Windows Server 2008 R2 Customer Solution Case Study Albania

Windows Server 2008 R2
Customer Solution Case Study
Albania Standardizes Government IT with
Cloud Services, Lifts Productivity 70 Percent
Country or Region:Albania
Industry:Public sector--Government
Customer Profile
Albania’s National Agency for the
Information Society is responsible for
setting standards and coordinating
business-critical government IT
initiatives. It has 35 employees.
Business Situation
The agency was tasked with centralizing
and standardizing hundreds of
application servers running on various
platforms. It lacked the resources to do
so in a traditional way.
It used Microsoft technologies to create a
private cloud solution that mitigates
cross-platform issues and reduces the
time and money spent on traditional
management tasks.
 Reduces server provisioning time by
about 70 percent
 Enables internal customer focus on
solutions, not infrastructure
 Boosts IT staff productivity by between
50 and 70 percent
 Minimizes night and weekend work
 Frees IT staff time for solving problems
“We were frequently working nights and weekends,
telling ourselves that the workload would lighten, and
it never did…. By using Microsoft private cloud
technology, IT staff will minimize that overtime.”
Endri Hasa, General Director, National Agency for the Information Society,
Government of Albania
The ministries and agencies of the Albanian government were
making great strides in their use of technology—but that
became a problem. A growing number of decentralized
applications ran on a variety of platforms—making it impossible
to achieve economies of scale. The agency tasked with tackling
this challenge lacked the computing resources and personnel to
centralize, standardize, and manage hundreds of traditional
application servers. By hosting the applications in a private cloud
environment based on Microsoft technologies, the agency has
found that its current resources—both technological and
human—are ample. Government users now get better, faster,
and more reliable application services. And IT professionals at
the agency easily handle the increased workload while working
fewer nights and weekends than before.
“We needed a way to
host and manage
technology that was
faster, easier, more costeffective, and more
reliable than traditional
Endri Hasa, General Director, NAIS
Part of Albania’s allure lies in its variety:
pristine beaches, world-class archeological
wonders, exciting city nightlife,
breathtaking mountains. But variety of a
very different type was becoming a bane,
rather than a boon, to the government of
As a natural consequence of making large,
rapid strides in adopting technology to
support the needs of a 21st century
republic, the government of Albania found
itself with a decentralized, often
unmanaged variety of technology
platforms. Some 300 server computers that
were scattered across its 14 ministries and
agencies ran on operating systems
including the Windows Server operating
system, Linux, and UNIX. Infrastructure
services—such as email, directory services,
and networking—were similarly varied. That
made it tough for the government to take
advantage of economies of scale that
would extend the reach of its technology
while reducing its cost.
For Albania’s National Agency for the
Information Society (NAIS)—the agency
tasked with coordinating government
technology initiatives—working with that
variety was anything but a walk on one of
the country’s famed beaches. The agency
began operating in 2008 with a mandate to
bring centralization and standardization to
the government’s sundry systems. It started
by offering hosted basic infrastructure and
technology services to any government
entities that wanted them. By 2010, NAIS
was managing 100 services used widely
throughout the government.
From that success, another mission for
NAIS was born: to centralize, standardize,
and host not just infrastructure services but
also the line-of-business applications and
solutions through which the government
increasingly conducted its activities. This
challenge was greater: managing hundreds
of server computers that were then located
at, and managed by, ministries and
agencies throughout the government. With
those applications and solutions running
on a variety of platforms, NAIS knew that it
would be difficult to achieve much
consolidation. A new data center would
have to be built to support the enterprise.
The agency’s staff of 35 would likely
struggle to manage the additional
hardware. The high levels of application
availability that ministries and agencies
needed could be at risk. Planning and
soliciting proposals for new computers—
then ordering, acquiring, configuring, and
deploying them for new or expanded
applications—could take most of a year
and distract IT staff from more value-added
work. Costs could climb. Service could
“When government ministries and agencies
were asked to adopt a completely different
way to use technology—that is, to rely on
us to host and manage their application
servers for them—we found that we also
needed to adopt a completely different way
to provide that technology,” says Endri
Hasa, General Director of NAIS. “We
needed a way to host and manage
technology that was faster, easier, more
cost-effective, and more reliable than
traditional infrastructure.”
At the same time that NAIS received its
new mission, the technology market was
showing increasing interest in a new
technology model that promised to solve IT
challenges such as Hasa’s. That model was
cloud computing, in which computing
resources are provided as an online service,
freeing business users and application
owners from the need to manage
underlying hardware.
“Hyper-V gave us fuller
interoperability with the
Microsoft technologies
we were already using.
That by itself would
simplify management
and increase availability.”
Endri Hasa, General Director, NAIS
With that model, NAIS could add, subtract,
and redirect computing resources to
ministries and agencies whenever and
wherever they were needed, without having
to take into account the mix of platforms
that those entities used. A private cloud
solution—in which computing resources
would be kept within the government’s
infrastructure and management—
combined the potential for manageability
and productivity that the government
wanted with the system integrity and
security that it needed.
Two Key Ingredients
The two key ingredients in the private
cloud solution would be virtualization and
centralized management. The former would
contribute the underlying flexibility of
computing resources that the solution
needed. The latter would contribute the
tools with which NAIS would dynamically
control those resources for the maximum
benefit of the government ministries and
NAIS had a choice of technologies with
which to create its private cloud
environment, and it considered its choice
carefully. It tested the two prominent
virtualization technologies: VMware and
the Hyper-V technology in Windows Server
2008 R2 with Service Pack 1 (SP1).
According to Hasa, both technologies
offered lower hardware costs, higher
availability, and better use of computing
resources—but Hyper-V offered more.
“Hyper-V gave us fuller interoperability with
the Microsoft technologies we were already
using,” says Hasa. “That by itself would
simplify management and increase
availability. It was also a perfect fit with the
Microsoft System Center products we
wanted to use to maximize the benefits of
the private cloud environment. Hyper-V
also gave us better licensing—an unlimited
number of virtual machines on each server
running Windows Server 2008 Datacenter.”
Two Technology Providers
To design and implement its private cloud
solution, NAIS used two of its longtime
technology providers: Microsoft Services
and InfoSoft Systems, the latter being one
of Albania’s largest systems integrators and
technology resellers, and a Microsoft
Partner Network member with multiple
Gold competencies. The greatest value of
Microsoft Services on this project,
according to Hasa, was its training and
other knowledge transfer programs for
ongoing private cloud management.
InfoSoft collaborated closely with Microsoft
Services, contributing its knowledge of the
customer and its technology infrastructure,
in addition to contributing much of the
personnel responsible for the deployment
The collaborative process resulted in a
private cloud solution consisting of three
failover clusters with 14 to 16 nodes per
cluster and a total capacity of 150 virtual
machines, all running on Windows Server
2008 R2 Datacenter SP1 with Hyper-V
technology. The nodes are HP BL460 blade
system servers and HP ProLiant DL585
servers with two clusters running on Intel
architecture and one cluster running on
AMD architecture. All the virtual machines
and cluster configurations reside on a
storage area network consisting of two HP
4400 Enterprise Virtual Array devices.
“We recommended HP servers to NAIS
because they offer the best hardware
infrastructure for virtualization and server
consolidation,” says Armand Sharra, Vice
President of Business Development at
InfoSoft Systems.
“When institutions ask if
we can support them or
if they have to buy their
own hardware, we have
the capacity to say, ‘Yes,
we can support you.’”
Endri Hasa, General Director, NAIS
NAIS manages the cloud environment
using a variety of Microsoft System Center
Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine
Manager 2008 R2 SP1, for functions
including provisioning and
deprovisioning servers, and
implementing live migrations for
dynamic load-balancing and failover of
virtual machines
 Microsoft System Center Operations
Manager 2007 R3, for single-console
monitoring of both the virtualized and
nonvirtualized environments
 Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine
Manager Self-Service Portal 2.0, to
empower ministries and agencies to
quickly provision their own servers
whenever needed for new or expanded
NAIS hosts the private cloud environment
in a new, 450-square-meter data center
with about 150 racks for blade servers.
Because the data center was originally
designed for physical (and not virtual)
servers, it now has enough space to host
three times its current capacity, eliminating
the need for expansion anytime soon.
Two Workload Platforms
The agency is populating the private cloud
environment with externally facing
websites, internal portals, and others,
running on a mix of Windows Server and
SUSE Linux. NAIS can support both
Windows Server and Linux in a single
hypervisor because of the cross-platform
support available in Hyper-V.
Through its use of Microsoft private cloud
technologies, NAIS has succeeded in
centralizing and standardizing the
application servers that are used
throughout the Albanian government. As a
result, ministries and agencies get better,
more responsive service that delivers
resources when they need them, which
enables application owners to focus on
solutions rather than on infrastructure. The
IT professionals, meanwhile, accomplish
their increased workloads while minimizing
overtime work—and they still gain time to
help solve government technology
Reduces Server Provisioning Time by
About 70 Percent
NAIS has used private cloud technology to
achieve its key goal: supporting the
application hosting needs of ministries and
agencies throughout the Albanian
“We started with no practical way for our
limited IT staff to support varying platforms
on varying servers in scores of locations,”
says Hasa. “Now, when institutions ask if we
can support them or if they have to buy
their own hardware, we have the capacity
to say, ‘Yes, we can support you.’”
Transforming line-of-business applications
into private cloud services frees those
institutions from a traditional planning,
purchasing, and provisioning process that
takes up to eight months. Instead, planning
and provisioning a new system in the
private cloud environment takes about one
month—a decrease of about 70 percent.
“Time-to-market is tremendously important
because we have many areas where we
want to apply technology to solve
government challenges or improve
government services,” says Hasa. “The
faster we implement processes such as
server provisioning, the faster we can
demonstrate progress on these substantive
“By choosing Microsoft
private cloud
technology, we reduced
our training needs by
months, speeding the
time needed to put the
private cloud into
Endri Hasa, General Director, NAIS
Enables Internal Customer Focus on
Solutions, not Infrastructure
Albanian ministries and agencies benefit
from the ability to focus on solutions, not
on infrastructure. “With Microsoft private
cloud technology, government institutions
that want to host new applications don’t
have to worry about drawing up budgets,
planning topologies, ensuring
compatibility, and all the other tasks they
used to have—they can focus purely on the
applications they want to create and use,”
says Hasa.
Those institutions no longer have to place
their provisioning requests in a queue and
await a response from NAIS, either. Now,
they use the self-service provisioning
capabilities of the private cloud service to
provision their own servers when needed
and to deprovision them when not needed.
They can also use self-service provisioning
to take advantage of servers in new ways—
for example, to create test servers, rather
than put untested applications into
production because the time and cost
involved in acquiring physical servers is
Boosts IT Staff Productivity by About 70
Albanian ministries and agencies are not
the only beneficiaries of the solution based
on Microsoft private cloud technology—so
are NAIS and its IT staff. In many ways, they
can manage the private cloud environment
and its workloads faster, less expensively,
and more productively than they could
manage physical servers.
For example, by using the single System
Center console that gives IT staff a
comprehensive view across both the
physical and virtual environments, NAIS has
eliminated the need to maintain a separate
monitoring system for each.
Because both the virtualization and
management technologies that support the
private cloud solution are based on the
Windows Server technology that the IT staff
already knows and supports, that staff
easily manages the private cloud
environment along with its other
responsibilities. Overall, Hasa expects
productivity in managing server workloads
to increase by between 50 and 70 percent.
That productivity increase is associated with
other gains too. “By choosing Microsoft
private cloud technology, we reduced our
training needs by months, speeding the
time needed to put the private cloud into
service,” he says. “We have reduced our
staffing needs by at least 10 percent
because now we don’t need to maintain a
separate staff for a different virtualization
technology. And I gain the flexibility to
assign people where we need them, not
where the technology allows us to assign
Minimizes Night and Weekend Work;
Frees Time for Solving Problems
All the benefits that NAIS has experienced
from using Microsoft cloud technology add
up to another benefit for Hasa: a workload
that is easier to manage. “We were
frequently working nights and weekends,
telling ourselves that the workload would
lighten, and it never did,” he says. “We were
going to have to take on this major
addition to our workload with or without
the private cloud. By using Microsoft
private cloud technology, IT staff will
minimize that overtime. I know that using
Microsoft private cloud technology will
make my life easier in the years ahead.”
Because Hasa and his staff will largely be
freed from the mundane tasks of planning
and deploying hardware, they will have
more time to work with ministries and
agencies to help solve their issues and to
For More Information
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Windows Server 2008 R2
foster more efficient, effective technology
solutions. For example, they will have more
time to identify existing private cloud
services from which the institutions can
benefit, along with more time to create
additional services that the institutions can
use. “After all, that’s why we pursue careers
in IT—not to deploy servers, but to help
solve real problems. Now, we can do more
of that.”
Windows Server 2008 R2 is a multipurpose
operating system designed to increase the
reliability and flexibility of your server and
private cloud infrastructure, helping you to
save time and reduce costs. It provides you
with powerful tools to react to business
needs faster than ever before with greater
control and confidence. For more
information, visit:
And if Hasa and his colleagues face less
variety of the technological kind, that’s fine
with them, too.
For more information about InfoSoft
Systems, call (355) 42 235 139 or visit the
website at:
For more information about the
Government of Albania, call (355) 42 277
750 or visit the website
Software and Services
Microsoft Server Product Portfolio
− Windows Server 2008 R2 Datacenter
− Microsoft System Center Operations
Manager 2007 R3
− Microsoft System Center Virtual
Machine Manager 2008 R2 SP1
− Microsoft System Center Virtual
Machine Manager Self-Service Portal
− Microsoft Services
 Technologies
− Hyper-V
HP BL460c G1 blade servers
HP BL460 G6 blade servers
 HP ProLiant DL585 servers
 HP 4400 Enterprise Storage Array devices
This case study is for informational purposes only.
Document published February 2012
InfoSoft Systems