Pacific Brands dodges third datacentre

Pacific Brands managed to dodge the infrastructure costs and service hassles of moving to a third datacentre by cutting ties with VMware and jumping into bed with Microsoft for its virtualisation needs.

Pacific Brands managed to dodge the infrastructure costs and service hassles of moving to a third datacentre by cutting ties with VMware and jumping into bed with Microsoft for its virtualisation needs.

In 2010, Pacific Brands hit a crossroads with its virtualised infrastructure. The company had been expanding its IT capabilities using ESX 3.5 from VMware for its 140 virtual machines, and had been running into problems for some time.

According to the company's technical services lead, Brent England, problems included huge performance slow-downs on ESX 3.5.

"We always seemed to be hitting bottlenecks, so we added more virtual machine hosts to resolve those, but it added to our performance problems. With every new host, it made our environment more and more complex," England said last week.

As a result, Pacific Brands had to decide whether it would renew its VMware ESX 3.5 licences and take its chances on ESX 4, or bite the bullet and move all of the company's virtualised infrastructure over to Microsoft and its Hyper V product. In the end, England said, the decision was made in favour of Microsoft — but it was a hard sell.

England said that concerns around the Hyper V product, and potential issues with existing outsourced support arrangements with HP, bred doubt in the company's collective mind.

"There was scalability concerns around Hyper V at the time," England admitted, "but when dynamic memory came out in Service Pack 1, we could do better consolidation and agreed to go down [the Microsoft] path ... [and] we wanted to make sure we didn't spend any more money on training."

Microsoft held an "immersion day", where it showed Pacific Brands and HP representatives how the Microsoft cloud products worked. This cleared the air around potential support issues.

"We had HP in there, and they said they could support us without any external training," England said.

Pacific Brands moved 140 virtual machines from VMware's ESX product over to Microsoft's Hyper V offering in February 2011. According to England, the company has saved money thanks to its migration, and it now saves time on its day-to-day business operations.

The move to Hyper V means that Pacific Brands now deploys new applications in one week, as opposed to six, thanks to process overhauls. It also means that it no longer needs a third datacentre, which it would have needed had it kept on with VMware.

England said that the company already uses datacentre infrastructure with Telstra and HP, and that paying for floor space in a third datacentre would have cost the company too much in communication costs.

"We did investigate [another] datacentre. It wasn't the cost of the datacentre itself; it was the data links [that would have been a problem]. It would have added operational issues. We can't send an HP technician as easily to a third-party datacentre than one of their own in the building next door," he said.

Other methods that decreased Pacific Brands' datacentre bill included a reduction in floor space used, thanks to better virtualisation, and a switch to HP Proliant C blades to save physical space.