Bonhams auction house banishes antique servers

Improving reliability and control with IBM System x and innovative KVM technology

Published on 15-Mar-2013

"Aside from a Linux-based auction system, everything was based on older platforms, and it was beginning to crumble. The project was to consolidate and refresh the hardware in the US and roll out a new email platform to bring them in line with the global infrastructure." - Malcolm Barber, Bonhams Group CEO

Customer:
Bonhams Group

Industry:
Consumer Products

Deployment country:
United States

Solution:
Business Continuity, Business Resiliency, Virtualization, Virtualization - Server

IBM Business Partner:
Quru

Overview

Founded in 1793, Bonhams is a privately owned British auction house and one of the world’s oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The Bonhams name is known worldwide throughout all sectors of the fine art, antiques and collectors markets, with several departments regarded as leaders within their specialist category.

Business need:
Bonhams needed a scalable, cost-effective system for remote management and full disaster recovery between its data centers in New York and San Francisco.

Solution:
At each site, the auction house deployed four IBM® System x® 3650 class servers with intelligent Intel® Xeon® processors running Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) 3.1 with KVM and Acronis Backup & Recovery® Virtual Edition for RHEV, an IBM System x 3550 class server running RHEV-M, and IBM System Storage® DS3524.

Benefits:
The company reduced its number of servers by 75 percent, saved 40 percent on project costs and ensured global business continuity.

Case Study

Founded in 1793, Bonhams is a privately owned British auction house and one of the world’s oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The Bonhams name is known worldwide throughout all sectors of the fine art, antiques and collectors markets, with several departments regarded as leaders within their specialist category.

Based in London, Bonhams has salerooms in Paris, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Sydney, as well as a worldwide network of offices in 25 countries.

Taking control of global operations

After an exciting period of growth—and significant mergers and acquisitions in the US market—Bonhams was challenged with an aging collection of unsupported, end-of-life systems prevalent in the US offices. The data centers in New York and San Francisco were in need of better disaster-recovery plans, especially given the increased chance for hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural disasters in the regions. In addition, Bonhams had limited technical staff in the US, so it needed a stable platform that could be managed remotely.

“Aside from a Linux-based auction system, everything was based on older platforms, and it was beginning to crumble,” explains Malcolm Barber, Bonhams Group CEO. “The project was to consolidate and refresh the hardware in the US and roll out a new email platform to bring them in line with the global infrastructure.”

To operate and serve clients more effectively, Bonhams needed a consistent platform worldwide. The auction house turned to IBM and IBM Business Partner Quru to help it design, roll out and implement a new IBM solution comprising IBM System x servers, RHEV with KVM technology and IBM System Storage.

Improving efficiency with virtualization

With its primary data center in the UK already standardized on Linux-based IBM BladeCenter® HS22 servers, Bonhams was familiar with the reliability and scalability of IBM systems. Exceptional cost-per-performance was a factor in choosing IBM for its US offices, as well as a long history with Linux.

“If you’re going to recommend a hardware platform on which to put an open-source application environment, you want to recommend a vendor that supports open standards and open source,” says Robin Porter, business development manager at Quru. “We feel that IBM has been supporting open source more than any other hardware vendor for at least the last decade.”

To add efficiency and stability to its operations, Bonhams consolidated 34 servers in its New York and San Francisco offices down to eight IBM System x 3650 class servers. In addition to supporting a new global email platform on Linux, these servers are used as virtualization hosts in an RHEV 3.1 cluster—enabling secure remote management of IT assets and full support for a worldwide disaster-recovery strategy. The servers run RHEV Hypervisors, and the infrastructure is managed by two RHEV Managers running on dedicated IBM System x 3550 servers, one in each location.

“Using RHEV 3.1, we are able to take live snapshots of our virtual machines,” says Simon Chiu, Bonhams senior systems engineer in San Francisco. “We can then back up the virtual machines at either site and synchronize those backup files to each data center. So in the event of a catastrophic failure at either site, we can rebuild the virtual machine from the most recent backup, and all services will be up and running within hours from the alternate location.”

Thanks to the integration of IBM, Acronis and Quru technology, Bonhams is able to perform seamless backups of its virtualized environment. The IT staff uses Acronis Backup & Recovery software to back up the IBM servers at each site and replicate the backup data to the other location. Then, they can use a custom Quru solution to rebuild the virtual infrastructure and restore the data in the event of a disaster.

What’s more, the KVM-based RHEV platform also enables remote management. Using RHEV Manager, UK-based administrators can easily control Bonhams’ IT assets around the world—which greatly increases server availability and IT productivity.

Gaining peace of mind, along with cost savings

Prior to the IBM solution, Bonhams was backing up its 34 servers to tape, and the tapes were stored offsite. Theoretically, if a disaster were to occur, the systems could be restored from tape. But in an industry where data accessibility and reliability is vital—for online bidding, web-based appraisals and more—the auction house opted for IBM System Storage DS3524 disk systems for real peace of mind, installing one in New York and the other in San Francisco. The systems act as iSCSI targets for automated disk backups and integrate with RHEV Manager to support better disaster recovery.

At the same time, the new IBM solution makes strategic business sense for Bonhams. By consolidating the older US servers to the reliable and scalable IBM System x architecture and Linux platform, the overall project cost just over half of what an equivalent project in the UK had cost. According to Porter, the savings is a direct result of eliminating the maintenance and licensing costs for virtualization software. “We are actually planning to help Bonhams replace their entire VMware infrastructure with RHEV this year, which we will do for less than the cost of one year’s maintenance for all the software.”

In fact, the System x servers using KVM-based RHEV are simplifying administration and boosting efficiencies across the entire organization. “Cost is a very strong argument for doing this, but when it comes to price/performance, KVM is clearly outperforming VMware in our environment,” says Porter.

As the auction business continues to grow for Bonhams, the IT environment can now easily scale to support future needs. With its success in ensuring business continuity, reducing administration and lowering costs, Bonhams plans to continue deploying IBM solutions across its global operations and building upon the strategic relationship for many years to come.

For more information

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

For more information about IBM and KVM, visit: ibm.com/systems/kvm

For more information about IBM Business Partner Quru, visit: www.quru.com

For more information about Bonhams, visit: www.bonhams.com

For more information about Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, visit: redhat.com/products/virtualization

Products and services used

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

Hardware:
Storage, System x: System x3550 M3, System x: System x3650 M3

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2013 IBM Corporation Systems and Technology Group Route 100 Somers, New York 10589 Produced in the United States of America March 2013 IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, System x, System Storage, and BladeCenter are trademarks or registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation 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, Xeon and Xeon Inside are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and other countries. Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the United States, other countries or both. 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. 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. 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.