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Japanese brewer and drinks producer Kirin has built a platform as a service (Paas) using OpenStack as its private cloud platform, reducing operational IT costs by automating server test and deployment.

Kirin, which has almost 40,000 employees, is headquartered in Tokyo, and does around half of its business overseas. 

It relies on more than 400 application platforms to support its operations, the majority of which are developed from scratch. This ranges from production planning software in its brewery business, to logistics platforms for all its beverage products, and various sales, order and billing platforms used globally.

But managing the legacy infrastructure underpinning these applications has been a growing problem for Kirin. In total it has 2,000 servers, running various operating systems including Linux, Unix and Windows, as well as both VMware and Microsoft virtualisation software.

In 2012 it enlisted the systems integrator NTT Data to manage the sprawling IT estate, with almost half of the 2,000 servers facing ‘end of life’ in 2015 and 2016 and in “desperate need of replacement”, according to Atsushi Koga, IT architect at NTT Data. “Kirin’s platform consisted of infrastructure quickly became a big issue,” he said.

Kirin: Lifting the lid on OpenStack

As part of a wider cost reduction strategy, Kirin decided to rollout OpenStack - the open source cloud management platform created by NASA and Rackspace five years ago.

This is because, in the past Kirin had continually spent a “large amount of money” on server operation, said Koga, especially in designing building and testing. The company had to hold a large number of engineers, so it was hard to reduce operational costs, he added.

“So we took an approach on automation by applying OpenStack,” he told delegates at the OpenStack Summit in Tokyo.

“By making use of OpenStack sever building and testing are automated completely,” he said. This allowed the company to reduce operational cost by 75 percent.

He added: “Although it has just started, we keep working on further cost reduction by taking actions such as customising.”

Kirin: Why OpenStack?

Kirin is now running the Icehouse version of OpenStack “as simple as possible”, using core components of Nova, Cinder and Neutron, without L3 Agent or Keystone. “But it is enough,” said Motoki Kakinuma, a platform engineer at NTT Data.

An IBM OpenStack distribution was selected, running on VMware. The reason Kirin chose VMware rather than open source virtualisation platform KVM, was that Kirin had long been a user of the proprietary ESX hypervisor. “It was easy to migrate using the VMware converter tool,” Kakinuma explained.

NTT Data has now completed the first part of the migration and expects to have migrate 500 VMs and 300 TB on OpenStack by end of 2016, and 2000 VMs and 1 PB the end target. The first phase involved 100 VMs and 100TB of storage.

OpenStack benefits: Testing and deployment automation…and IT asset management

As part of the private cloud project a web application was built - named Kirin EA [enterprise architecture] - that allowed staff to control software deployments. This included Windows Server 2012 R2/2008 R2, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.6.

The Kirin EA platform allows IT staff to dial up the size of deployments, such as the size of number of disks, and what middleware they want to deploy. 

And although the main benefits of OpenStack have been through reducing cost through automation of application deployment and testing, there have been other advantages too.

“We use OpenStack as a simple inventory management system,” said Kakinuma.

He said, that, before the Kirin OpenStack implementation, IT assets were managed in an “inconsistent” way.

“It means it was totally difficult to know how many servers we have and how many will server will reach EOL, and how many have Windows 2003 installed,” he continued. “So last year we investigated the software and hardware inventory and it turned out an amazing amount of servers were there. So it was a big issue in Kirin.”

The firm does this using the metadata service within the OpenStack Nova compute component. This provides a list of data on each server, such as resource allocation, operating system, middleware, IP address and so forth, creating an automatic inventory that allows server lists to be brought up regularly.

OpenStack enterprise adoption

One of the hurdles facing the OpenStack project as a whole is convincing more traditional businesses to use the cloud software in production and at scale. 

Although Kirin clearly has a good deal of IT expertise in-house (having built almost all of its IT platforms from scratch for example), while it also had the support of a large SI, the project is another example of how the platform is becoming more commonplace outside of the service provider and web-scale data centres.

Koga said: “There are many cases of OpenStack implementations in Japan. However most of them are for IT vendors, so the success of implantation of OpenStack at a non-IT company has a big meaning.”

See also: Walmart eyes Open Compute as OpenStack investment scales

See also:Barclays turns to OpenStack to manage private cloud

See also: BMW chooses OpenStack for private cloud over commercial vendors due to lock-in risk

See also: Yahoo to manage ‘hundreds of thousands of servers’ using OpenStack

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