Mary Kay China

Mary Kay China Builds the Foundation for a Beautiful Future

Business Needs

Needed a high performing, cost effective, and easy to manage storage and server solution for new VDI deployment


The Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform


  • Reduced management overhead by 50% through simplified management
  • Reduced capital investments by 30% versus 3-tier systems
  • Obtained the ability to easily scale the virtual desktop environment on demand

Company Background

Mary Kay, Inc. is a Texas-based, privately owned multi-level sales and marketing company. Founded in 1963, Mary Kay’s 3.5 million Independent Beauty Consultants now sell over $4 billion high quality cosmetic products around the world each year.

Mary Kay cosmetics are very popular in China. The company now has a large presence in Shanghai, with thousands of beauty consultants and 138 full-time IT employees. Steven Dai is the datacenter infrastructure manager for Mary Kay China. He is responsible for all of the IT infrastructure at Mary Kay’s two datacenters in China. One facility is dedicated to production data and the other is used for disaster recovery.

IT Challenges

Mary Kay China’s IT team manages more than 1000 VMs, and several custom office automation and productivity applications used by the office staff and sales teams across China and APAC. With such a large amount end users and IT infrastructure to support, management complexity and operational expenses were increasing rapidly.

Mary Kay China was getting ready to deploy a new virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solution for its remote workforce. “According to all of our research, the costs of implementing VDI with our traditional 3-tier storage and server infrastructure would be far too high,” noted Dai. “With that approach, we could not justify implementing virtual desktops to replace our employees’ conventional personal computers.”

Dai and his team began searching for more efficient and cost effective solutions for the proposed VDI deployment. “We wanted to find a solution that would deliver high performance for the virtual desktops,” Dai explained. “Ease of management was also essential, with one unified console to manage all of the hardware and all of the software. Scalability was also a top criteria, since we needed to be able to add capacity quickly as the demand for virtual desktops grew.”

Finding Nutanix

Dai and his team evaluated several storage and server options for the new VDI deployment. “The first option was a traditional 3-tier storage infrastructure approach, the second was a NetApp FlexPod and Cisco UCS solution, and the third and best option was a hyper-converged technology platform, since it is very popular in the VDI world,” Dai reported.

Dai first heard about Nutanix while reading a leading analyst firm’s research. “Gartner listed Nutanix as a leader in the hyper-converged infrastructure space,” noted Dai. “Our IT team in the United States also suggested that we look at the hyper-converged trend and specifically, Nutanix.”

Dai then made the decision to run a POC on the Nutanix NX-3000 series systems. The China IT team worked closely with Mary Kay’s corporate group in Texas during the trial phase. “Nutanix had two significant advantages over the competitors,” Dai reported. “The first advantage was that the CapEx costs were a lot lower with Nutanix than with any of the traditional 3-tier infrastructures. The second major advantage is that Nutanix is compatible with our VMware vSphere hypervisor, as well as our Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop 7.5 deployments.”

Fast Deployment

At the end of the evaluation period, Mary Kay China purchased several Nutanix nodes for its main production datacenter in Suzhou, China. “The Nutanix systems were very easy to deploy,” according to Dai. “With our previous 3-tier server and storage technology solution, it always took at least two weeks before the systems were configured and running. With Nutanix, it only takes a day or two to do all of the configuration and physical deployment. Our team was very impressed with how easy and fast it was to deploy the Nutanix systems.”

Supporting VDI

Dai and his team have already deployed 300 of the 1,500 virtual desktops scheduled for the first phase of the VDI launch. 60% of the desktops are used by knowledge-users who need to access their applications when away from the office. VDI enables Mary Kay’s remote workers to be more productive and not worry about physical desktops, and it also cuts down on support. 30% of the desktops are used by Mary Kay’s sales team members that need a way to access their email and applications without going on restrictive VPN to obtain information. The remaining 10% of the desktops are used by the organization’s senior management. Mary Kay’s executives also travel frequently and have the same requirements for access as the sales teams. All of Mary Kay’s knowledge workers have shared desktops. “Nutanix is delivering the performance we needed for VDI at a fraction of the cost of traditional three-tier architectures,” noted Dai. “The solution has certainly lived up to everything Nutanix has promised.”

Lower Costs and Easier Management

“The Nutanix web-scale converged platform saved us a lot of money on the initial hardware purchase, as well as our on-going operational resource expenses,” Dai reported. “Nutanix has already saved us 30% on hardware costs alone. Before Nutanix, we had two dedicated administrators – one for our storage and a second admin for our virtualization environment. With Nutanix, the environment is far less complex. One person can easily manage both environments.”

Future Plans

Dai and his team are now making plans to expand the use of Nutanix beyond the VDI deployment. “We are considering using Nutanix for our new disaster recovery datacenter,” Dai said. “We would also like to move our server virtualization platform onto Nutanix as well. We will start by moving the 100 server virtual machines first. After we evaluate how Nutanix works for that environment, we will migrate our entire production environment, including nearly 1,000 virtual machines, over to Nutanix.”

Advice for Others

Dai offered some advice for other organizations that are evaluating new IT infrastructures. “For VDI deployments, you should start by considering why your enterprise needs a VDI solution and determine if it will improve individual productivity. When choosing a technology platform, consider how easily and expensive it is to scale out the architecture to accommodate the future. VDI deployments tend to grow rapidly, and will quickly consume a lot of your infrastructure and facility resources. You should consider using a hyper-converged system because it is the latest evolution of IT infrastructure and far less complex. With traditional 3-tier infrastructures, you will need twice as many people to manage the environment compared to hyper-converged platform.”

“And finally, be sure that you choose the right partner to design the environment – one with a lot of experience with storage and servers,” Dai continued. “If possible, it is best to choose one partner that can manage all aspects of your deployment. Finding the right partner to deploy VDI is also important. Pay attention to their references and past experience.”

Closing Thoughts

“Nutanix has developed a great technology,” Dai concluded. “Based on my understanding of the architecture and comparing the Nutanix web-scale approach to other vendors’ products and services, I believe that Nutanix will be a main stream technology in the enterprise datacenter going forward.”

“Based on my understanding of the architecture and comparing the Nutanix web-scale approach to other vendors’ products and services, I believe it will be a mainstream technology in the enterprise datacenter going forward.”

– Steven Dai, Datacenter Infrastructure Manager, Mary Kay China Inc.