In business for more than 40 years, Nottingham-based Paul Smith is a preeminent British designer. The company has 14 different collections—produced in England and Italy—under the global Paul Smith brand. In addition to 17 shops in England, Paul Smith retail stores are found in fashion capitals around the world. Paul Smith opens three new stores a year on average and the demand for IT services from the business is growing. “Our goal is to manage costs and improve service delivery, but we are challenged by an IT budget that doesn’t keep up with expectations from the business.” says Lee Bingham, Head of IT at Paul Smith.

To address this challenge, six years ago Paul Smith began defining a new approach to building its infrastructure and providing IT services to the business, while reducing server and data center cost. It wanted to provide global services from a central location, simplify data center administration, and automate manual tasks, in particular the provision of test and development environments. Paul Smith also needed to find less expensive and time-consuming ways to accommodate fluctuating demands in compute and storage requirements than simply adding more servers. To reduce unnecessary ‘midstream’ expenditures, the company wanted a better understanding of usage and improved capacity planning.

To achieve these goals, Paul Smith aligned itself with Microsoft. Beginning in 2008 with the Windows Server 2008 operating system, Paul Smith has worked with Microsoft to take advantage of the latest virtualization, cloud computing, and data center management solutions.  Over time Paul Smith upgraded to Windows Server 2012 to build private clouds and deployed Microsoft System Center 2012 data center management tools to manage them. The company used these technologies to build dynamic data center and cloud infrastructures with more flexible workloads and automated processes.  And with Windows Server 2012, Paul Smith worked with Microsoft partner, risual to introduce global DR capabilities. The teams upgraded the hypervisors at Tier 2 sites to Windows Server 2012 and used Hyper-V Replica to replicate business-critical virtual machines back to its Tier 1 data centers.

Now, with the Windows Server 2012 R2 operating system and System Center 2012 R2, Paul Smith is introducing Hybrid cloud computing.  With a hybrid cloud solution from Microsoft, IT staffers can easily move existing applications between its on-premises environment and Windows Azure without having to change networking, security policies, or operational processes.

Also, Paul Smith is using StorSimple, a cloud-integrated storage solution from Microsoft that works with Windows environments, to create a hybrid cloud storage solution that uses the Windows Azure environment. Paul Smith generates a lot of design data in its London office, and it is using StorSimple to protect and copy that data to Windows Azure storage. The company is also using StorSimple to manage the amount of data that resides in its data centers.

Thanks to virtualization and increased server density, Paul Smith reduced hardware acquisition and maintenance costs by £840,000 (US$1.4 million), according to figures compiled for the first year it deployed Windows Server 2012.   And by embracing the hybrid cloud computing model, the company expects ongoing infrastructure savings. Purchasing compute, storage, and networking resources in the cloud is less expensive than building them on-premises, especially when the resources are required on an intermittent basis.

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