materials; Machinery and Metal products; Energy and Environment. Chemicals are the main focus of the company, and UBE has been putting its management resources especially into specialty chemicals and fine chemicals that have positive growth potential.
Company website : http://www.ube-ind.co.jp
Information in this case study, including figures, names and job titles are based on information supplied at the published date and may have changed when this information is viewed.
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