Saturday, July 3, 2010

SAB Virtualises with Microsoft Hyper-V Technology

Brewing giant SAB Ltd wished to take advantage of the many benefits of server infrastructure virtualisation. After investigating all options, SAB Ltd chose to entrust Microsoft Services with implementing Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V technology to reduce its server footprint, reduce costs and improve IT performance.

The situation

SABMiller plc is one of the world’s largest brewers, with brewing interests and distribution agreements on six continents.

Dating back to 1895, South Africa is the home of SABMiller's original brewing company, and today brews, distributes and markets a wide range of best-selling beers. In 1976 the company obtained the franchise for bottling and distributing Coca-Cola products, separately managed by the Amalgamated Beverages Industries (ABI). The South African lager and sparkling beverage businesses are now integrated and together are known as SAB Ltd.

SAB Ltd employs over 11,700 staff in 115 branches, 7 breweries and 5 bottling plants throughout South Africa.

SAB Ltd runs its IT infrastructure in a predominantly Microsoft environment and considers Microsoft Services to be a trusted advisor in terms of its IT needs. Microsoft Services and SAB Ltd regularly conduct IT architecture workshops to determine how best to take SAB Ltd’s IT infrastructure forward.

At a workshop held in October 2007, SAB Ltd and Microsoft identified a number of key issues regarding virtualisation within SAB Ltd, which ultimately resulted in the implementation of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V technology, along with related Microsoft products. The key issues identified at the workshop were:

· SAB Ltd wished to reduce the overall technical complexity and simplify the server footprint strategy for its regions and depots through consolidation and standardisation.

· Backup and backup operations required simplification, optimisation and in some cases centralisation.

· SAB Ltd wanted to lay the foundation for an adaptive IT infrastructure that could adapt to the changing needs of the organisation in the future.

· It wanted to create an environment with guaranteed services to all regions, including being able to deliver Exchange and SQL as a business server. It also sought more efficient, more centralised patch management and ongoing upgrade processes.

· SAB Ltd realised the need for a thoroughly planned virtualisation roadmap and a defined virtualisation strategy that would enable the organisation to take advantage of the hardware and software advances that have taken place over the past twelve months. This included shifting to 64-bit for both hardware and software.

· Additional requirements included the need to manage email attachments more efficiently within the organisation via compression technology; a strategy to address the increasingly prolific use of hand-held Windows mobile devices within SAB Ltd; and a requirement to review the way in which SAB Ltd handles user rights and delegation within the environment.

The solution

At the time of the workshop, Hyper-V was still in Beta stage. Microsoft Services saw an opportunity for early adoption by SAB Ltd that would allow for intensive pre-rollout testing and, in turn, simple and hassle-free replication throughout all SAB Ltd branches as soon as Hyper-V was officially launched. Accordingly, Microsoft Services formally applied to Microsoft head office in Seattle for SAB Ltd to be registered as an “early adopter” as part of the Microsoft Technology Adoption Programme (TAP).

Microsoft Services then conducted a Core Infrastructure Optimisation Model assessment which identified the capabilities SAB Ltd required to build a more agile IT infrastructure.

This was followed by a Current Infrastructure Configuration assessment across all SAB Ltd regions and depots in order to plan the new server footprint strategy and the server consolidation business strategy. The information gathered in this assessment was then used to perform a domain and email clean-up, to ensure that those services would be optimised prior to the server consolidation exercise.

The next step was to define the recommended server architecture, and create the overall design and deployment plan. As part of the server architecture special consideration was given to virtualisation as part of the overall SAB Ltd server strategy. Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V (the hypervisor-based virtualisation feature included with Windows Server 2008) contains everything needed to support machine virtualisation, and enabled SAB Ltd to reduce costs, to improve server utilisation end-to-end from data-centre to desk-top, and to create a more dynamic IT infrastructure able to maximise current hardware/software technology opportunities and handle future developments.

As part of the server footprint architecture and the virtualisation strategy, the overall management of the SAB Ltd environment was reviewed and new technologies were introduced to manage specific workloads and scenarios. These included Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007 and Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 to accompany Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 which SAB Ltd were already running. Together, these products provided the necessary management tools to monitor inventory and to patch both the physical server infrastructure as well as the virtual infrastructure that was ultimately rolled out. In addition, the products enabled the end-to-end management of distributed virtualisation from a central point – e.g. provisioning, backups, management alerting – and giving server managers an easy-to-use Graphic User Interface to gain real-time visibility across all servers within the infrastructure.

With regards to optimising the overall server environment, Microsoft Services created an updated design and implementation backup and recovery plan for SAB Ltd’s data centres, regions and depots.

Microsoft Services proceeded to develop and test the Hyper-V architecture in conjunction with Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Dimension Data, who ultimately implemented the virtualisation strategy.

The strategy had a number of critical success factors. SAB Ltd users had to be able to carry on working with minimal to no impact during implementation. There had to be no negative impact on printer server availability. A measurable reduction in operation costs post the server standardisation and consolidation exercise had to be achieved, along with less maintenance and more productivity. All of these factors were achieved with resounding success.

The results

The implementation of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 with Hyper V technology benefited SAB Ltd in many ways, ranging from significant cost-savings to improved hardware utilisation, storage space and power consumption – as well as a positive environmental impact and a dramatic reduction in the time needed for the provisioning of new servers and software.

Server Consolidation Savings:

By running multiple virtual machines on fewer physical servers, SAB Ltd drastically cut hardware requirements and eased server management. By reducing the number of servers from 5 to 2 in each of SAB Ltd’s 115 branches, Hyper-V virtualisation will achieve a projected saving over 5 years of R37.26m. This has also resulted in improved server availability by 81%.

And because Hyper-V technology is covered in SAB Ltd’s current server licensing agreement, there were no extra licensing costs – unlike the high licensing cost implications involved with competitor products. “The fact that Windows Server 2008 comes with four virtual instances included as part of the operating system was very attractive to us,” said SAB Ltd’s Jan Bosch, Technical Manager Microsoft Server and Outsourced Contracts.

Similarly, the saving in training costs for SAB Ltd was significant since they could use Microsoft training vouchers for Hyper-V training. And because Hyper-V is part of the Microsoft family of products, and works like and with other Windows-based products, users and administrators could effortlessly and immediately migrate to the new server infrastructure.

Bosch was delighted with the success of the virtualisation project. “Virtualisation has given us a lot of flexibility, less redundancy, more uptime and a much easier environment to manage. We removed 60 of the region’s 68 servers and centralised Exchange on the eight remaining servers. This has made backup simpler and more secure. We did the same with our print server.

“We then bought two new servers with an MSA storage device and created a fully redundant environment with dual power supplies and dual fibre links. We virtualized our entire IT infrastructure onto these two servers, which allows us to load patch management on one of the servers while running our IT operations on other, thus avoiding any downtime.”

Electrical Power Savings:

SAB Ltd expects to save 47% in annual power and cooling costs by consolidating its server environment with Hyper-V – an important benefit when considering South Africa’s currently volatile power price climate. In addition, energy costs can be reduced not only by using Hyper-V, but also because – unlike in a physical server environment – Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 allows SAB Ltd to automatically move selected applications to specified virtual servers in off-peak periods such as at night.

Environmental Impact and Savings:

Hyper-V has also enabled SAB Ltd to reduce its long-term environmental footprint. Ultimately, fewer discarded servers with be dumped into landfills, and the reduction of hundreds of thousands of kilowatt hours of electricity used will result in hundreds of tonnes of reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

Space Savings:

Burgeoning server farms can take up valuable space, but by consolidating servers through virtualisation, SAB Ltd was able to free up space in their data centre and their branches, further reducing operational costs.

Rapid Provisioning:

In the past, deploying a new physical server in SAB Ltd’s environment could take anything up to three weeks, and involved purchasing and provisioning the server, transporting it to an often remote location, and then setting it up. “With Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager, SAB Ltd has the templates and ability required to deploy a new virtual server within minutes,” said Bosch.


Microsoft Services is proud to have been entrusted by SAB Ltd with the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V virtualisation project. Through careful planning prior to implementation, Microsoft Services ensured that SAB Ltd’s Hyper-V implementation achieved a reduced server footprint, a significant reduction in costs and an overall improvement in IT performance.


Customer: SAB Ltd (local subsidiary of SABMiller plc)


Customer size: 11 700+

Country or region: South Africa

Industry: Lager beer, malt, soft drinks

Customer Profile

SAB Ltd, a subsidiary of SABMiller plc, is a national beer, malt and soft drinks manufacturer and distributor. Popular brands include Brutal Fruit, Carling Black Label, Castle, Grolsch, Hansa, Lech, Miller, Peroni, Pilsner Urquell, Redd’s and many others. In 2009 the company recorded sales of US$1,026 million.

Software and Services

· Microsoft Windows Server 2008 + Hyper-V

· Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008

· Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager 2007

· Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007

· Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007

· Microsoft SQL Server 2005

· Exchange Server 2007

Microsoft Services

As the consulting, technical support and the customer service arm of the world’s leading software company, Microsoft Services enables the successful adoption, deployment and use of Microsoft’s solutions and technologies for all customers.

For more information about Microsoft Services, go to: