Mansfield Oil Opts to Scale Its VM Environment

While there’s more virtualization diversity in the data center than ever before, IT organizations that have made extensive investments in VMware are looking to use a familiar management framework across as much of the enterprise as possible.

A case in point is Mansfield Oil, a distributor of fuel and energy products and services to more than 3,700 commercial customers, 440 school districts, 770 counties, 590 cities, and 800 state and province locations across the United States and Canada.

While the fuel distributor has been a long-time customer of VMware that has virtualized 98 percent of its IT environment, it is just now deploying VMware vSphere with Operations Management software to manage the overall environment. Hercu Rabsatt, the firm’s director of infrastructure and service management, says the primary reason is to scale its virtual machine environment in ways that would not be possible if it continues to manually manage most of its IT environment.

He explains that the first step to achieving that level of automaton is to have increased visibility into the IT environment. To that end, Mansfield Oil has made use of VMware vSphere with Operations Management to reclaim 393 vCPUs, 816 GB of disk, and 3.3 TB of memory that were being consumed by idle and over-provisioned virtual machines in its data centers.

Next up, Rabsatt says, the company is gearing up to embrace hybrid cloud computing as part of a larger effort to align the company’s IT and overall business strategy.

“As a business, Mansfield Oil prefers to be asset light, so we’ll be shifting more to the cloud,” he reports. “We think we’ll have a 70/30 mix between on-premise and the cloud.”

As it makes that move, the company will remain committed to VMware as a hedge against getting locked into a particular cloud service provider. In addition, Rabsatt points out that VMware is tightly aligned with the fuel distributor’s preferred IT vendor partners, including Cisco, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Microsoft, NetApp and Veeam.

Once that’s completed, Mansfield Oil will look to automate more of its IT operations. He acknowledges that this shift will involve both technical and cultural challenges.

“We don’t want to look at every server as a one-off,” Rabsatt says. “We want the IT staff to think more like architects and become more business focused. And I think they’ll welcome that opportunity.”

IT Organizations Plan to Deploy Emerging Technologies

Many IT organizations like Mansfield Oil remain committed to VMware because of the investments they’ve already made. In fact, Michael O’Neil, principal analyst with InsightaaS, says that when it comes to cloud computing in the enterprise, VMware enjoys the inside track.

“You have to remember that most IT people start from an on-premise perspective,” O’Neil says. “That’s where VMware is dominant.”

As this is often the case, many enterprise IT organizations are going to deploy emerging technologies such as Docker containers and the OpenStack framework for cloud native applications on top of VMware. That will allow them to extend their existing IT management investments and expertise, and will provide a way to continue relying on virtual machines to isolate application workloads in a way that makes the overall data center environment more secure.

The degree to which that will be the case over the long haul remains to be seen. Many in the IT community believe that as technologies such as containers and OpenStack mature, they will eventually eliminate the need for VMware. However, VMware is developing its own lighter-weight hypervisor optimized for containers and cloud native applications in the form of Project Photon.

In the meantime, most enterprise IT organizations will continue to be conservative when it comes to embracing emerging technologies. Those technologies may hold a lot of promise. But when it comes betting the business on production applications, the preference is almost always going to be for the tried and true.