Grupo Martins Virtualizes Its Datacenter to Meet Future Demands in Wholesaling
Founded in 1953, Grupo Martins is the largest wholesaler-distributor in Latin America, marketing consumer items ranging from food products to electronics, construction materials, pharmaceuticals and veterinary products. Present in 5,570 cities throughout Brazil, Grupo Martins boasts annual sales exceeding R$4 billion and counts on around 315,000 active customers, 600 suppliers, 4,500 employees, 4,600 sales representatives and 42 operational branch offices.
The challenge: increase IT system availability for business process optimization
For Grupo Martins, like other large enterprises, finding new management tools and optimizing business processes are essential for reducing operational costs, ensuring customer satisfaction and achieving positive financial results.. Until 2007, Grupo Martins’ datacenter hosted 40 physical servers, which required significant space and power, as well as ongoing administration by the 30 professionals on its IT staff. Business content and applications critical to the company’s operations, including tools for telesales, long-distance training, e-commerce, network monitoring, and Internet, were installed on this server hardware.
To meet business requirements, it was paramount for the IT staff to deliver these server-based applications in a timely manner, which involved the demand for speedy creation of operating system environments or system configuration. “Physical servers have hardware components that are susceptible to problems. In case of a server’s unavailability, we would lose a whole day just to repair it and put the application back online or, in some critical cases, perform a total reinstallation on the machine,” said Flavio Lucio Borges Martins da Silva, CIO at Grupo Martins. This traditional approach required the availability of a back-up physical server, generating additional hardware and maintenance costs.
Moreover, high processing power was essential for each server in order to meet demands at peak usage times. However, aside from these peak periods, the servers’ utilization was only about 5 percent to 10 percent. “Our IT resources had a ‘retail’ demand during the better part of the month, with a peak ‘wholesale’ demand on certain days,” he explained. In addition, if demand rose higher than estimated, there was a risk that application performance would become sluggish.
Implementing Citrix XenServer to increase efficiency
In order to reduce underutilization of its servers and increase the availability of the datacenter, Grupo Martins replaced the older servers with newer equipment, comprised of seven physical servers running Citrix® XenServer™ virtual machines. The scope was expanded over the years and the latest change came in April 2008, when Grupo Martins acquired a license and implemented yet another solution from LCS—a Platinum Citrix Solution Advisor. Currently, the XenServer environment comprises 72 virtual machines running on seven physical servers and integrates four work platforms, which store all of the internal applications for telesales, e-commerce and assets control, the SQL Server® database and others.
Bringing more dynamism to the datacenter – and to business
Today, with Citrix XenServer, Grupo Martins has a more flexible datacenter. “Business is dynamic and throughout the month there’s a need for variable use of applications and resources to meet our employees’ needs,” explained the CIO. “With Citrix XenServer, applications and platforms are not tied down to the server hardware. If there is more demand for an application, the virtual machine can be rapidly moved to a server with higher available processing capacity. This flexibility allows the infrastructure to respond according to business demands and to eliminate slow performance in the system.”
The high availability of applications and servers is another advantage. He pointed out, “In case of a hardware failure on a physical server, the virtual machine is moved to another physical server and placed online in no more than three hours.” In the previous model, a dedicated back-up physical server was essential and the process could take up to a full day.
Virtualization to consolidate servers and reduce costs
Consolidation of physical equipment is one of the main advantages of server virtualization. “By reducing the number of physical servers from 40 down to seven, we have reduced costs of maintenance, space, renovation of the server farm, electricity and climate control, in addition to expanding the average utilization of equipment from 10 percent to 70 percent,” he highlighted.
Da Silva stressed that 80 percent of the servers created at the company are virtual. “Virtual machines are part of the Grupo Martins IT management culture because the time it takes to create one with XenServer is about 20 minutes.” Another facilitating factor is the accessibility of the solution.
Grupo Martins feels confident in continuing to expand its XenServer environment, because there are more than 70 Citrix Solution Advisors in Brazil who can offer expert services and support “Even though we implemented XenServer with Grupo Martins’ own IT staff, support from skilled Citrix channel partners will be crucial for more complex adoptions that will arise in the future,” Da Silva concluded.
With Citrix XenServer, applications and platforms are not tied down to the server hardware. If there is more demand for an application, the virtual machine can be rapidly moved to a server with higher available processing capacity. This flexibility allows the infrastructure to respond according to business demands and to eliminate slow performance in the system.
Flavio Lucio Borges Martins da Silva