Solution Impact. Analysis. NEC Powers ServIT's Custom Hosting Solutions. September, 2011

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1 Solution Impact Analysis NEC Powers ServIT's Custom Hosting Solutions By Mark Bowker September, 2011 This ESG publication was commissioned by NEC and is distributed under license from ESG. 2011, Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved

2 Solution Impact Analysis: ServIT 2 "It wasn't just the hardware. With our NEC implementation, we had actually built an amazing foundation of process and business plan." Allen Brooks, Executive VP, ServIT Organization Profile Industry Managed hosting provider and reseller Data Center Profile Hosting centers in Atlanta and Indiana for private cloud hosting 62 virtual machines 2 NEC Express5800/A1080a Servers Intel Xeon 7500 CPU (GX) 1 NEC Express5800/A1000 Server Intel Xeon 7400 CPU (MX) NEC 8 GB fiber channel d4-30 SAN with 84 TB of storage Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 VMware vsphere ESX 4.1 Challenges Customer needs vary widely, and ServIT required a strong server infrastructure to provide flexibility and reliability to its hosted customers. Solution ServIT implemented NEC Express5800/A1080a servers and NEC storage as a replacement for its IBM infrastructure Benefits ServIT gained capacity and scalability with its NEC implementation, greatly enhancing the hosted services it can offer to customers and consolidating their data center space with high-density servers. About the Organization ServIT Managed hosting provider and reseller ServIT is goaled with providing its customers with compelling IT solutions backed by a flexible operating environment. It offers private cloud hosting as well as hybrid solutions from its primary Atlanta, GA location (along with a data center in Indiana). "Our approach is truly a custom experience," says Allen Brooks, executive VP at ServIT. "It is not an off-theshelf proprietary fill." And as ServIT s managed services business has grown over the past five years, it has found a niche in custom hosting experiences including disaster recovery, co-location, and other services that help customers extend the value of virtualization and cloud computing. ServIT chose virtual machines on NEC enterprise servers to back its growth. ServIT's customers are primarily in manufacturing and distribution and health care, and range in size and IT sophistication. Though it s equipped to do business across the country, many hosted customers are located close to the organizations geographic area. That often means it can offer more personal, hands-on maintenance and support, says Brooks. This is an important differentiator as customers transition to off-premises IT consumption models and look to lean on a trusted partner to help them build a bridge from their primary data center to an off site solution. The expertise, experience, and trusted advisory services ServIT provides helps its customers make confident decisions in an effort to shape long term IT strategies. Business Needs ServIT uses a diagnostic assessment process to understand what each customer is looking for, and it may fit into a range of services: hosting full management of servers or partial management along with disaster recovery capabilities. For example, ServIT may take over a customer's servers to host on its own NEC cluster, then rebuild and consolidate those servers onto virtual machines. "We're going to manage their servers in our environment," says Brooks, "and give them a better experience." Another scenario might involve a customer organization that maintains its own infrastructure on-site, but needs a DR target. In that case, ServIT installs replication software and replicates the physical or virtual servers in its environment. In the case of an outage, those standby servers get up and running quickly. Of course, hosting a company's servers and data means that reliability is a major concern. Customers often want to see the hardware on which their data will reside. "Their data is in our building," says Brooks. "They know where their assets live. That's a big value-add." ServIT s services also include on-site tech support with the goal of familiarizing support personnel with customer environments. Because ServIT isn't distributing customer data across a global public cloud, it needed an extremely robust infrastructure. And, in lean economic times, says Brooks, "every ServIT uses NEC server infrastructure to consolidate, manage, and protect its customers' data.

3 Solution Impact Analysis: ServIT 3 customer is under P&L scrutiny, looking to make that dollar go as far as they can right now." Delivering high customer value and remaining focused on IT costs is important as businesses build their cloud computing platforms. Resellers of cloud services such as ServIT have to be certain that they make the right technology choices and can meet present and planned customer demand. A recent ESG study of resellers and other channel partners revealed that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it turns out that the plumbing might, in fact, matter to end-users. Specifically, 58% of channel partners believe that their customers view the technology that underpins cloud computing services as either critical or very important (see Figure 1). Businesses care about the technology that they are migrating to and companies offering a cloud service are motivated to choose the best technology that helps seamlessly transition the customer from an on-premises offering to a hosted solution. Trust in the cloud provider is also a primary factor contributing to a long term relationship with the customer when choosing the optimum technology that provides a stable and scalable infrastructure. Figure 1. Perceived Importance of Underlying Cloud Service Technology Vendor Brand to End-user Customers In general, how important is the vendor brand of the underlying technology in a cloud service to your organization s end-user customers? (Percent of respondents, N=124) Don t know, 2% Critical, 10% Not important, 8% Somewhat Important, 32% Very Important, 48% Source: Enterprise Strategy Group, Solution To meet customer demand, ServIT needed efficiency and high performance technology. As cloud computing matured over the past few years, ServIT responded by adding hosting centers and migrating from IBM to NEC servers. It was NEC's unique tools that captured ServIT s attention, and the multi-tenant NEC 5800 Express Server won out when the purchase decision was made. The NEC Express5800/1000 Series of servers represents NEC's family of highly expandable mid-range and enterprise server platforms. ServIT found the NEC Express5800/1000 series of servers to be the ideal platform for consolidation, database, and line-of-business applications for its customers. Representing the fifth generation Enterprise Server architecture from NEC, the Express5800/1000 series provides configuration flexibility, capacity, reliability and availability features. Its robust performance characteristics exploit the inherent functionality of the Intel Xeon processor series servers. NEC s Enterprise Servers use Intel s Machine Check Architecture (MCA) to keep the servers running even in the event of an uncorrectable memory or CPU error. NEC's RAS (Reliability, Availability, and Scalability) features, plus its high-density footprint, made a lot of sense, says Michael Brown, director of IT at ServIT. "The enterprise servers are extremely robust," he says, with a high-level of availability for mission-critical applications. "That hardware is going to keep the servers running, even if RAM is lost or a processor goes offline." The consolidation possibilities were attractive, too. For example, ServIT could use one

4 Solution Impact Analysis: ServIT 4 rack of servers rather than two for the same amount of customer data. "Just being able to show that footprint difference to a customer is a technological advantage," says Brown. NEC's commitment to a long-term relationship and strategy impressed ServIT as well. Customers also find the NEC infrastructure attractive, says Brown. "We assure our clients that their data will never touch someone else's data," he says. "We do that at the SAN level and at the process level." NEC allows ServIT to show that in an audit, and to perform pilot tests on customer servers to demonstrate how the environment will look and feel. "You can talk about virtualization and cloud," says Brown, "but it speeds the business process along if you simply audit what the customer's got and then show them an example of what it's going to look like." Even a government customer with strict redundancy requirements was impressed, recalls Brooks. "Government guidelines mean it basically has to be bullet-proof," he says. The customer tried everything to interrupt the security of the NEC high availability servers, but couldn't capture packet loss, says Brooks. "I don't know of anything that anyone else has in their arsenal that could have achieved that," says Brooks. Deployment Today, ServIT has about 25 customers running on its NEC platform with 62 virtual machines deployed on VMware vsphere 4.1 in two data centers. Customers run a variety of applications including Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft Exchange Server on ServIT servers. The environment grew organically, says Brooks. "The first server that we purchased was really for in-house," he says, "and we were going to host some customers on it." Then a customer mentioned that they'd like to put their production data in ServIT's environment, so a second physical server became necessary for failover and clustering, and to ensure SLA compliance. ServIT bought a second unit at that point, and it was a conversation with yet another customer that prompted the purchase of a third to prove the value of a multi-tenant environment. "So it was all grown based on demand," says Brooks. At this point, he says, ServIT is positioned to double its utilization without buying any more hardware. The infrastructure investments have vaulted ServIT into a new business model, says Brooks. "It wasn't just the hardware," he says. "We had actually built an amazing foundation of process and business plan." It's allowed the company to accommodate a much wider range of custom hosting needs. It also uses metrics to measure real-time server performance as well as alerts. Plans for the Future Next up for ServIT is expanding the NEC units to their maximum capacity, then continuing to add chassis servers. Upon reaching the halfway utilization mark, the organization will start increasing server capacity and removing bottlenecks, and will then add additional servers. ServIT has found the setup to be massively scalable, according to Brown. And physical space availability will continue to support the company s needs. "We have a right of first refusal for our primary data center to continue adding cabinets and space," says Brooks. Expanding into multiple data centers is also on the horizon. Summary As a custom hosting provider, ServIT requires extremely high levels of reliability and flexibility to accommodate multiple customers with multiple technology needs. NEC servers have allowed ServIT to add more hosting features and consolidate servers in its own data centers to get higher utilization levels. The ability to show customers exactly what they'll be getting in a hosted solution also sets ServIT apart. As cloud and virtualization technology have gained traction, ServIT has grown its hosting business. The company has recognized key technology as it's emerged, and chosen partners to help build a scalable infrastructure that can protect customer data. NEC has helped ServIT build a robust technology backbone; with it, ServIT has found reliability and flexibility, and is poised for future growth.

5 20 Asylum Street Milford, MA Tel: Fax: All trademark names are property of their respective companies. Information contained in this publication has been obtained by sources The Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) considers to be reliable but is not warranted by ESG. This publication may contain opinions of ESG, which are subject to change from time to time. This publication is copyrighted by The Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc. Any reproduction or redistribution of this publication, in whole or in part, whether in hard-copy format, electronically, or otherwise to persons not authorized to receive it, without the express consent of the Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc., is in violation of U.S. copyright law and will be subject to an action for civil damages and, if applicable, criminal prosecution. Should you have any questions, please contact ESG Client Relations at (508)

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