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.