Yodobashi Camera Co., Ltd. Rapid company growth results in an explosive increase in transaction volume and data handled by the company's mission-critical system. Utilization of virtualization technology provides a solution to this problem and helps the company achieve qualitative reforms of its IT Department and also contributes to management. Yodobashi Camera has been expanding the scope of services to better serve customers' needs, and also has been opening large-scale retail stores, including the Akiba Multimedia Store. As the company continues to grow, the volume of transactions and data handled by its mission-critical system have also rapidly increased. To cope with this situation, Yodobashi Camera introduced HP's virtualization technology using the HP Integrity Superdome featuring dual-core Intel® Itanium® 2 processors into its information system, with the aim of reducing the time needed for system construction and improving resource utilization efficiency. Eiji Asai, the chief editor for ITmedia Executive, asked Yodobashi Camera how and why the company came to this decision, and how it utilizes the new system. Objectives • Improvement of flexibility of the company's IT infrastructure to enable prompt response to business requirements. • Increase of speed and efficiency of system construction. • Improvement of resource utilization rates. Approach Kenji Hirota Director and General Manager of the Computer Room Yodobashi Camera Co., Ltd. • Deployment of virtualization technology on servers. Profile IT improvements As the General Manager of the Computer Room and Director of Yodobashi Camera, Mr. Hirota provides support to the entire IT operations for steady business growth at Yodobashi Camera. He plans new services and bolsters constantly changing IT operations, while ensuring uninterrupted operation of the mission-critical system. He is constantly investigating and examining business operations and IT in an effort to realize new services for customers by maximizing IT. • Deployment of virtualization technology on storage systems. • Precise sizing and detailed resource management are no longer necessary. • The system was constructed in a short period of time. • Development and verification can be executed with a fewer number of physical servers. • Server resources can be utilized easily for various applications, thus significantly increasing the resource utilization rate. • Storage resources, including existing assets, can be utilized efficiently. Business outcomes • Timely launches of new services are now possible. • The system management burden on the IT Department has been decreased, thus allowing staff members to spend more time on creative work. Eiji Asai Chief Editor for ITmedia Executive Profile ITmedia is a general IT information portal that transmits a wide range of news and technical information related to IT online. Mr. Asai supervises the "ITmedia Executive" membership community, with corporate executives and CIOs as members. The new system uses the HP Integrity Superdome server with dual-core Intel® Itanium® 2 processors. The dual-core Intel® Itanium® 2 processors offer scalable performance, large cache memory and huge memory address space; thus, they provide the most suitable platform for incorporating virtualization technology. Original growth strategy based on business challenges such as launching of new customer-oriented services and opening of large retail stores. Asai: M&A is frequently discussed in relation to the home appliance mass merchandising business world. What kind of management philosophy was behind Yodobashi Camera's remarkable growth to become one of the leading companies in the industry? Hirota: Our enduring philosophy is to provide excellent products to customers at low prices. We have been steadily practicing this philosophy. Needless to say, our company must make a reasonable profit, too. However, we are not solely profit driven; when we make greater than expected profits, we return the surplus through customer benefits. Asai: Yodobashi Camera was the first in the industry to introduce the point-card system. Was this system started for the purpose of returning extra profits to customers? Hirota: That's right. We would like to let the company grow on its own by making Yodobashi Camera attractive to customers. We are not pursuing mere expansion of the company’s size. To that end, we must be quick to discern what customers want and provide those products. For example, we have diversified payment methods. In addition to cash, customers can use points collected on their point-cards, IC credit cards, and now digital money. We ship products on the day that orders are received by using door-to-door delivery services. We opened "Mobile Yodobashi" in our yodobashi.com Webshop to enable customers to purchase products using their mobile phones. In a bid to respond to customers' needs and requests, we have launched a number of new services before anybody else in the industry. Asai: Yodobashi Camera seems to continually tackle new business challenges. I imagine that those additional services have caused a rapid increase in the volumes of transactions and data to be processed by the company's mission-critical system. In addition, Yodobashi Camera has opened large-scale stores one after another. Hirota: The transactions and data handled by the system have been increasing at a rate higher than we expected, which was a rather welcome misjudgment on our part. As a result, system resources ran short, compelling us to replace the servers every two to three years. In the early years when we were using Mainframe, the preparation and testing for server replacement imposed a major burden on us. For server changeover, we had to shut down the servers for many hours. In 1999, we switched to HP's open-system servers. Thereafter, every time we replaced servers, we sought simplification of changed components. Thanks to these efforts, the burden of replacing servers has reduced in recent years. Nevertheless, the services provided by the company broadened and diversified, thus resulting in constant shortages of resources such as processors, memory and storage. Therefore, we were very busy managing resources. That was another misjudgment on our part. (laughs) Various measures were taken to ensure continuous system operation, but we needed to enhance system flexibility to allow prompt response to management requirements. Asai: As the company continued to grow, the data volume and system load must have increased at unexpectedly high rates. The IT infrastructure has to cope with such situations. What is Yodobashi Camera’s strategy for its IT infrastructure? Hirota: Above all, we have to ensure that the system does not stop or shut down. Our stores are open every day of the week, all year around. They stay open until late at night. The system is linked to the sales floors and operates in real-time. Needless to say, our Webshop operates 24 hours a day. Our company never closes. It is open all day long, 365 days a year. Should the system stop operating, our business also stops, resulting in enormous management difficulties. Therefore, in order to make our IT infrastructure robust, we sought the cooperation of HP and implemented various measures such as improvement of availability based on cluster configuration and the construction of a disaster recovery system to ensure preparedness in the event of a widearea disaster. The second point was to construct an IT infrastructure capable of handling management needs, so when the management wants to initiate a new business, the system can respond promptly. Asai: That means the IT infrastructure must be ready to cope with business needs such as the opening of new stores and the launching of new services to enhance customer satisfaction. Hirota: For a retail business like our company, information on purchases, inventory and sales is extremely important data that we need to process quickly and transmit to pertinent company sections. However, if the number of stores increases and new services are added, we must construct and operate a new system quickly. Local Site Remote Site With Dual Core Intel Itanium© 2 Processor ® The Superdome X 4 is the uniform virtualized environment With Dual Core Intel Itanium© 2 Processor ® Mutual Fail-Over Virtual Server SAP System XP12000 Logic Volume Actual Environment SAP System XP12000 Logic Volume Virtual server for usage in the authentication environment Virtual Server External Storage Virtual Server External Storage XP External Storage Functionality XP External Storage Functionality We cannot ask the management to wait for one year for the system to be completed. We must continuously improve and advance the system. The key point is how to procure resources swiftly and reduce the development period. So, we were considering methods of introducing the SOA (Service-Oriented Architecture) concept into our IT infrastructure so that individual IT services can be addressed one by one. We thought this would add significant flexibility to our IT system. It is becoming increasingly difficult to size the resources needed by the system in the initial stage of construction. In fact, we had been tackling the resource sizing issue for many years. Then, HP proposed virtualization technology to us. HP explained to us the various advantages provided by virtualization technology, but, to be honest with you, I was doubtful at first. What's more, HP suggested it for our large-scale mission-critical system. So, I was a bit worried. Our association with HP spanned over ten years at that time, and we held a high regard of HP's technical capabilities. Because HP said they could do it, I finally put my confidence in them and decided on incorporating virtualization technology. HP successfully applied the virtualization technology to our real business environment, realizing stable system operation, swift system construction and effective resource utilization. Asai: From what I've heard, Yodobashi Camera is the world's frontrunner in introducing virtualization technology into a mission-critical system and using it in a real business environment. How exactly does the company utilize it? Hirota: In our mission-critical system, the virtual server environment was constructed using HP's Virtual Partitions (vPars) technology on the HP Integrity Superdome equipped with dual-core Intel® Itanium® 2 processors, and both the real business environment and the verification environment were intentionally placed in the same vPars. Dynamic CPU re-configuration based on the W/M The flexible reconfiguration of the dynamic CPU resources dealing with the system loading of the actual environment With this configuration, should resources run out in the real business environment, our system development team can stop verification work, and allocate available resources to the real business environment to allow continuous processing. Raw data that flows to the real business environment is dynamic and there is a possibility of unexpected occurrences no matter how extensive the preliminary verification may be. In fact, a shortage of processor resources occurred several times after the new system started operation. In all those cases, we were able to prevent problems by allocating resources from the verification environment to the real business environment. Since switching can be accomplished by simply entering commands, it helped us cope with the situations smoothly. We were very surprised that our large system continued operating reliably and smoothly without the users becoming aware of the virtualization technology employed by the system. Asai: What about the development environment? Hirota: The development environment was constructed on the HP Integrity rx8640 server. It uses a partition technology called HP Integrity Virtual Machines (Integrity VM) to operate eight virtual machines on a single server. The efficacy of this system was confirmed when we were verifying the operation of the disaster recovery function. Previously, we had to arrange two physical servers. HP Integrity VM enables verification using two virtual machines set up on one server. After the verification work, the verification environment can be copied to a backup device and dismounted, and then another development environment can be introduced. This naturally increases the development speed, and repeated use of the virtual machines results in a substantial increase of the resource utilization rates. By the same token, the cluster configuration operates in active-standby mode. In normal operation, the resources in the standby machines can be utilized for other processing tasks. The increase of the resource utilization rates achieved by the virtualization technology was greater than we anticipated. vPars, Integrity VM vPars and Integrity VM are HP's partitioning technologies for server virtualization. vPars is a software-based partitioning technology. It divides nPars, which is hardware partitioning at the cell board level, by processor unit. Integrity VM is a sub-CPU partitioning technology, which divides processor resources by the percentage unit. Both technologies can be used with HP Integrity servers, and an appropriate one can be selected according to the purpose. Asai: So, the virtualization technology is used to gather and pool processor resources, and then enables easy and flexible allocation of those resources to the system environment during peak periods. Hirota: In addition, we also applied the virtualization technology to the storage. In the past, we had to purchase storage devices individually. This resulted in a small unused space in each device. The virtualization technology enables effective use of all storage capacities, including surplus space and old unused storage. Since it retrieves only the necessary amount of storage space from the storage pool only when needed, it is rational and convenient. Changing the subject, our new system was constructed with HP's refurbished products in order to start system operations as soon as possible. Refurbished hardware is delivered very quickly as long as they are in stock. There is no need to wait for products to be assembled in a factory. They are also inexpensive. For a company that would like to take quick action after a decision is made and wants to install servers immediately like our company, HP's refurbished products are ideal. Storage virtualization HP StorageWorks XP Series provides an XP External Storage function that enables the recognition of multiple external extended storage devices, including previous HP Storage Works Series models and other companies' storage devices, as a single virtual XP volume. This realizes simple management and easy expandability. HP remanufactured products from the HP Renew Program The HP Renew Program offers a comprehensive portfolio of completely remanufactured HP products. The HP warranty, service and support options for HP Renew products are equivalent to those offered with new HP products. Only products that have undergone the rigorous HP refurbishment process qualify for the HP warranty – your guarantee of HP quality and reliability. Most HP Renew products are supplied from returned demonstration equipment or from factory excess. HP Renew offers a number of user benefits, such as quick delivery, lower prices and the flexibility to meet specific configuration demands. From an IT Department that simply follows management decisions to one that makes proposals to the management. We want to make a dramatic change in the role and work quality of the IT Department. Asai: You described the great benefits brought about by incorporating virtualization technology. You have achieved system robustness, which you had been addressing for quite some time, and recently added excellent flexibility to the IT infrastructure to enable quick responsiveness to business requirements. As the head of the IT Department, what do you want to do next? Hirota: Our revamped IT infrastructure operates so naturally that you almost forget that it utilizes virtualization technology. For operation of the system, HP offers extensive management tools. Should the system generate an alert, all we have to do is input commands for changeover. This reduces the operation and management burden substantially. Previously, our major challenge was ensuring that the IT system kept up with the speed of change in business. I believe that a solution is in sight. From now on, we will reverse the direction of the relationship between business and IT Department, and focus on methods to utilize the IT Department for making business proposals to the management. The new system allows us to continuously propose new services that lead to higher customer satisfaction. Based on this advantage, we plan to add a "proactive function" to the Computer Room so that it can contribute directly to management. Asai: In the early years when you had to replace servers every two to three years, your hands were full with just doing that. Now that virtualization technology has reduced the workload required for system scaling, the staff members of the IT Department have more time to make a greater business contribution. I imagine that the type of work performed by the staff members will change dramatically. Lastly, as a frontrunner in this field, could you give advice to the IT departments of other companies that are planning to incorporate virtualization technology? Hirota: Virtualization technology can integrate many and various systems operating on separate servers into a single server. However, there is the possibility that a problem generated in the server may generate more and greater benefits. To circumvent situations in which an important system must be shut down due to a problem or for maintenance work, it is necessary to investigate the criticality of each application and place high-priority applications in a server that is physically separated in order to prevent possible adverse effects on such applications. When a project is tackled with the cooperation of HP, you will be able to flexibly select the most suitable partition technology from a variety of available options according to the priority of your requirements, such as reliability and flexibility. HP boasts superb clustering technologies and disaster recovery solutions with proven track records. That would give you added assurance. I know first hand that the use of virtualization technology results in huge advantages. Explanation of technologies Diverse partitioning technologies HP offers various partitioning technologies to meet diverse server virtualization needs, such as nPartitions (nPars), Virtual partitions (vPars) and Integrity Virtual Machines (Integrity VM). nPars is a physical partitioning technology for constructing a system in each cell board. With complete electrical separation, it realizes a high degree of independence. On the other hand, vPars is a logical partitioning technology that creates a partition for each CPU. Since it can create multiple partitions in a single server or nPars, it improves Physical Partition (nPars) Logical Partition (vPars) the resource utilization efficiency. Integrity VM is a revolutionary sub-CPU partitioning technology capable of dividing processor resources into a multi-OS environment within a range of 5 to 100%. This can help companies achieve significant improvements in flexibility and resource utilization rate even in a small-scale system. One of the major advantages of HP's virtualization technologies is that these multiple partitioning technologies can be combined flexibly. Normal Operation Morning / Evening Operation XP External Storage function for storage virtualization The XP External Storage function connects various storage devices of different vendors, such as exiting storage and low-cost storage, to an XP disk array and allows integrated management of those devices as a virtualized logical storage system on XP. It stores primary online data in an XP disk at high speed and with high reliability, and Business Copy XP creates a copy on a low-cost storage device for backup or archiving of data. Thus, it realizes the Benefits most suitable data management. XP External Storage also accepts the connection of an existing XP system to enable effective utilization of existing assets and to provide support for smooth transition to a new environment. XP12000 st 1 level storage: Resource management based on the logic partition, of mission-critical data. Virtualizes multiple storage devices into a single XP disk array to enable simple management. Also allows easy system design and change. Simple Logic Storage Pool Level (Max 32PB) Data Replication Management of policy-based hierarchical data Data Migration Stores data on the most suitable disk according to data requirements. Realizes the most suitable ILM for maximizing ROI. Low Cost Storage nd rd 2 /3 level storage: Utilization of the lowcost disk for back up/ archive and application testing etc. Existing Storage Supports also the integration from the existing, as well as data migration. Allows effective utilization of existing assets, and enables smooth data transfer. HP Renew Program: HP’s full-scale global promotion of refurbished products HP Renew is a worldwide program offering a comprehensive portfolio of quality HP remanufactured products at attractive prices. HP Renew products have undergone a rigorous refurbishment process and are covered by the original HP warranty, service and support options. HP Renew is able to offer solutions using the latest technology, older generation products which are no longer available as new, and everything in between. Most HP Renew products are supplied from returned demonstration equipment or from factory excess. www.hp.com © 2008 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. The only warranties for HP products and services are set forth in the express warranty statements accompanying such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. HP shall not be liable for technical or editorial errors or omissions contained herein. 4AA1-8814ENW, March 2008 HP Renew began marketing refurbished products in various countries around the world in 1981. Thus, it boasts a track record of nearly 30 years of longevity and credibility in satisfying customers’ needs. In Japan, HP Renew products became available in 1999. The HP Renew Program is far more advanced than similar services offered by other hardware vendors. HP Renew offers a number of user benefits, such as quick delivery, lower prices and the flexibility to meet specific configuration demands. Since HP Renew manages stock worldwide, it can procure ordered products from an overseas warehouse if they are not stocked in Japan. In addition to these benefits, product models that are scheduled for discontinuation can be easily ordered from the HP Renew Program.