IT outsourcing provider OGIS-RI improves operational efficiency and security by deploying Nexus 1000V distributed virtual switch.
The way that companies use IT is undergoing a massive change in the current economic climate, and service providers are accelerating cloud computing initiatives. The scale of data centers continues to expand, particularly in the area of "on-demand" IT resources, but companies may question the reliability and security of a shared infrastructure.
In December 2009, Osaka Gas Information System Research Institute Co. Ltd. (OGIS-RI), an IT services company for large-scale public enterprises, launched a virtualized hosting service, called "Server KASOUKA," to address these issues.
At the time, OGIS-RI already had over 10 years' knowledge of virtualization environment construction and migration.
OGIS-RI was launched in 1992, when OGIS Information Systems Co. Ltd. (established in 1983 with capital from Osaka Gas Co. Ltd.) joined with OGIS Information Systems Research Institute, established in 1985. The company provides customer-oriented IT solutions to the Osaka Gas Group, and many other enterprises. "Server KASOUKA" expands on OGIS-RI's established data center services. In Japanese, "KASOUKA" means "virtualization" and "shall we loan you something."
"The majority of clouds are public, but enterprises need private clouds between public clouds and in-house systems," says Shuji Nakai, sourcing services department head of OGIS-RI. The Osaka Gas Group already outsources to OGIS-RI, and a private cloud exists, so the new platform provides more versatility. Yoshinobu Anase, of OGIS-RI's Operational Services Division, says, "Demand for group clouds is growing among OGIS-RI's customers. Large enterprises can implement IT systems and ensure security, but many small-to-medium companies lack that capacity. By building a group cloud with a large company at the core, everyone within the group can implement secure, high-level systems. So not only can companies improve the efficiency of IT investments, but they can also strengthen governance of the entire group."
However, to launch its new virtual hosting service, OGIS-RI needed a distributed virtual switch. The choice of switch depended on achieving operational efficiency and security.
OGIS-RI started exploring the idea of "Server KASOUKA" in October 2008. In June 2009, the company commenced a review of the Cisco Nexus® 1000V, and in July, OGIS-RI decided to deploy it. The system was built with technical support and joint verification by Kanematsu Electronics Ltd. The Cisco® Nexus 1000V Switch is used as a virtual switch to connect virtual machines to a network. High-level virtualization can also be achieved at the network level.
Why was the Cisco Nexus 1000V Switch chosen? Nobukazu Miyakogawa, business platform services team manager of OGIS-RI's Sourcing Services Department, Operational Services Division, says, "The objectives were to limit costs and ensure security. When providing virtual servers, the key to being competitive is the extent to which you can keep costs down. However, there is more to building a group cloud that meets customer needs, than just low prices. It is also imperative that security is at the same level that is available for software on the premises."
The Cisco Nexus 1000V Switch was also chosen because it allows uniform and autonomous operations provided by its Virtual Supervisor Module (VSM) and the support of a private VLAN function. Morihiro Komeno of the Operations Technology Team, System Operations Department, Operational Services Division of OGIS-RI, says, "The Cisco Nexus 1000V dramatically improves the operational efficiency of networks. Until now, network settings had to be performed manually for each VMware ESX. With the Cisco Nexus 1000V, settings are configured once in the Virtual Supervisor Module (VSM), and then those settings can be deployed automatically, making it possible to complete the setup in one action, regardless of how many units there are. It is also a major advantage that network engineers can use the same operating commands for the virtual switch that they use for physical switches. A special GUI is required to operate the VMware virtual switch, but this creates extra work for network administrators and it is easy to make mistakes. These problems are avoided by using the same administration procedures as with physical switches."
The centralized management of settings through the VSM offers major advantages in operations that use VMotion. Network policies are automatically inherited by destination machines, eliminating the need to configure network settings repeatedly. If settings are configured correctly at the beginning, network experts do not need to be available during operations. In addition, Shunya Takeuchi, of OGIS-RI's Business Platform Services Team, Sourcing Services Department, Operational Services Division, says, "The Cisco Nexus 1000V makes it easy to ensure security. In an environment where many users are sharing hardware, the way that user networks are separated becomes an important issue. Previously, many small-scale switches were used, and physical networks were separated as needed. However, it is difficult to apply the advantages of this approach to virtualization. The Cisco Private VLAN function can be used with the Cisco Nexus 1000V, allowing for detailed separation at the Layer 2 level within the same switch. Customers often ask us if security is adequate in shared services that use the same chassis. They are reassured by our response that logical partitions are strictly separated using a combination of highly reliable Cisco devices, and OGIS-RI operating technology."
The benefits of deploying the Cisco Nexus 1000V extend beyond improvements in operational efficiency and enhanced security. OGIS-RI's "Shall we loan you a server?" service can now be provided to all customers, using the same resources and services, which translates into greater improvements in service levels.
"The services for the Osaka Gas Group are now part of one group, and we provide a high level of support," says Nobukazu Miyakogawa. "In the past, the structures of services for the Osaka Gas Group, and customers outside of the group, were different. The knowledge developed through services provided to the Osaka Gas Group could not be extensively deployed elsewhere. However, Cisco's Nexus 1000V provides a uniform operations management system that makes it easy to deliver the required services to customers when they need them. By doing this, a higher level of support can be provided to customers outside of the group. There is no doubt that customer satisfaction levels will improve."
With higher-level services at lower costs, OGIS-RI is expecting its customer base to grow. "We have the advantage of being able to safely operate large, important systems and after providing our services once, we typically establish a long-lasting relationship with our customers," says Yoshinobu Anase. "Until now, the majority of OGIS-RI's customers have been large enterprises, and there were very few small-to-medium customers. Virtualized services can be used on a small-scale, and it is easy for small-to-medium customers to use them. When building the new environment, we stressed the importance of an infrastructure that will reach these smaller customers."
Takeuchi points out that virtualization environments are designed for the long-term use of applications. "For example, when leasing a server for five years, if the server is replaced when the lease is up, the operating systems that were running on the server had to be replaced with upgraded versions. This means installation work, and work to confirm correct operations, adding unwanted costs. However, with "Shall we loan you a server?" even if a server is replaced, network and security settings are easily transferred using Cisco Nexus 1000V, eliminating the cost of transfer work. Customers are no longer concerned with hardware becoming obsolete and lease expirations, and they can continue to use applications."
"Server KASOUKA" also broadens in-house activities. "Development resources can be quickly secured, making it easy to initiate new projects," says Takeuchi. "They can be started at a low cost, so developers can easily embark on new challenges, speeding up internal activities."
In addition to IT infrastructure, OGIS-RI will use the environment as a framework for software as a service (SaaS) applications that they develop. Office Takufilebin was released in 2009 and runs on "Server KASOUKA". In January 2010, BusinessGuruChizu, using Google Maps in business applications, became available, and OGIS-RI continues to work on new applications. "OGIS-RI is aiming for a cloud integrator," says Nakai. OGIS-RI supports future business needs by offering the optimal combination of on-site and public cloud. "Shall we loan you a server?" was made possible using Cisco Nexus 1000V, and plays a major role in future developments.