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VMware Virtualisation Case Study

The Robert Horne Group is the UK's largest paper, plastics and board merchant and part of PaperlinX Limited. The Robert Horne Group includes the following operating companies: Robert Horne Paper, Robert Horne Business Papers, Glenmore Business Papers, Robert Horne Sign & Display and Robert Horne Plastics.

PaperlinX is a leading international paper merchant, with businesses in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, North America and Europe, including the United Kingdom and Ireland. Through its Australian Paper division, it is also the only Australasian producer of high quality communication papers, and a major producer of high performance packaging and industrial papers.

The Group’s computer centre is located at the Northampton Headquarters building, and provides the computer infrastructure for its 19 regional locations. The in-house developed ERP application runs on a cluster of HP Alpha computers and supports over 600 users. Additional Citrix applications, including full desktop, MIS systems and other business support systems are delivered using a variety of servers. A significant number of these systems were still running on small departmental servers as these were cost effective, for special to purpose applications.

As part of the annual infrastructure review, Robert Horne Group Computer Services Team, planned to move these systems on to a new more resilient platform and identified Virtualisation as the most appropriate way forward. Robert Horne approached Form IT Solutions, who had provided excellent support and consultancy for a number of previous projects, as well being a strategic supplier of IT hardware to Robert Horne for over 10 years. Karen Ord, Corporate Account Manager to Robert Horne, was able to provide resources to formulate a staged proposal, which would enable the solution to be deployed in a controlled way and phase the installation of hardware and software to ensure that knowledge transfer would be undertaken throughout the project.

Form IT Solutions provided infrastructure architects to work with the Robert Horne team to design a modular, cost effective hardware solution, consisting of Dell blade centres populated with Dell blade servers with fibre attached storage for future growth. This solution would be built, piece by piece as the migration of the platforms was undertaken. ESX VMware enterprise software was chosen to provide the base virtualisation hypervisor. Robert Horne Group decided to utilise consultancy and installation services from Form, to ensure that the implementation and training was completed in the shortest possible time. During this phase, the RHG IT team were able to install, set up and deploy Windows 2003 servers. This was then “torn down “so a complete life cycle was achieved in a safe environment.

A production environment was then created and the process of migrating existing Windows systems directly on to virtual servers, then commenced. As more servers were migrated, it was decided to bring forward the additional hardware installation. Thanks to the modular design, addition blade centres and blades were quickly installed. Form’s virtualisation specialists, recommended additional VMware software to support a redundant solution. Vmware’s Vmotion software was deployed and configured. Vizioncore’s Vranger Pro software, also recommended by Form to support snapshot backup, completed the project.

Duncan Borland, Robert Horne Group Computer Services Manager said “The technical expertise that Form was able to provide, across the hardware and software portfolio, made the decision to use them straight forward. We were able to go to one supplier, who we trusted to put our requirements first. It gave us access to specialist staff, which included Citrix specialists, as many of the applications are Citrix based and we had to ensure that there were no issues in a virtual environment. Form was able to deliver an added value solution, with proactive account management on time and on budget – and not many IT Managers get the chance to say that!”

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