Having acquired ACS in 2010, Xerox has become the world leader in managed document services. Under the umbrella of Global Document Outsourcing, these services cover everything from printing outgoing documentation (bills, contracts, customer mailings, ...) to digitizing incoming documents (orders, forms, customer complaints, ...). So Xerox's core business depends on highly specialized applications (desktop publishing, scanning, character recognition, ...), as well as its ability to process massive amounts of data and documents quickly and efficiently.
In France, Xerox has around 15 production sites where the printing and scanning systems are installed, as well as two Data Centers which house the IT resources that support its services, including around 450 logical servers. The IT Department at Xerox France, which is responsible for delivering its document outsourcing services, wanted to share the physical resources from all its environments, including Windows. "We started by looking at the available virtualization solutions, and decided on VSphere from VMWare", explained Bastien Vigneron, IT Director at Xerox France. All that remained was to find the most appropriate platform to run this new environment.
Xerox was very quickly won over by the new novascale bullion servers from Bull; the only ones specifically designed for native virtualization. "bullion is based on engineering principles from the mainframe world and high-availability systems, which greatly reassured us", continued Bastien Vigneron. Concerning virtualization of applications, the reliability of the platform is critical. The close proximity and availability of Bull's experts also played a key role in the choice of solution. "If we have any concerns or technical questions, we always get a fast, high-quality response", Bastien Vigneron confirmed. "That would be much harder with an American supplier, whose US-based experts would be much less accessible."
Today, Xerox is using five bullion servers; two for its main Data Center, two in a mirror set-up at its secondary Data Center and one of its own IT requirements. The two bullion machines at the main site currently host 49 production servers, either replacing old machines or for new projects. "The first big advantage of using bullion and VSphere is that they let us set up a new server in just a few minutes, compared with several hours before", Bastien Vigneron stressed.
The new servers run core business applications that support Xerox's services offerings: automatic document readers for computerized document management that use a lot of CPU time and memory; database servers and desktop publishing servers that deal with very big files and are therefore very I/O intensive; server farms to support workstation virtualization; infrastructure servers, ...
"bullion servers are sophisticated machines that are highly sought-after in this organisation. But despite the range of applications and their needs, we have been careful to manage their workload, every aspect of which is being increased gradually so we don't overload them. With bullion, applications can really take full advantage of the power of the Intel Xeon processors", Bastien Vigneron stated, with obvious satisfaction.
Overall, the new infrastructure offers 99.997% availability, 24/7, 365 days a year, because a bullion cluster with redundant access to the SAN (put in place at the same time) and mechanisms within VSphere are being used. For customers with the highest SLA criteria, Bull has put in place for Xerox a roll-over process to the secondary site, where the same configurations are replicated as part of the company's business continuity and disaster recovery planning. Finally, as well as the economies of scale provided by virtualization, the resulting reduction in the number of physical machines and the design of bullion (especially its patented active/passive power supply), should help cut energy consumption significantly, by around 30%.
"After several months of running the new system, we are recording the levels of performance that we were expecting and we're had no hardware failures or even alerts with the bullion servers which are proving very reliable and well-balanced despite being relatively new technology", Bastien Vigneron stressed. Xerox now plans to enhance the memory capacity of its bullion machines, to get the most from their potential and, above all, to increase their performance using BCS (Bull Coherence Switch). This should enable them to support the growing workload generated by Xerox's services offerings.