Red Hat Enterprise Virtualisierung (RHEV) - Best Practice

Modernizing and Virtualizing the IT Landscape with OSS

Just like many other medium-sized businesses, Berendsen GmbH was faced with a typical problem: The server landscape—that had grown over many years—had to be consolidated and simplified. A proliferation of different hardware architectures, various Linux and Windows systems, including ones containing SAP instances and Oracle databases, was causing disproportionately high administration costs. The existing resources were being used inefficiently and updates and maintenance work were carried out at the expense of availability. Time to modernize!

Berendsen GmbH, based in Glückstadt, is a leading European textile service company and the market leader in textile supply in the health care sector. Berendsen operates eight sites in Germany, with two of them providing the IT services to the rest: Glückstadt in Schleswig-Holstein and Hagen in North Rhine-Westphalia.

For a long time, the IT infrastructure setup at Berendsen aligned itself pragmatically with the requirements of day-to-day business, and the required services were reliably provided. However, given the lack of a long-term strategy, the expansion of the IT services reached its limits. The IT infrastructure was no longer able to meet the dynamic requirements in terms of either growth or scale. The variety of systems, hardware architectures, OS variants and applications that had accrued over many years caused ever-increasing maintenance costs.

The Initial Situation

  • Server landscape with 36 machines
  • PA-RISC and x86 architecture
  • No virtualization strategy (occasional use of Xen and OpenVZ)
  • Central storage platform at the end of the upgrade and lack of capacities

The Requirements

Future security, availability, efficiency, ease of administration and flexibility were the key points in the list of requirements for a new IT infrastructure. In addition, the application landscape with products like SAP and Oracle meant that the required certification of the platform was an important determining factor.

The Solution

GONICUS analyzed the existing environment and requirements and developed a suitable concept for the future.

The main components of the concept were a Unified Computing System (UCS) and the Linux-based virtualization solution Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) as a platform.

Data Separation

The first stage is the unified computing concept, which stipulates the separation of user data from operating data. Rather than being stored locally, as is traditional, application data and user data are stored centrally on a storage platform. This has the benefit of the data being available independently of the actual servers, which greatly simplifies migration or update processes. Another important benefit of this concept is the increased availability of the individual servers.


The crucial benefits of the enterprise virtualization from Red Hat were:

  • Hardware independence
    => simple scaling
  • Low SW purchasing costs
    => up to 60% lower than the competition
  • Simple and transparent licensing
    => upgrades through subscriptions
  • Robust open-source substructure
    => RHEV based on KVM
  • No vendor lock-in
    => open standards

The Design

The new environment consists of two identical data centers that are operated in Glückstadt and Hagen. Each data center consists of four UCS systems from Cisco, as well as a management server and a central storage platform from EMC. The four UCS systems act as the RHEV hypervisor and are connected to the central storage platform via FCoE. 

The two data centers combine to form a cluster, enabling the load to be distributed both within one site as well as across sites.

The Project Procedure and Experiences

After completion of the design and sizing of the hardware components, the project started with a launch meeting in the autumn of 2011 and was divided into five milestones. Once the hardware had been built and configured, the setup and configuration of the Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization solution began. The next step involved setting up necessary system services and migrating the first machines to the new environment. Comprehensive system documentation in conjunction with training sessions and workshops ensured that the important transfer of knowledge took place before the project was completed.

Consultation with and involvement from GONICUS GmbH enabled Berendsen to commission a modern IT landscape with optimized technical and economic aspects, which was put into service after a short and efficient project phase.

The positive expectations proved to be justified during the project and in the first months of operation. Berendsen is well equipped to face the future and is in a position to dynamically respond to demands and scale its operations. The use of RHEV represents a high-performance and cost-effective virtualization solution, which is also certified for SAP and Oracle software components.

Yet again, free software has demonstrated that it is ready for enterprise and that it should not be afraid of standing alongside the market leaders. Furthermore, the use of open-source virtualization technology avoids vendor lock-ins and delivers significant cost benefits.