Virtualization beats bare metal at wine company

Virtual servers eliminate hardware upgrade cycle

Online wine storage and trading portal Cellarit has migrated its database and applications from physical to virtual servers resulting in a reduction in operating costs and an increase in flexibility.

Cellarit managing director Scott Witt said the migration off two physical servers, hosted by Bulletproof Networks, earlier this month was a success.

"There were a variety of reasons to go virtual," Witt said. "The most immediate was our database server was about to come out of a maintenance contract and was becoming a bit frayed at the edges and needed to be attended to."

With a server reaching the end of its maintenance cycle, Cellarit needed to make a move "one way or another" and with Bulletproof's advice went virtual.

"At the end of the day virtualization made sense and is a cheaper solution on a monthly basis," Witt said. "Effectively, as a virtual customer we are removed from the hardware cycle. If we retained the old cycle, every few years we were forced to evaluate a move to the latest hot box."

Witt said hardware capacity is no longer a concern for Cellarit because "at the end of day we can dial up any usage on the virtual server".

"To us as an e-commerce company with customers in Australia and around the world using our service 24x7, being able to expand in a seamless fashion rather than in large physical chunks is much smoother," he said. "At the end of the day we are all about providing the highest level of service to customers."

Witt is confident the reliability of a virtualized solution, built with VMWare's virtual infrastructure, will be higher than the physical machines and will not be disrupted by it because Bulletproof is monitoring the systems.

"Performance remains to be seen because it's early days, but I'm convinced it's likely to be a better solution because it's easier to dial up a higher level of performance," he said.

Witt claims Cellarit is not a typical wine e-commerce company because at its core is a sophisticated, secure, temperature-controlled storage facility equivalent to an online bank account where customers log on and see their entire inventory of wine.

The application also allows customers to list their wine for sale through the e-commerce facility.

"We barcode every bottle and track it individually," Witt said. "It's like having access to your own cellar and the convenience comes with integration of software, storage facilities, and transportation services."

Witt said going virtual will also help the company prepare for four "substantial innovations" it is about to launch which may result in its database exploding in capacity.

"It's just the tip of the iceberg of what we can do with our software and service and I can't imagine going back to bare metal," he said. "What we are doing now would have been inconceivable 10 years ago. We are in a position where we are free from any constraint with technology innovation."

Bulletproof Networks' general manager Lorenzo Modesto said with project timeframes shrinking, the TCO achieved by implementing virtual machines can't be matched with the implementation of physical server infrastructure.

"If the method of delivery is not of importance at the executive level, and it shouldn't be, then the right virtualization platform is essential for the teams tasked with the delivery," Modesto said.

That said, Modesto believes organizations need to make sure they don't "make a rod for their own back" as virtualized environments need to be managed like any other.

"The decision of whether to buy or build is important as a company needs to have the skills to set up and manage the environment," he said. "If not, the benefits of virtualization will be greatly reduced and possibly even introduce other issues."

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