Tesco virtualises 1,500 servers

16 Mar 2009

Tesco has virtualised over 1,500 servers as part of a deal with Citrix and Hewlett-Packard (HP). The move will increase Tesco’s real-time sales capacity by 75pc and allow it to handle 1,500 sales messages per second.

The IT upgrade saw the retail giant virtualise key business applications using Citrix XenServer and HP ProLiant BL680c G5 blade servers.

Tesco began investigating virtualisation as an alternative to adding more physical servers in a bid to handle its growing capacity demands, as well as to fulfill its community commitment to reduce carbon-emission levels.

While adding physical servers would require an increase in power and cooling, virtualisation has better equipped Tesco to hit its target of reducing carbon emissions from its data centres by 20pc.

“After conducting a major evaluation of virtualisation providers, we went with Citrix based on the strength of its Xen technology; the ability XenServer has to provide high levels of performance for heavy-duty 64-bit applications; and Citrix’s licensing model and engineering team – decisions that have already paid off for us,” said Nick Folkes, IT director at Tesco.

“The virtualised RTS environment uses less than half of the energy of the physical bare-metal equivalents, which supports our CO2 targets and means we have already saved a significant amount on our electricity bills.

“We’re running far more efficiently and the ongoing management of the environment is much simpler. While our primary goal in working with Citrix and HP was to create a more flexible IT infrastructure, the consolidation benefits are significant,” Folkes added.

After the success of the initial project to virtualise RTS, Tesco has continued to deploy XenServer for its major server consolidation project. Citrix is working closely with Tesco to virtualise 1,500 physical servers on XenServer, including 80 Citrix XenApp servers. This is already bringing greater efficiencies to the way applications are delivered to each Tesco store.

“Tesco can achieve immediate cost savings and long-term business growth goals by virtualising its key business applications with HP BladeSystem Servers running Citrix XenServer,” said Jim Ganthier, vice-president, Marketing, ESS Infrastructure Software and BladeSystem, HP.

“The combination of HP BladeSystems and Citrix technology helps companies like Tesco strategically spend and carefully prioritise their technology investments – a critical task in the current economy.”

Tesco is aiming for a 10:1 consolidation ratio for physical to virtual servers, and is hitting 70pc CPU utilisation on the servers, versus the previous 6pc.

HP’s four-socket, four-core machines for blade servers were a key decision-maker for Tesco at the time of purchase, and because Citrix licences for advanced virtualisation management capabilities are charged per server instead of per socket, Tesco is not penalised for using larger blade servers.

“RTS is a mission-critical system for Tesco with very high throughput of transactions based on Microsoft IIS, BizTalk and SQL, so it requires the highest standards in processing power,” explained John Glendenning, vice-president, OEM sales, at Citrix.

“Virtualisation is key to providing a cost-effective, efficient and futureproofed data centre, and XenServer has been key to helping Tesco achieve its ambitions for a virtualised environment that supports mission-critical systems.

“The Citrix Delivery Center approach has enabled Tesco to create a customised virtualisation strategy, using XenServer and HP for integrated server virtualisation and XenApp and XenServer for the most efficient delivery of applications to stores across the country. The strategy is helping Tesco achieve its operational objectives – ultimately, it helps Tesco provide a better service to its customers.”

By John Kennedy