Foster's virtualization keeps the wine corks popping

Beer-brewer Foster's is using virtualization to save cash and improve disaster recovery for the company's mobile workers.
Written by Gemma Simpson, Contributor
Drinks company Foster's is using virtualization to save cash and improve disaster recovery for the company's mobile workers. Foster's EMEA--which is the wine importing and supply arm of the Foster's group--implemented a virtualized storage environment last month.

Half of the 160 staff employed at the EMEA branch of Foster's are mobile workers and the virtualized environment has enabled the company to buff up its disaster recovery strategy, in particular if something goes wrong with one of the company's 80 laptops.

Each mobile worker has an image of their laptop computer--a copy of everything stored on that piece of hardware--stored centrally on the virtual infrastructure with this updated automatically every three hours.

In the event of any issue--such as theft or hardware malfunction--affecting a particular machine, any worker can access an up-to-date virtual replica of their lost laptop when they return to any one of Foster's European offices.

The image can then be transferred to a new physical laptop. The next planned stage is to implement a solution where workers do not have to come into their offices to access their virtual laptop but can instead access it via a secure Web page.

Ken Kaban, European technology services manager for Foster's EMEA, told silicon.com the three-strong IT team is now doing disaster recovery without actively thinking about it and virtualization has also automated the company's systems and back-ups.

Kaban added: "A systems administrator should be motivated by laziness to automate everything so we can be perceived to be proactive not reactive staff."

The virtualization environment uses a combination of two EqualLogic PS300E storage arrays and virtualized servers using the VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3 to store, amongst other things, the virtual laptops.

Foster's EMEA originally had 30 servers running within its main European data centre, which it has now reduced to four real boxes and 15 virtualized machines.

Kaban said apart from the more obvious benefits--such as using less heat, electricity and rack space--the main reason Foster's chose virtualization was to reduce the amount of IT administration and improve disaster recovery.

He said the virtualization environment has produced annual cost savings from around £50,000 to £100,000 for the EMEA branch and reduced the amount of time it takes to set up a server from two weeks to 20 minutes.

He added: "So it has freed up time and from a company perspective we don't need as many staff to do the work. It's given us the flexibility to implement technologies a lot quicker than our big brothers in Oz."

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