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ABM overcomes pro-VMware bias to adopt Microsoft's Hyper-V

Tim Greene | June 3, 2014
Saving about $2 million was the primary reason international business-facility management firm ABM decided to convert its virtual infrastructure from VMware's vSphere to Microsoft's Hyper-V, but that came only after a period of having Microsoft prove that its virtual environment was ready.

"If they were deploying a new set of physical servers that would be one thing, but this is our virtual infrastructure, and little mistakes in a virtualized infrastructure are amplified 100 fold," Garcia says. "The smallest thing going wrong can really screw you up. So it's not something that I want to risk."

Still he wants his staff to learn as much as possible from the consultants, so the consultants don't perform any of the installations or configurations staff does the work at the direction of the consultants. "I call it on the job training," he says. "If you're going to engage a third party to help you make sure they're helping you and not doing it for you. There's a significant difference."

The transition is ongoing and the staff is still a little tentative about Hyper-V, but that is changing. "I was predicting that probably by mid- or late-summer we would reach a tipping point where the team would finally be 100% comfortable with the idea of switching and that we would be completely off VMware by the end of this year."

He says the team is learning the new virtual environment gradually by making and correcting mistakes. "They're learning what it means to run a Hyper-V infrastructure as opposed to a VMware infrastructure, which do not operate exactly the same. There's little idiosyncrasies that our team are going to need to familiarize themselves with in order to be 100% effective."

The migration is being done cluster by cluster application cluster, infrastructure, Citrix, SQL, messaging, etc. In all, the company runs 1,600 virtualized workloads on fewer than 60 hosts.

He says he hopes for tighter integration between Hyper-V and Microsoft System Center, which ABM uses to manage the hypervisors. A VMware host doesn't tie in as effectively with System Center. "You're always going to get more from a Microsoft product from a System Center agent running on it," he says.

He says that in addition to adopting Hyper-V, the company is moving new workloads to Microsoft's Azure public cloud rather than continuing to expand its on-prem data center. Not all new workloads will be moved to the cloud, depending on how the sensitivity of the data they handle is ranked. "The security classification of a system will drive whether it stays on-prem or goes into the cloud," he says. "If it's a low-medium risk it will go into the cloud, if it's a high risk it will stay on-prem."

ABM has also used the cloud to set up infrastructure overseas quickly in order to meet contractual agreements. Setting up a data center within Azure facilities in Ireland and the Netherlands was accomplished in a matter of hours rather than the three to six months it would have taken to set up its own hardware, and required no additional staff.

"We can support everything from the United States," Garcia says. "We don't need to deploy data centers all over the place. Doing so requires headcount."


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