Oldmac Case Study

Creating a virtualized platform designed for maximum efficiency and resilience.


The need

Oldmac wanted to reduce IT costs, improve the performance, efficiency and resilience of its core dealership manage- ment systems, enhance its protection against disasters and prepare for future acquisitions.

The solution

Consolidated six physical servers to VMware virtual servers split between two IBM® System x® 3650 M4 servers with intelligent Intel® Xeon® processors and added IBM System Storage® DS3524 disk system.

The benefit

Improves system performance for satel- lite branches; dramatically accelerates system recovery from days to hours; eliminates AU$ 2,900 in monthly
support fees; saves time and effort for IT technicians.

Oldmac accelerates performance and recovery time

Creating a virtualized platform designed for maximum efficiency and resilience

Having opened its first Toyota showroom in 1976, the Oldmac Group (Oldmac) is one of the longest established auto dealerships in Brisbane, Australia. Since then, Oldmac has expanded to offer new and used pas- senger and commercial vehicles, with related car servicing and parts replacement for both Toyota and Mazda.

Oldmac’s core dealership management system (DMS) was running across three of the six physical servers in its aging, inefficient infrastructure. The company wanted to improve performance and reduce operational costs, and was also concerned about the overall resilience of the infrastructure.

“We experienced a motherboard failure that caused a short outage for one application,” recalls Craig Graham, IT Manager at Oldmac. “Fortunately, the outage didn’t affect too many users, but it did highlight the business risk we were facing. It would have taken two or three days to replace a physical server and restore service in the event of a complete failure, and that simply wasn’t acceptable.”

Smooth and efficient

Oldmac determined that server virtualization would improve its resilience and enable much faster disaster recovery, as well as providing a more compact, flexible and cost-effective platform for the future. One element of the DMS that previously ran on UNIX was ported to Linux by the vendor, which opened the door to virtualizing everything to a VMware environment on Intel processor-based servers.

“We knew that a virtualized environment would reduce our capital and operational costs by providing better economies of scale,” says Craig. “Our IBM Business Partner, The Somerville Group, helped us immensely, explaining all the options so that we would get the best solution for our needs.”

Oldmac deployed two IBM System x3650 M4 servers to run its new VMware landscape, which currently hosts six instances of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The x3650 M4 servers each have one 8-core Intel Xeon Processor E5-2660 and 64 GB of memory. The Intel Xeon processor E5 family combines performance, built-in capabilities and cost-effectiveness to meet diverse needs in the data center. The
IBM DS3524 system acts as the shared storage platform for the VMware landscape, providing 14 TB of raw storage capacity, while a third x3650 M4 server handles data backup to an IBM System Storage TS2350 LTO5 Tape Drive.

“The implementation was absolutely smooth, thanks to the efficiency and knowledge of the technician from The Somerville Group,” comments Craig. “It was also fast: we had converted the first two servers to VMware within just 48 hours of the hardware delivery.”

Rapid recovery

In the former Oldmac infrastructure, each physical server was a potential single point of failure, and any hardware failure would mean a potentially lengthy break in service while the repairs were made or the replacement hardware was procured and installed.

The new virtualized landscape gives Oldmac increased business resilience. “If we have a hardware problem, we can now fire up a new virtual server
in 30 minutes or less, and completely restore a failed server from the backup in just a couple of hours—versus the two or three days it took in the past,” says Craig. “We estimate the cost of complete downtime to be AU$ 75,000 [approximately USD 75,000] a day in lost revenue, so this decrease in recovery time is a vitally important benefit.”

The x3650 M4 servers themselves are highly resilient and include multi- ple redundant and hot-swappable components, reducing the risk of failure in the first place. Equally, with just two physical servers to run its DMS, Oldmac can make more effective use of its investments in hardware— versus the previous scenario, where investments were inevitably more thinly spread across multiple physical machines. The IBM System x servers include Predictive Failure Analysis and light-path diagnostics to help improve reliability and accelerate troubleshooting.

“I have always valued the quality of IBM hardware and the reliability it offers, so there was never any thought of using a lesser vendor,” said Craig Graham, IT Manager at Oldmac. “In five years, we had only one hardware incident, and IBM replaced the failed part almost immediately. We felt very confident in choosing IBM again.”

Server virtualization also improves routine maintenance capabilities. Oldmac can use VMware vMotion to manually move live virtual servers from one x3650 M4 to the other, perform an upgrade or maintenance task, and then seamlessly migrate the virtual servers back to it—all without any disruption to users.

Major cost savings

“Running VMware on the x3650 M4 servers effectively gives us a flexible private cloud platform that can support the business as it grows,” com- ments Craig. “Oldmac recently acquired another dealership that uses the same DMS, so we now have a great opportunity to consolidate their environment to VMware, generating significant cost savings by eliminat- ing the additional hardware, software licenses and operational costs.”

Migrating to the virtualized landscape on IBM System x is already saving Oldmac approximately AU$ 2,900 a month by enabling the company to terminate its previous hardware and OS support contract with the DMS vendor. When it migrates the recently acquired company to the same environment, there will be a further AU$ 1,500 per month saving related to that company’s support contract.

“We haven’t worked out the exact figures, but we are confident that we’re already making major savings,” says Craig. “The virtualized System x environment is much more compact, efficient and reliable, so our opera- tional costs are lower. And when the time comes to upgrade server hardware, we will avoid all the extra capital costs of replacing a large number of physical machines.”

Future flexibility

With virtualized servers and a physically distinct storage environment, Oldmac can now migrate to new hardware with almost zero disruption and without first needing to check with its DMS vendor. “So long as we stay on a version of Linux that the vendor supports, we can upgrade whenever we choose,” comments Craig. “When the time comes to
replace the x3650 M4 servers, we’ll move them to a different site ready to use as a backup option. Because the servers are virtualized, we don’t have to worry about compatibility issues—everything is much more portable.”

He concludes, “The new virtualized infrastructure on IBM System x is much more resilient, and our satellite branches have commented on how much faster the DMS runs. Finally, from the IT perspective, we have much more peace of mind, and there’s much less daily maintenance: it’s mostly a case of ‘set and forget’. That frees us up to focus on other initia- tives, because we’re comfortable that the IBM servers will keep working reliably.”

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