The high-end furniture retailer THE One first opened its store in Abu Dhabi way back in 1996. Ever since the retailer has branched out across GCC and today has around 20 stores, out of which 10 are in the UAE.
The One harnesses technology to differentiate itself and provide a unique service to its customers. The company has recently implemented virtualisation to enhance business operations and reduce costs.
“We have done wonders with IT ever since I came on board two and half years ago. When I joined, we still has the first lot of infrastructure from day one 14 years ago, which was plagued by inefficiencies and high bandwidth costs,” says Nix Panesar, IT Support Manager, THE One.
THE One, which has around 450 internal users, had a network based on Cisco switches and almost all the software applications from Microsoft. The store locations are dovetailed to the head office through an ADSL based WAN, which used to be on frame relay. The main applications running on the network include Micrsoft Dynamics NAV (ERP), SharePoint, BlackBerry Server, and SCOM (Systems Center Operations Manager).
THE One’s voice infrastructure is based on Cisco, and the company is in the process of rolling out OCS to augment collaboration. It also runs VoIP and boasts of voice over wireless. Two storage area networks, provided by IBM, have a capacity of 4TB and 19TB respectively, and under implementation is disaster recovery and business continuity. Security is in the form of Microsoft Forefront, which is used for end-point protection and a Fortinet UTM for network security.
The virtualisation platform Hyper-V has been implemented on seven blade systems from IBM, and the company currently has around 25 virtual machines in operation at the moment, which runs all applications with the exception of SQL Server. “The main reason for going into virtualisation was the ease of management. We had so many redundant servers, and it was difficult to upgrade and utilise them because some of the new breed of applications just wouldn’t work on it. So rather than investing in physical hardware and new racks, we bought these blades and implemented virtualisation,” says Panesar.
Apart from a huge improvement in server utilisation and cost reduction.
Panesar says another key benefit has been testing. “Earlier, we used to take weeks to prep testing servers, which delayed in projects delivery. Now, test servers are up in minutes and we are able to deliver project ahead of schedule.”
Panesar says Hyper-V was chosen over VMware because the company has an Enterprise Agreement with Microsoft, which made licenses a lot more cheaper. “It does everything that VMware does, at a lower cost.”
Though THE One has a fully blown virtualised server environment in place, it doesn’t have any plane to go in for desktop virtualisation. “We did evaluate desktop virtualisation and it didn’t make sense for us. What we are look at is a similar concept called roaming profiles and we are also going to roll out Windows 7 across the board,” says Panesar.