Generac Power solves procurement challenges with IBM BladeCenter

IBM Systems and Technology

Published on 04-Apr-2012

Validated on 01 Oct 2013

"We’ve had a longstanding relationship with IBM and learned that IBM builds enterprise hardware with excellent engineering and longevity. We know that it’s going to last and that it’s going to run rock solid." - Matt Dornfeld, senior systems engineer, Generac Power Systems

Customer:
Generac Power Systems

Industry:
Consumer Products, Industrial Products

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
Solutions for Smart Business, Business Resiliency, Energy Efficiency, High Availability , Infrastructure Simplification, Optimizing IT, Server Consolidation, Virtualization, Virtualization - Server

Overview

Whether you need a backup power source for your home or business, Generac Power Systems has been at the forefront designing, building and selling a variety of portable, recreational vehicle, residential, commercial and industrial generators for more than 50 years. The company’s power systems range in output from 800 watts to 9 megawatts, and are available through a broad network of independent and industrial dealers, retailers and wholesalers.

Business need:
Since 1959, Generac Power System has engineered and manufactured a variety of portable, RV, residential, commercial and industrial generators. Over time, the company needed to expedite the IT procurement process to better support business needs.

Solution:
Generac deployed an IBM BladeCenter® H chassis with HS22V blade servers using Intel® Xeon® processors, as well as IBM System Storage® SAN Volume Controller and IBM System Storage disk and tape solution, giving the company advanced virtualization capabilities.

Benefits:
The IBM solution shortens procurement times from weeks to hours, keeps energy consumption flat amid 25 percent server growth and enables better security through more aggressive backup cycles.

Case Study

Whether you need a backup power source for your home or business, Generac Power Systems has been at the forefront designing, building and selling a variety of portable, recreational vehicle, residential, commercial and industrial generators for more than 50 years. The company’s power systems range in output from 800 watts to 9 megawatts, and are available through a broad network of independent and industrial dealers, retailers and wholesalers.

The Waukesha, Wisconsin-based company was founded in 1959 and lays claim to being the first company to offer affordable home standby generators, and also the first to create an internal combustion engine specifically designed for the rigors of generator use.

“We do a lot of manufacturing, but we really consider ourselves an engineering firm,” says Matt Dornfeld, senior systems engineer at Generac. “We have a proud engineering innovation history, and IT has to be able to quickly respond to the evolving needs of the business.”

Business as usual

Generac’s legacy server infrastructure relied on physical servers. Over time, this reliance on physical servers was causing unacceptable bottlenecks in the IT procurement process.

“The way it worked, we weren’t able to respond as quickly as we needed to,” says Dornfeld. “Every time we had a system that needed more disk space, more CPUs or more memory, we had to go through this whole procurement process, and that could sometimes take weeks or months. And in some cases, it would take us months to add a new server, because we had to go through an ROI study, then get all of the equipment purchased, put it into a rack and install an operating system.” Also impacted by using standard physical servers was Generac’s recovery-point objective (RPO), which describes the acceptable amount of data loss measured in time, and their recovery-time objective (RTO), which is the duration of time and service level within which business processes must be restored after a disaster recovery or disruption.

“Depending on the system, our RPO and RTO was measured in hours, or days or even weeks,” says Dornfeld.

Making the switch to virtualization—with IBM

Dornfeld knew he needed to migrate from physical, racked servers to a virtualization solution if he wanted to slash procurement times and RTO/RPO objectives. “We looked at other vendors, but when we did our evaluation, we felt that they couldn’t deliver to IBM’s level,” says Dornfeld. “We needed the solution to be best-in-class in service and uptime, so that’s really why we went with IBM.”

The solution includes an IBM BladeCenter H chassis HS21XM and HS22V blade servers using Intel Xeon processors. The hardware stack also includes one IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller and an IBM System Storage disk solution with about 15 terabytes’ worth of production, test and backup data. This solution is tied to an existing IBM System Storage Tape Library for disk-to-disk tape backups and disaster recovery.

BladeCenter H: Simplicity, scalability

Dornfeld says what also attracted him to BladeCenter H was features like built-in redundancy and networking, the cost effectiveness of the solution, as well as its overall simplicity and scalability. “All we have to do is insert and trade out blades as we go forward,” he says.

On the software side, Generac implemented VMware for virtualization. Dornfeld says one of the best decisions he made was purchasing IBM Remote Technical Support (RTS) for VMware. In fact, it has already proven so valuable that Dornfeld has renewed the service contract for an additional year.

“I work with a lot of vendors, and by far, IBM VMware RTS support is one of the best ones that I’ve worked with,” says Dornfeld. “They have just been excellent in supporting us with any issues and getting them resolved.”

Game-changing benefits

The benefits of the IBM solution, in tandem with virtualization, are already rippling across Generac. Most importantly, says Dornfeld, are greatly improved RPO and RTO metrics. Procurement times have been slashed from days, weeks or months down to hours or minutes.

“With server provisioning, I can just go ahead and shut down the system, add my CPUs, memory and disk as needed from the SAN, and get it back up within five minutes,” explains Dornfeld.

The resulting benefits extend beyond convenience and simplicity. New capabilities, such as the rapid provisioning and deployment of test and mirror servers to test upgrades and software patches before they hit the production side, have led to dramatically lower operational risk, says Dornfeld.

Performance has been exceptional, and Dornfeld says he “couldn’t be happier” with the performance of the Intel Xeon processors for the various workloads, which include the company’s email, warehouse management, product development, management and web application services.

Generac’s backup cycles have also been condensed for decreased RPO. Before the IBM solution, backups were conducted once every 24 hours but now those backups, particularly for critical systems, can be conducted once every few hours.

The solution has also helped Generac maintain its corporate commitment to developing a long-term vision that promotes environmental responsibility. With the IBM solution, Generac has been able to keep its energy costs flat, even as its server base has grown by 25 percent year over year, explains Dornfeld.

Strong solutions from a trusted brand

Ultimately, Dornfeld says choosing the IBM solution wasn’t just because of best-in-class service, performance and features—it was about trust in the IBM brand.

“We’ve had a longstanding relationship with IBM and learned that IBM builds enterprise hardware with excellent engineering and longevity,” he says. “We know that it’s going to last and that it’s going to run rock solid.”

For more information

Contact your IBM representative or IBM Business Partner, or visit us at: ibm.com/systems/bladecenter

For more information about Generac Power Systems, visit: www.generac.com

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Hardware:
BladeCenter H Chassis, BladeCenter HS22V

Software:
System Storage SAN Volume Controller

Service:
Technical Support - Smarter Cities & Financial Operations

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2012 IBM Systems and Technology Group Route 100 Somers, New York 10589 Produced in the United States of America April 2012 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, BladeCenter, and System Storage are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies. A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml Intel, the Intel logo and Xeon are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries. This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every country in which IBM operates. The client examples cited are presented for illustrative purposes only. Actual performance results may vary depending on specific configurations and operating conditions. It is the user’s responsibility to evaluate and verify the operation of any other products or programs with IBM products and programs. THE INFORMATION IN THIS DOCUMENT IS PROVIDED “AS IS” WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING WITHOUT ANY WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND ANY WARRANTY OR CONDITION OF NON-INFRINGEMENT. IBM products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the agreements under which they are provided. Actual available storage capacity may be reported for both uncompressed and compressed data and will vary and may be less than stated.