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  3. Case Study : Synform Co., Ltd.


  • Diversified Services

Offering Groups:

  • Storage Systems

Solution Areas:

  • Storage Management


  • Japan


  • Need to slow down increases in server numbers and enable reductions in power and space requirements
  • High availability infrastructure, sufficient to support all web services
  • Elimination of unused storage capacity by more effective use of all available storage


  • Now 80 virtual servers operate in just 2U of rack space, reducing the server footprint by 75%. This also contributed significantly to power consumption reductions.
  • Storage system hardware reliability coupled with VMware HA and VMotion achieved high system availability.
  • Thin Provisioning technology, improved storage use efficiency by 130%, achieving a reduction of around 5TB in physical storage capacity.

Synform Co., Ltd.

Thin Provisioning, using ETERNUS disk storage systems, enabled storage use optimization that now supports stable integrated infrastructure operation, as well as fast and flexible service delivery.

Synform Co., Ltd., provides support to the Benesse group of companies using IT provisioning.

Synform Co., Ltd.

Facing an increase in the number of servers, Synform configured an integrated infrastructure using blade servers and virtualization technology. But another problem arose in the course of operation; a requirement for increased disk storage capacity. This time the approach Synform took was to optimize their data storage using ETERNUS disk storage systems and their thin provisioning functions.

"To increase performance, we used to have to configure RAID groups in a complicated manner according to usage. But now we just cut the required amount of capacity using ETERNUSmgr. It is a major benefit that we no longer need to consider RAID configuration and this has made conformance to quick service delivery easy. In addition, storage use efficiency has improved by 130%, enabling a reduction of 5TB in storage capacity so far"

In recent years, the Benesse group of companies has been focusing on the provision of web services. This trend had caused rapid growth in servers at their in-house data centers. As a result Synform had configured an integrated infrastructure using blade servers and virtualization technology. This was not only aimed at stemming the rise in server numbers but also in achieving cost reductions and a green ICT operation.
Then as operations proceeded, the amount of storage required increased greatly. Synform introduced an ETERNUS4000 disk storage system to handle the increasing disk drive population. By applying Thin Provisioning technology to the storage system, efficiency of disk storage use was improved by 130%. Now the infrastructure is able to quickly and flexibly match service delivery requirements without disk capacity redesign.

System introduction background

Rapidly increasing server numbers due to expansion of web service provisioning

Mr. Masaya Kuwana, Section Manager, IT Operation & Services Dept.

Mr. Masaya Kuwana,
Section Manager, IT Operation & Services Dept.

Benesse comes from the Latin 'bene esse' meaning well being. A management principle of the company sees no limitation to each individual's possibilities and seeks to expand those possibilities to improve each person's well-being. The Benesse group is developing a wide variety of services in the areas of, care provision, language education, and human resource development for a global society. This is centered on the Benesse Corporation which operates education and lifestyle businesses.

In today's increasingly global society where the Japanese population is aging, and the birthrate declining, the role the Benesse group plays is increasing. Providing support for its day-to-day group operations is Synform Co., Ltd. Synform supports a broad range of activities, ranging of from development and operation of information delivery infrastructures, information processing systems, the provisioning and comprehensive support of data centers, outsourcing services and Application Service Provision (ASP). Now Synform is being required to accommodate issues beyond cost reductions and operational optimization.

"Our mission is to contribute to the society by enabling group company services and products via IT." said Mr. Masaya Kuwana, Section Manager of IT Operation & Services Dept. In recent years, the group has expanded its Web service provisioning to include Japan's largest class web forum for women called "Women's Park" and its "Shinkenzemi Junior High School Course + i" which helps students overcome their educational weak spots using a combination of texts and the internet. This expansion has resulted in rapid growth in the number of servers managed by Synform that is in charge of operational management of IT infrastructures at the data center.

Introduction Requirements

Highly reliable integrated infrastructure using appropriate storage systems and virtualization technology

Mr. Eiji Ishikawa, IT Operation & Services Dept.

Mr. Eiji Ishikawa,
IT Operation & Services Dept.

As web service provisioning expanded, the number of IA servers had been continuously increasing at over 100 units per year. Manpower for installation and operation management had grown large and power consumption had increased significantly. There was also little space left for further growth in the data center. "In addition, we wanted to support the group's Green IT from an IT services standpoint, and limit the number of servers. Configuring an integrated infrastructure with virtualization technology and blade servers was a key way out." Mr. Eiji Ishikawa, IT Operation & Services Dept recalls.

Synform decided on Fujitsu after assessing multiple vendors' proposals, in terms of cost, reliability, power consumption and support systems.

"Fujitsu earned high points for its blade server performance, reliability and power consumption. Reliability and a feeling of security, accumulated from past experiences with Fujitsu's SEs and CEs, were also important factors. In addition, no downtime upon configuration change was an essential, as the system was going to work as a shared infrastructure for web services. Therefore, to achieve high availability in a virtualization environment using VMware HA and VMotion, storage reliability was also a focus." (Mr. Ishikawa)

After RFP submission in July 2008, Synform commenced the integrated infrastructure operation in October of the same year. New system was configured using the integrated infrastructure and the migration of existing systems was planned to occur at the time of component replacement. The integrated infrastructure was well-accepted by the IT strategy division of Benesse Corporation and its use has rapidly expanded at a pace beyond initial expectations.

The Introduction Process

Thin Provisioning closed the gap in storage capacity between user requirements and actual operational use.

"Migration of all the data previously stored on disk drives in individual servers to virtualized storage improved I/O performance; allowing us to provide users with constantly good response rates from the start. This helped sustain the high popularity of Benesse Corporation services" (Mr. Kuwana)

In response to the growing use of the new infrastructure, Synform added an ETERNUS2000 disk storage system as a second shared storage unit in February 2009, four months after the start of use. Then, aiming at large-scale expansion, it introduced small-footprint and power saving blade servers "PRIMERGY BX900" together with "ETERNUS4000" storage, incorporating Thin Provisioning technology that enabled extended storage virtualization.

"As we continued to use the integrated infrastructure, disk drives numbers kept increasing. With our infrastructure service, we have provided 20% more storage capacity than the amount requested. This means 600GB of storage capacity was provided for when 500GB was expected to use, however the amount actually used was only 300GB. The closing of such gaps too, was the objective of introducing Thin Provisioning technology." (Mr. Ishikawa)

"The extent of the benefit of Thin Provisioning was a concern when we introduced ETERNUS4000 disk storage system. But with the verification results Fujitsu provided to us, we were assured that Thin Provisioning would deliver high performance and great benefits. And this also helped us to estimate our Return on Investment."

Installation benefits and future expectations

Thin Provisioning achieved approx. 5TB less storage capacity than previous configuration

In July 2010, Synform undertook the expansion of its integrated infrastructure by beefing up with blade servers, reducing its server footprint dramatically. Previously with IA servers, one rack held an average of 10 units. But now with blade servers, approx. 80 virtual servers were operating in 2U of rack space. Space was reduced to one quarter of the previous requirement as well as contributing to significant power consumption reductions. In addition, the time needed for new service provisioning was shortened from two months to two weeks. Now the configuration of a virtual server using only an operating system requires about 2 hours through to complete backup settings, and more than 15 virtual server units can be provided in a week.

The benefit of installing Thin Provisioning was dramatic. "To increase performance, we used to have to configure RAID groups in a complicated manner according to usage. But now we just cut the required amount of capacity using ETERNUSmgr. It is a major benefit that we no longer need to consider RAID configuration and this has made conformance to quick service delivery easy. In addition, storage use efficiency has improved by 130%, enabling a reduction of 5TB in storage capacity so far," says Mr. Ishikawa. He continues with comments on future issues. "What to do when we face a physical capacity shortage is a current issue. We expect "ETERNUS VS850” virtualization storage, which consolidates multiple storage systems virtually, for use as a single disk space, could be one of solutions."

"To make contributions to the business growth of Benesse group is our unchanging mission as well as our commitment to society with Green ICT. Our success this time in the establishment of an integrated infrastructure that quickly and flexibly responds to the speed of web service is due to support from Fujitsu. In addition to such good support, we also expect proactive suggestions from Fujitsu based on the close partnership in the future," says Mr. Kuwana.

As Synform supports the Benesse group's commitment of being an important partner of people by helping them live a prosperous life, Fujitsu will continue to support Synform using its comprehensive capabilities.

Comments from sales representatives

From left: Toshiaki Nomura, Jirou Kaihotsu, Kazumasa Yoshida

From left: Toshiaki Nomura, Jirou Kaihotsu, Kazumasa Yoshida

In 2008, with growing concern for the environment, Synform conducted a standardization of its advanced virtualization infrastructure. Since then, it has been analyzing the effects and the issues of that infrastructure in the pursuit of further operation management optimization. We are very pleased that the introduction of Thin Provisioning this time has been highly valued as a solution for "resource optimization," which is a potentially common issue of virtualization infrastructures. We would therefore like to continue to provide a range of support, not only solutions but as a working team of SEs, CEs and sales representatives to solve issues arising due to being a leading-edge infrastructure.

Note: The sale of ETERNUS2000, which was only available in Asia Pacific and North America and ETERNUS4000 was terminated. Their successor products are ETERNUS DX60/DX80/DX90 for ETERNUS2000 and ETERNUS DX400 series for ETERNUS4000. VS850 is currently available only in Japan.

Note: This content is a translation of a case study in Japan dated November 9, 2010.

About Synform Co,. Ltd.

User Profile
Company Name: Synform Co,. Ltd.
Date of Establishment: 1971
Head Office: 10-1 Takayanagi Higashimachi, Kita-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama Japan
Major Business Areas: Outsourcing, datacenter, Application Service Provider, and consulting businesses in the information processing service field.
Synform Co., Ltd. LOGO
Capital: 95 million yen
Employees: 592 employees (as of August 2010)

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